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In the artscroll Talmud, when a quote is made from Rashi, the reference always starts with these letters. What do they mean?

  • I have an educated guess. Can you cite or link to an example, please? – DanF Jun 12 '15 at 15:13
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To flesh out Gershon's answer a bit more:

You wouldn't just say "Rashi's comment on page 84a", as that would have you looking all over the page. Instead, each comment of Rashi is prefaced by the Talmudic phrase on which he's commenting. (In some newer editions it's bold or a different font, to help you locate it more easily.) This is known as דברי המתחיל, (divrei ha-mas-chil or ha-mat-chil, Ashkenazic or Sephardic pronunciation), "the starting words."

Here, for instance, is a snippet of Rashi on Berachot 2a. (Courtesy of e-daf, courtesy of Tuvia's.) This edition has the Talmudic phrases in bold, which help:

Image of Rashi's comments on Berachot 2a

At the bottom, Rashi quotes the Talmud's phrase "Chalavim", and then comments -- "shel kol korbanot." So you would refer to this comment of Rashi as "Rashi, Berachot 2a, ד”ה חלבים"

The concept does exist in non-Talmudic scholarship as well, if you know where to look. From the Chicago Manual of Style:

Article from an encyclopedia:

[...] Put the article title, in quotes, after the abbreviation s.v. (sub versa, “under the word.”) [For example:]

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th. ed., s.v. “Gilbert Keith Chesterton.”

Some Judaics journals will use "s.v." in English as a translation of ד”ה

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    Thanks! The ashkenazi spelling was a problem but now I understand it is hamatchil. – far22 Jun 12 '15 at 15:34
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ד"ה = Divrei Hamaschil / Hamatchil. It means the Rashi begins with these words.

דברי / Divrei = the words

המתחיל / Hamaschil / Hamatchil = that Rashi begins with

This helps one find which Rashi the reference is referring to.

  • I think it is an apostrophe then. What mean mashul? – far22 Jun 12 '15 at 15:17
  • @far22 I think you mean, "matchil" - beginning. "mashul" means "as an example". – DanF Jun 12 '15 at 15:55
  • Yes. Problem with the ashkenazi spelling – far22 Jun 12 '15 at 15:56
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It stands for דיבור המתחיל Dibur Hamaschil, not דברי המתחיל divrei hamaschil, which is a very common mistake.

I heard this from Rabbi Yisroel Belsky. Called it a mistake were his words, not mine.

He explained that divrei refers to the words of someone in particular. For instance, you would say divrei Rashi, meaning the words of the Rashi.

Dibur refers to a particular idea that was said. So when referring to a specific sentence or idea in Rashi, the proper term is Dibur Hamaschil, that idea which begins with the words etc.

  • hebrewbooks.org/… to say there is a different opinion is one thing. to say that it is incorrect, is incorrect. – Gershon Gold Jun 12 '15 at 16:51
  • Tell him when you see him. And that link proves nothing in context. It would make sense in a sentence where one says 'my words which begin with etc.' But I'm happy that you at least did a search to find that there are more options than what you originally presumed. – user6591 Jun 12 '15 at 16:56

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