Questions about the definitions, meaning and use of words specific to Judaism or words that carry unique meaning in Jewish law.

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7
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2answers
1k views

The meaning of Tzadik

I am having difficulty in understand the meaning of Tzadik. Maimonides says "One whose merit surpasses his iniquity is a tzadik". I have trouble in understanding this sentence. Can someone explain the ...
16
votes
3answers
994 views

Bli Neder Loophole

Who came up with the Bli Neder loophole of: Bli neder I will help you do X Or Bli neder I will etc... And the list can go on and on. Who came up with addingBli Neder which basically means ...
21
votes
4answers
1k views

How does one explain God to little kids?

As I understand it, the ability to understand abstract concepts develops gradually in kids and is certainly not all there when they first start having conversations. This comes into play when kids ...
10
votes
1answer
69 views

Description of what Yaakov's sons plundered from Shechem

Gen. 34:28-29 describes how Yaakov's sons plundered the city of Shechem after wiping out its (adult male) inhabitants: אֶת-צֹאנָם וְאֶת-בְּקָרָם וְאֶת-חֲמֹרֵיהֶם וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר בָּעִיר וְאֶת אֲשֶׁר ...
13
votes
1answer
91 views

Shmuel running and walking

My sixth grade students asked me today: In Shmuel Aleph Perek Gimel Shmuel becomes a Navi. It says in vs. 5 that Shmuel ran to Eli. In vs. 6 and 8 is says that he went to Eli. Why the difference? (I ...
9
votes
4answers
278 views

Source of saying migdol / magdil in Bentching

I was once told by someone that saying migdol instead of magdil in bentching on Shabbos and yom tov is an error. That a siddur had the source in pesukim in short form on the side and people mistock it ...
7
votes
3answers
257 views

What is the difference between a Kohen Gadol and a Kohen Rosh?

What is the difference between a Kohen Gadol and a Kohen Rosh? Both titles are used in Tanakh, sometimes even to refer to the same person. For example: Kohen HaRosh is mentioned in Ezra 7:5, Chron. I ...
4
votes
1answer
126 views

Why refer to Isaac Luria as the Arizal, and not Arizatzal?

One of the common ways to refer to the R' Isaac Luria is "the Arizal". I understand this to mean, The Ari, zecher L'bracha (may he be mentioned/remembered for blessing). However, one usually refers ...
11
votes
3answers
212 views

What does the aramaic “pon” mean?

Once in a while, Onkelos will throw in the word pon (פּוֹן) that doesn't directly translate from the Hebrew. Avimelech to Yitzchak: k'z'eir pon shachiv d'm'yached b'ama (Toldos 26:10) Lavan to ...
5
votes
2answers
174 views

Shirei zimra in Yishtabach

At the end of Yishtabach, Hashem is referred to as הבוחר בשירי זמרה. This is usually translated as "who chooses songs of praise." However, as far as I am aware zimra means song, not praise. So how can ...
12
votes
2answers
254 views

What is “emunas chachomim”?

My daughter came home from school with a textbook response for what "emunas chachomim" is. I disagreed strongly with what was written in the book, so I'm not even going to say what they said. ...
2
votes
2answers
103 views

Goy Versus Leum

The Posuk Says (Gen. 25,23): שְׁנֵי [גיים] גוֹיִם בְּבִטְנֵךְ וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ Translated as: Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your ...
5
votes
1answer
119 views

What is “חצות האמצעי”?

While researching an answer to this question I stumbled across the term "חצות האמצעי". What does it mean? Does it refer to halachic midday, i.e. halfway between netz hachama and shkias hachama, or ...
4
votes
2answers
121 views

Why did Eisav say “red” twice?

Genesis 25:30 says: ... הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה ... ... "Pour into [me] some of this red, red [pottage] ..." Why did Eisav feel the need to say "red" twice?
3
votes
2answers
89 views

איש אחד What does the Echad refer to and where else in the Tanch is it found?

In Shmuel Aleph Perek Aleph Elkana is refered to as Ish Echad before his name is given. The Midrash, according to Meam Loez, says that the Echad means Singular or Special. I was wondering where else ...
6
votes
6answers
169 views

Al Hamichyah - Wide land?

