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What is the name of this week's parsha? What about the sefer? The text clearly says "Bemidbar" (or B'midbar), but many call it Bamidbar. Is this a grammatical or traditional difference? Could one ever say "Bamidbar Sinai"?

  • Interesting to note that Artscroll writes Bamidbar and Feldheim writes Bemidbar. Never noticed that until recently... – NJM Jul 13 at 1:55
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My understanding is as follows:

  • "midbar" = desert
  • "hamidbar" = "the desert"
  • "midbar-sinai" = "desert of Sinai." There's no need for the definite article before desert, as we know which desert. It's already defined as Sinai.
  • "bemidbar" = in a desert
  • "bamidbar" = "be+ha+midbar" = in the desert

So no, we would either say "in the desert" or "in desert of Sinai." No need to doubly define it.

(I vaguely recall an occasional exception to the rule, maybe?)

So yes, the book uses the word bemidbar. But that word leaves one hanging. ("In desert of ...") So it's easier to refer to the book by the standalone word "bamidbar", "in THE desert."

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    Calling it "Bemidbar" would be similar to those who call bentching "Birkat" or who call a Torah speech a "Devar." – Isaac Moses May 14 '10 at 17:21
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    @Isaac: on the other hand, we do call the second book of the Torah "Shemos," not "Sheimos." – Alex Dec 13 '11 at 3:24
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When in doubt, we should always go to the Hebrew word, and see how is written and use the correct transliteration. So, if בְּמִדְבַּר is written with the sh’va na, the sound should be of e. Bemidbar. Although, a veteran translator proposed the following solution: "I have seen it written in English with either a a or an E. In Hebrew however it’s not an a sound, it’s not an a vowel it is the vowel where you stop and just say the sound of the name of the letter. In this case the buh sound. So the way I have been doing it in the past it actually could’ve even been B’MIDBAR. But when there’s no apostrophe then the center typically uses the E."

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