What is the meaning of לֵאמֹר?

In all the usage of לֵאמֹר in the Torah, it almost seems unnecessary to add the word "to say" or "saying". For example, here is the first occurrence:

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים, לֵאמֹר:

Knowing that no words in the Torah are unnecessary makes it more intriguing to me to find out what the real meaning of this word is.

  • 2
    It introduces a direct quote. A midrashic explanation (sometimes brought by Rashi) explains it as "to say to someone else." In later Hebrew the same function was served by ואמר (e.g. "מכריז ואומר")
    – b a
    Sep 15, 2017 at 9:29
  • Levinas said that his teacher, Monsieur Chouchani, knew 120 explanations of the word לאמר, and only revealed one to him.
    – Josh
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:12
  • @Josh please put a link here.
    – ninamag
    Sep 17, 2017 at 22:31
  • @ba Why not make that an answer?
    – user9643
    Sep 19, 2017 at 14:14
  • @ba include source and links.
    – ninamag
    Sep 19, 2017 at 14:17

2 Answers 2


The Sifra at the beginning of Vayikra writes that the word ‘leimor’ should be understood as ‘in order to say’, i.e. in order to repeat over to the Jewish People.

The Ramban in Shemos, 6, 10, brings this explanation but points out that it does not work in all cases. He therefore states, “What is correct in my eyes is that the word ‘leimor’ is to indicate clarification of the matter in all places, and God spoke to Moshe in a complete statement and not a doubtful statement, and not hinting any matters.”

HaKesav VeHaKabbalah argues that there are cases where the Ramban’s explanation also doesn’t work such as Lemech calling his son Noach (Bereishis 5, 29) then adding “leimor…” and cites a few other examples such as the beginning of the Aseres Hadibros (Ten Commandments) where the word leimor is used, though it seems superfluous to say ‘with clarity’. In Shemos 20, 1, he therefore takes the Ramban's idea a bit further and says that the word leimor comes to indicate further explanation and details given over. I.e. the word ‘vayedaber’ or ‘vayomer’ would mean to explain the kelalim - the general principles, and ‘leimor’ would mean to explain the peratim - the finer details of the mitzvos. In Vayikra 1, 1, he gives a similar explanation that the word ‘amirah’ in general (and as used in the word leimor) is to indicate greater depth of understanding. He cites the Vilna Gaon who said that ‘dibur’ is the statement of the Torah as it is written before us, while ‘amirah’ is the inner depth of the Torah and its intent and rationale. At his conclusion, he also cites Naftali Hertz Weisel who understood these words to mean the opposite - dibur (vayedaber) is used to indicate the Torah sheb’al peh, whereas amirah (leimor) is used for Torah shebichsav.

Sifra, Vayikra - see “davar acher…” (sorry, you'll have to copy & paste this link) - https://www.sefaria.org/Sifra,_Vayikra_Dibbura_d'Nedavah,_Chapter_2.13?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

Ramban, Shemos 6, 10 - https://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Exodus.6.10.1/en/Sefaria_Community_Translation?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

HaKesav VeHaKabbalah, Shemos 20, 1 - https://www.sefaria.org/HaKtav_VeHaKabalah,_Exodus.20.1.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

HaKesav VeHaKabbalah, Vayikra, 1, 1 - https://www.sefaria.org/HaKtav_VeHaKabalah,_Leviticus.1.1.5?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

  • @Alter_Bochur, please include links.
    – ninamag
    Sep 26, 2017 at 4:45
  • “What is correct in my eyes is that the word ‘leimor’ is to indicate clarification ..." - So, in place of "leimor", I can read it as, "for review", or "for clarification", or "for clarity", or "for discussion"?
    – ninamag
    Sep 26, 2017 at 4:49
  • @mevaqesh I would appreciate your input on this answer, because you had previously commented on an answer on this same posting of mine. Thanks.
    – ninamag
    Sep 26, 2017 at 4:52
  • 1
    @ninamag according to the Ramban you could substitute the word 'leimor' with 'clearly'. I.e. 'And Hashem spoke to Moshe clearly', or 'Speak to the Children of Israel clearly'. Sep 26, 2017 at 6:52
  • Very helpful. Thank you. What is the Hebrew word that Ramba"n used for "clearly"?
    – ninamag
    Sep 26, 2017 at 7:02

Yoma 4b says that it is a grant of permission to tell it over to others (without that, it would have been meant only for the listener's ears):

אמר ר' (מוסיא בר בריה דרבי מסיא משמיה דר' מוסיא) רבה מניין לאומר דבר לחבירו שהוא בבל יאמר עד שיאמר לו לך אמור שנאמר (ויקרא א, א) וידבר ה' אליו מאהל מועד לאמר

  • 1
    Can you make a rough translation of the Hebrew.
    – ninamag
    Sep 19, 2017 at 19:14
  • @ninamag This post mistakenly assumes that Talmudic homiletics necessarily correspond to words' actual meanings, and then conflates the message of the passage with the literal intent of the word. The passage states (Soncino translation): R. Hanina said: No man shall speak to his neighbour unless he calls him first to speak to him. Rabbah said: Whence do we know that if a man had said something to his neighbour the latter must not spread the news without the informant's telling him ‘Go and say it’? From the scriptural text: The Lord spoke to him out of the tent of meeting, lemor [saying]".
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 19, 2017 at 19:32
  • [cont.] The passage never claims that the meaning of the word (which is what you asked about) is the granting of permission to others. Rather, this homily is based on the understanding that implicit in the term is a permission to relate it. || Importantly it does not state, as this post suggests that every usage of the term is for this purpose. The most that one could infer from this derash is that this would be implicit in every usage; not that that is the meaning of every usage, or the point of the term in every usage.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 19, 2017 at 19:35
  • @mevaqesh thanks. a few moments later, it actually says that "lemor" is a contraction of "lo omer", do not say.
    – ninamag
    Sep 19, 2017 at 19:35
  • @Meir why does Yoma 4b:11 says that "Lemor is a contraction of lo emor, meaning: Do not say"?
    – ninamag
    Sep 19, 2017 at 19:45

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