Which part of Hebrew or textual grammar tells the reader to add to the verb in question the word "habitually"?

For example, Exodus 21:36 (Parashat Bo), Chabad translates the verb in question as

"[habitually] goring",

whereas Mechon-Mamre,

"wont to gore"?

I came across this, because it was quoted by Rashi in this week's Parasha, Behar-Bechukotai, namely Leviticus 26:41

  • Rashi is 26:41, no? או אז יכנע: כמו (שמות כא לו) או נודע כי שור נגח הוא, אם אז יכנע. לשון אחר אולי שמא אז יכנע לבבם וגו': That's Bechukosai. (I know, it's a double this week.)
    – Shalom
    May 4, 2021 at 10:01
  • @Shalom, ok. corrected.
    – ninamag
    May 4, 2021 at 12:09

1 Answer 1


Great question!

It's not just the "from yesterday"; it's the conjugation on the word "goring", looking very, very carefully at the vowels:


That's a patach (straight line) under the first letter, and a kamatz (little "T") under the second, with the second letter getting an internal dot. Let's call it na-GUHCH.

The much more common conjugation, "nuh-GACH" is to reverse those vowels and omit the dot inside the 2nd letter, which gives you the simple, third-person past tense, which is the simplest form of most vowel roots in Hebrew. ("Gored.")

The form used here, however, refers to a profession. "Melach" is salt, and a ma-LUHCH is a sailor. Ta-BUHCH is a butcher ("tuh-VACH" means "butchered"); chayil is an army, and cha-YUHL is a soldier. (You've certainly heard it in Modern Hebrew, but it's also in Ecclesiastes; Numbers uses "the army men" [anshei hatzava], a term the Chafetz Chaim used in his work for Jews drafted in the Czar's army ... but chayuhl is shorter.)

(There's a famous comment in Rashi about a king chatting up the "camel drivers and donkey drivers" -- use this same vowel construction and you realize it's the profession; not "I chatted up the camels and donkeys.")

As I'm not aware of a full-time profession goring per se (okay, maybe bulls used in bullfighting), the Torah is cleverly using this construction here for "a habitual gorer."

Per request of other such nouns-derived-from-verbs in Tanach: I attempted to script it. Easy way to weed out the false positives was just look for this pattern in the masculine plural. Here's a few, in descending order of biblical frequency:

טַבָּחִים (butchers/executioners)

גַּנָּבִים (thieves)


לַעַזָּתִים (?)

הַקַּלָּעִים (sling-shooters)

וְהָחַמָּנִים (sun-gods)

הַדַּיָּגִים (fishermen)

צַיָּדִים (hunters/trappers)





הָרַמָּכִים (breeding stock, most likely)

הָרַקָּחִים (perfumers)

For those playing along at home, if you don't want to put Hebrew into your code, turn everything into hex vals.

    # patach something dagesh kamatz something chirik yud mem-sofit 

re.match('.*0x5b7 0x.{3} 0x5bc 0x5b8 0x.{3} 0x5b4 0x5d9 0x5dd.*', hex_vals)

Woops, this doesn't get you the soldiers in Koheles 10:10. וַחֲיָלִים, יְגַבֵּר Exercise for the reader!

  • can you give other similar examples and sourced to a TaNaCH passage, so I can look it up. Thanks. Great Answer! I know you gave other examples, but I do not know how to look these up.
    – ninamag
    May 4, 2021 at 12:10
  • 1
    @ninamag גנב a thief exodus 22
    – Double AA
    May 4, 2021 at 13:20
  • @DoubleAA in your example, both the first and second letter has an internal dot, גַּנָּב (does this matter)?
    – ninamag
    May 4, 2021 at 13:29
  • 1
    @ninamag The first dot is because בגדכפת at the beginning of a word always gets a dot (called dagesh lene or dagesh kal). It does not matter for this purpose. No different than how you sometimes have בִנְיָמִן vs בִּנְיָמִן
    – Double AA
    May 4, 2021 at 13:33
  • @Shalom Where can one find a comprehensive list of such verbs in the Tanakh, namely verbs with "a patach ... under the first letter, and a kamatz ... under the second, with the second letter getting an internal dot"?
    – ninamag
    May 6, 2021 at 11:51

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