In the Brocho after eating grains which are not bread we say: על ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה Translated very loosely as: On the Land (ISRAEL) that is desirable good and WIDE. Now, anyone with a ...
7
votes
3answers
224 views

Shiluach HaKen: why not “Hatzipor”

If you send away the bird, why is Shiluach HaKen called that, meaning "sending the nest", and not "Shiluach Hatzipor", "sending the bird"? The nest is staying in place!
5
votes
1answer
79 views

Zmirot vs Pizmoniim

How is it that Ashkenaz and Sfardiim have different names for the same exact thing. Do both Zmira and Pizmon mean the same thing? What are the origination of people calling them either one? I know ...
5
votes
2answers
77 views

Shifting subjects and objects in Gen 12:15

There are three statements in Genesis 12:15: וַיִּרְאוּ אֹתָהּ שָׂרֵי פַרְעֹה וַיְהַלְלוּ אֹתָהּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה וַתֻּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה בֵּית פַּרְעֹה And Pharaoh's princes saw her, and they ...
3
votes
1answer
67 views

How many times in Na"Kh is the land called Eretz Cna'an?

The other side of the coin of this question (or, if you prefer, this question), might be, how often, or how many times, does the term Eretz Cna'an appear in Na"Kh after the land was given to Benei ...
12
votes
4answers
694 views

Why “Lach” not “Lecha” in “Modim Anachnu Lach”

Could someone please explain why the "Lach" in Modim Anachnu Lach is not "Lecha"... I guess this is some grammatical point rather than the use of the feminime "you"?
4
votes
1answer
593 views

What do the names Pesil, Pesa, and Pesha mean?

What is the meaning and source of the name Pesil or Pesa or Pesha?
4
votes
1answer
70 views

Why do we say “Shmini Atzeres Hachag Hazeh”?

On all Yomim Tovim we say "Chag Hassukos Hazeh" or "Chag Hamatzos Hazeh" but on Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah we say "Shmini Atzeres Hachag Hazeh" going in a different order. Why do we change the order ...
6
votes
2answers
112 views

What is the difference between Genaiva and Gezaila

The Torah or Talmud uses two terms for a thief -- the "Gonif", (which is the more familiar term) and the "Gazlin", and two corresponding terms for robbery "Genaiva" and "Gezaila". What is the ...
6
votes
3answers
747 views

חַס וְשָׁלוֹם: why and for what

What is saying חַס וְשָׁלוֹם (chas v'shalom) supposed to accomplish? Does it do so, or is it just a waste of breath? Based on the answers given to my previous question about this phrase, it seems ...
4
votes
4answers
214 views

Why do we call praying, Davening?

Why do we call praying Davening? What is the source of this word? Where did this originate?
9
votes
2answers
229 views

Why is the Machzor called a Machzor?

The Siddur we use for Yom Tov is known as a Machzor. What does it mean and where did this originate?
11
votes
2answers
675 views

חס ושלום! (whatever that means)

What on earth does חס ושלום mean literally, or what is its etymology? Why do people use that phrase in particular to "ward off" bad things? (That last part of the question is not asking whether saying ...
5
votes
1answer
96 views

Why is the word Shofar somtimes spelled with a Vav and somtimes without a Vav?

There are times that the word Shofar is spelled without a Vav - for example שמות: יט. טז. ויהי ביום השלישי בהית הבקר ויהי קלת וברקים וענן כבד על ההר וקל שפר חזק מאד ויחרד כל העם אשר במחנה or שמות: ...
11
votes
2answers
438 views

What does “prohibited l’chatchila” mean?

To me the phrase prohibited l’chatchila seems a bit confusing. Can someone explain what this means in plain and simple english? (context: someone says "action X is prohibited l’chatchila")
7
votes
1answer
6k views

what is “kodesh”?

What does the word קֹדֶשׁ (sometimes קודש), kodesh, mean? Its form is that of a noun, like אֹכֶל or בֹּקֶר or לֹבֶן. But קדושה is a noun, and (I'm pretty sure) it means "the state/quality of being ...
10
votes
1answer
156 views

Selah ~ Does it mean 'forever' 'certainly' 'basket' 'pause', 'yahoo', a kabbalistic meditative device, or none of the above?

Does anyone know a Jewish interpretation of "selah" in the psalms? Literally it seems to mean something about basket or hanging, but I don't know how this works into psalms. Jewish sites say it may ...
8
votes
1answer
96 views

Why is it considered respectful to capitalize G-d and its derivatives/pronouns?

I recognize that in English proper nouns are supposed to be capitalized, especially in the case where a proper noun is also a common noun (e.g. the mall vs. the Mall), but only when referring to G-d ...
5
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the meaning of יוֹם (yowm) in Bereshit?

I've heard conflicting reports of how the creation days , יוֹם (yowm), in Bereshit are interpreted in the Jewish community. How do actual Hebrew scholars define day in Bereshit? six 24 hour periods or ...
3
votes
2answers
41 views

בישול Versus שולק

The Shulchan Aruch and the Gemara use two words that to me seem to mean the same thing: "Cooking". My question is what is the difference between שולק (Sholek) and בישול (Bishul)? Please provide ...
7
votes
1answer
187 views

On Deuteronomy 28:23, Rashi says copper is “mazi'a”. What does this mean?

I have this question on Rashi every year in Ki Savo. Deuteronomy 28:23 says: "And the heavens above your head will be like copper and the earth that is beneath you, iron." Rashi says that the heavens ...
4
votes
2answers
114 views

When and why does the Gemoro say “vehilchoso”?

Sometimes, after the Talmud records a disagreement, it concludes by saying that the Halacha is like one side of the debate (“vehilchoso”). See e.g. ...
4
votes
1answer
164 views

Meaning of Mappik in יה

One more question about mappik (I don't know what happened to me, but this topic somewhat disturbs me lately :)) What is the meaning of the mappik in the following Hebrew words: יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ ...
4
votes
1answer
92 views

In Shabbos Shacharis which is right “sheboro bemidas rachamim” or “sheboro bemidas HOrachamim”?

In the brocho of “hakol yoducho” Shabbos Shacharis, some siddurim have “sheboro bemidas rachamim” while some have “sheboro bemidas HOrachamim”. Why?
8
votes
1answer
143 views

What are some good resources for finding the meaning of unfamiliar Hebrew and Aramaic words in Acharonim?

I have no trouble using Jastrow for Tanach and Shas but I find it difficult to apply to Acharonim. How might I use it more effectively? Are there peculiarities of grammar I'm missing? For a few ...
3
votes
3answers
214 views

Why do we call it “candle-lighting” time?

Since it is still permissible to do melacha (work forbidden on shabbat) including lighting shabbat candles until shki'a (sunset), which is 18 minutes (or 40 minutes in Jerusalem) following ...
0
votes
2answers
1k views

What does Psalm 82 mean?

6 I -- I have said, 'Gods ye are, And sons of the Most High -- all of you, http://yltbible.com/psalms/82.htm So how many gods are there? Who are "you" here? Are we all gods? Here is the context. ...
5
votes
1answer
118 views

Community/Synagogue Honorifics

I visited the Rare Books section of the JTS in New York in Dec. 2009, to view an old manuscript from Kezmarok, Slovakia. I selected certain pages that I was interested in translating, on behalf of ...
5
votes
5answers
296 views

Where is there a good online source to check how often a word appears in Tanach?

Where is there a good online source where you can check how often a word appears in Tanach?
4
votes
2answers
124 views

why does Ruth 1:8 use עמדי instead of עמי?

Ruth 1:8 says: ח וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי, לִשְׁתֵּי כַלֹּתֶיהָ, לֵכְנָה שֹּׁבְנָה, אִשָּׁה לְבֵית אִמָּהּ; יעשה (יַעַשׂ) יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם חֶסֶד, כַּאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם עִם-הַמֵּתִים וְעִמָּדִי. 8 And ...
14
votes
3answers
485 views

Why aren't Tefillin called Totafot?

They're called Totafot in the Torah, so why do we call them Tefilin?
5
votes
3answers
137 views

The Tur's word counts for Shemoneh Esreh

I have often seen the Tur cited as giving exact word counts for each blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh. The arguments I have seen for being careful to adhere to the word counts include that this would ...
3
votes
1answer
296 views

What is the origin of “shul”?

What is the origin of the word "shul", meaning "synagogue"? It seems derived from the German "Schule", meaning "school". Moreover, Italian Jews call synagogues "scuola", which also means "school" ...
16
votes
3answers
269 views

the aggadic concept of a finite number of words to speak

Is there any truth to the common claim that each person has a predetermined number of words that he can speak in his life? Source, please. If so, then how does it work? In particular (with sources or ...
8
votes
4answers
572 views

What is the exact definition of Shituf (vis a vis 'Avodah Zarah)?

"Shituf" is the heretical idea of some sort of co-mingling of something with G-d (Has VeShalom). According to many rabbinic opinions, Christianity is Shituf (cf., Is Christianity Avodah Zara?), and ...