In Shemot 12:9, the text reads, "אַל תֹּאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ נָא " which is translated at chabad.org as "You shall not eat it rare ". The meforshim (as taken from sefaria.org) look at the word "Na" as meaning "alive" or undercooked, often based on a connection to an Arabic word. As Rashi writes, "Heb. נָא Something not roasted sufficiently is called נָא in Arabic." The Bechor Shor writes, " תרגם אונקלוס כד חי כי נא חי שאינו מבושל כל צרכו בערבי". This meaning of the word occurs only here (or, as the Ibn Ezra puts it, " ובדרך הזאת לא מצאנו בכל המקרא "). A look in the Even Shoshan confirms this.

The Rashbam writes, "I believe this means a type of frying in a pot but in its own juice (including the blood) not involving water known as צלי קדר, not roasting directly on the fire, as required by our verse here ". His practical application of halacha would be different, then.

This is intended to be a direct law applicable for the generations -- why would the text use a word which needs to be figured out, and why would the text switch to the Arabic? Was the Hebrew unable to describe "not roasted completely" or "raw"? Oftentimes, the text uses a less well known word because it imports a subtlety in meaning. What does relying on the Arabic hapax in this case add to understanding that would have been absent had the text stayed with Hebrew?

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    Is it that the word is itself Arabic or that an Arabic cognate helps us understand it?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 15:55
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    Any word in any language can be forgotten...are you asking why the Torah ever uses words, or word usages infrequently, as that can make it harder for readers to understand? There are other words and phrases whose meanings are debated by the commentators. In all of these cases whatever nuance was intended could have probably been conveyed in more words, but that's simply not how the Torah is. written
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 16:07
  • I don't know whether this is a claim of a cognate or identifyng the word's meaning as Arabic "שאינו צלוי כל צורכו קוראו נא בלשון ערבי:"
    – rosends
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 16:08
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    "Please don't eat it."
    – Scimonster
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 16:15
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    @Danno Arabic did not exist till well after the writing of the Torah. See e.g. academia.edu/18470301/… The meforshim who cite the Arabic are doing so only to reveal the meaning of the infrequently used biblical Hebrew word, since both are related Semitic languages.
    – Loewian
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 2:51

2 Answers 2


Rav Hirsch says that it is indeed a subtlety in the meaning that is being expressed here.

Bo (12:9)

it is derived from נוא (to be disturbed, to be interrupted in a movement which has been commenced) incomplete ...
The opposite is בשל מבושל במים to be thoroughly cooked by the addition of water or other liquid. You received freedom complete from the hands of Hashem, and no human addition was required. And you received the freedom all at once כולו כאחד (see Rashi, Pesachim 74a, Mishna)

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    But why must this come to us through the Arabic? Is there nothing in the Hebrew that could communicate this? Is he saying it doesn't --if "Na" is from the same root as "heini" (as in Bamidbar 30:6) then why does no commentator before Rav Hirsch make this claim (impossible to answer, I know).
    – rosends
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 15:35
  • @Danno I would guess that Rashi is dealing with the direct word rather than the shoresh to express himself in a way that is understood by the reader. I thing that he is connecting the Hebrew word to a known Arabic word to enhance understanding, not saying that the Torah is using an Arabic word. Rav Hirsch did not do this as he knew that everyone would be familiar with the Rashi. Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 15:41
  • @Rosends see ibn Ezra B here mg.alhatorah.org/Full/Shemot/12.9#e0n7 Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:43

A couple of related points, which should help answer the question. Mefarshim, as usual, from here.

  1. Some say that Bereishis 25:30 "Haliteini Na" also means raw/raw-ish, which is how the lentils would still be red. So it may not be completely alone in its meaning...

  2. Peshat commentaries like Rashbam wouldn't influence the Halacha. Making an argument like yours would be like saying we should do a literal Ayin Tachas Ayin because some Mefarshim suggest that it was intended literally. In fact, many, many Mitzvos have conflicting Peshatim in them, and we simply follow Chazal's interpretation (famously, see Rashbam on Tefillin, for example...).

  3. This is very clearly a Hebrew word according to Ibn Ezra, at least, and is the correct way to write undercooked, it's just that since Hebrew and Arabic are similar, we mention the Arabic word. In discussing the third possible meaning (see below for the other 2), he says:

    וכבר אמרתי בספרי כי רוב לשון ערבית דומה ללשון עברית. והבשר החי יקראו בלשון ערבית: ניי, ואותיות אהו״י להם מתחלפים בלשונם כמו בלשונינו.‏

    See also RDZ Hoffman who says clearly that it is a Hebrew word.

  4. Other possible subtleties in meaning:

    • Uncooked from Na meaning "now" (Ibn Ezra, Bechor Shor)
    • Broken, from "Heini Aviha Osah" (Bamidbar 30:6) (Ibn Ezra)
    • Something relating to "please", perhaps relating to the Issur? (Chizkuni, almost certainly a Taus Sofer)
    • Rashbam you mentioned.

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