In the Artscroll translation of מנוחה ושמחה (The Interlinear Family Zemiros p.58), it translates the phrase שְׁמֵי שָׁמַיִם as "the loftiest heavens". What is the etymology of the first word in this construct that the phrase should mean lofty?

It doesn't seem to come from the root שׁמה or שׁמם so I can't think what the root of it could be.

  • 2
    Why not look first at what it means in Tanakh? Pesukim containing it show up all over Davening: הַלְלוּהוּ, שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם; וְהַמַּיִם, אֲשֶׁר מֵעַל הַשָּׁמָיִם and אַתָּה-הוּא יְהוָה, לְבַדֶּךָ (אַתָּה) עָשִׂיתָ אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכָל-צְבָאָם הָאָרֶץ וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ הַיַּמִּים וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר בָּהֶם show up every day and לָרֹכֵב, בִּשְׁמֵי שְׁמֵי-קֶדֶם-- הֵן יִתֵּן בְּקוֹלוֹ, קוֹל עֹז. on shabbat and holidays and תִּרְדֹּף בְּאַף וְתַשְׁמִידֵם, מִתַּחַת שְׁמֵי יְהוָה is said on Pesach and Tisha Bav.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 20:30
  • 2
    Just a guess here, but isn't it similar to "kadosh kadoshim", Holy of Holies, so it just means something like "Heaven of Heavens"? "Loftiest of Heavens" seems synonymous...
    – Gary
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 23:03
  • The literal translation is "heaven of heavens" (שמי is a conjugation of שמים), this essentially means the loftiest of heavens (as in even by the standard of heaven it is heaven)
    – YSR
    Commented Jan 30 at 23:20

1 Answer 1


Rav Hirsch in explaining Bereishis 1:1 explains the usage of Shamaim as he had developed it in Jeshurun vol. VIII pg. 274 as the designation of the whole extra-terrestrial world. He then explains the usage in 1:8 as well. Thus, there are different levels called שָׁמַיִם based on what they are being separated from. This then means the highest of those levels.

The phrase שְׁמֵי שָׁמַיִם means the ultimate level of the separations that are called by the term שָׁמַיִם which is therefore above all the others. Since we regard the earth as the position at we we have our point of view, the heavens are above us and we are looking up toward each level. The furthest heaven is thus (to our eyes) the highest or loftiest.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .