Other than its use in Tehillim / Tefilla, the only place I can think of where the verb גמל is used (I'm not referring to a camel) is in the phrase גמילות חסדים, or similar forms of this phrase (singular form, etc.)

What is the translation of גמל as used, here? I don't think it means just "giving" as then, why not use the verb מתן or similar? Why is the word גמל used with this mitzvah? I don't see it used with some other mitzvah.

  • Where is it used in Psalms? What does it mean there? Does the meaning there fit the usage in "gemillut hassadim"? || as then, why not use the verb מתן or similar Why is one synonym more appropriate than another? || I don't see it used with some other mitzvah. Which other mitsvah do you think should have it? Note that gemillut hassadim probably isnt an actual mitsvah anyway. Its just an expression for certain kind acts.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 27, 2017 at 22:31
  • 3
    It is used in other places also - see for instance Br 50:17, "כִּי רָעָה גְמָלוּךָ"
    – Rish
    Dec 28, 2017 at 0:23
  • Or Sam. I 24:17 "כי אתה גמלתני הטובה ואני גמלתיך הרעה"; an act of doing/performing.
    – Oliver
    Dec 28, 2017 at 1:42
  • @Rish Hah! In this week's parsha of all places. I have to check that. Thanks.
    – DanF
    Dec 28, 2017 at 3:42
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    Guys... Is Tanach no longer considered on-topic in a site about Judaism? Leave this thing open please.
    – DonielF
    Dec 28, 2017 at 3:48

1 Answer 1


According to Jastrow, גמילות in the expression גמילות חסד is a noun, not a verb. The singular of the noun is גמול or גמולא which means deed, reward or recompense.

It is worth noting that Jastrow says it is Aramaic. The Hebrew form is גמל. And the Hebrew form as a noun is associated with both the camel (the one who carries the physical load) and the camel driver (the one driving the animal/camel, the Nefesh HaBehamit). So in context, it would have a meaning of an executor, one who executes the action.

Another interesting point from Jastrow concerning the usage as it refers to the camel driver, is that the camel driver leads his animal (walks in front of it), in contrast to an ass driver (חמר), who follows behind the animal.

The verb form in Hebrew also appears in Bereshit 21:8 and according to the Targum has a connotation of finishing or completing. This would mean that Gemilut Chesed is bringing Kindness from potential into an actual, finished state.

  • גמילות is also Mishnaic Hebrew. Are you sure Jastrow isn't saying it's Aramaic just because his book is an Aramaic dictionary?
    – b a
    Dec 28, 2017 at 17:33
  • As far as I am aware, Jastrow doesn't originate anything. If he brings something, it is from an earlier source. It is possible that this particular idea is from the Aruch. (the dictionary by that name) Dec 28, 2017 at 18:38

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