I have no trouble using Jastrow for Tanach and Shas but I find it difficult to apply to Acharonim. How might I use it more effectively? Are there peculiarities of grammar I'm missing?

For a few examples, I'm looking now at some of the words that caused me to ask this question in the first place and I'm finding that with a little digging they are in fact generally in there. I had been stuck on:

החוטין צריך שיהיו טווין לשמן

but I think I understand it now as "the threads should be twisted in groups of eight". In fact, I'm realizing that it could well be that what I really need is a stronger foundation in grammar and conjugation. For example, I know what all of the words here mean:

הישן עם אשתו ובניו איך יתנהג

and I have a general sense of what this is saying, I think - "Customs regarding sleeping together with your wife and/or your children" - but why is נהג conjugated this way? Doesn't the ית prefix indicate the infinitive?

Maybe my question is really "what is a solid resource for improving my understanding of grammar and conjugation", with a sub-question of "do the Acharonim generally conform to Mishnaic grammar?"

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    – Curiouser
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 5:02
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    Thanks, I didn't see that. Am I perhaps not using Jastrow et al correctly if I am unable to use it effectively with the works of Acharonim? When I come upon an unfamiliar phrase or word in Gemara I can find it easily. Not so with the aforementioned texts. This is what leads me to suspect that my problem may be one of parsing grammar.
    – yoel
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:04
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    Do you know how to find the shoresh/root of a word?
    – avi
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 16:15
  • How about a few examples? Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 16:29
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    To address the actual examples you gave: לשמן means "for their name" - i.e., "for the sake of the mitzvah"; you've got the rest of the sentence correct. In the second one, ית is the reflexive, so יתנהג means "should conduct himself" - and again, your understanding of the rest of the sentence is correct: "How one should conduct himself when sleeping with his wife or children."
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


You might try taking a course in modern Hebrew grammar — which is pretty close to that used by the Mishna and to that used by the acharonim — or at least reading a book on it. Or on Biblical Hebrew grammar, which is also pretty close.

But here are a few pointers that will help you look things up in a dictionary:

  • The following letters might appear at the beginning of a word, alone or in combination, without changing the root (some in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, some in both): אבדהויכלמנקשת.
  • The following might appear in the middle of a word, i.e. among the letters of the root: וי. In addition, ת can appear after a ס or ש in a root, ט after a צ, and ד after a ז. And occasionally an א might be thrown in in the middle.
  • The following letters might appear at the end of a word: אהויכמנת.

In addition, if a root is biliteral (or, which is the same thing, if it's triliteral with the second letter ו or י), you might see its last letter repeated.

So, for example, if you come across נסתובבתי, you might have to look under סוב. Of course, if you come across כשהתקדשתי, this answer doesn't help you at all — except its first paragraph.

  • Thanks! Would you recommend a particular book? Also, is the root of כשהתקדשתי not קדש?
    – yoel
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 0:34
  • I can't really recommend a particular book; perhaps someone else can (and you can switch the check mark form my answer to his!). The root of כשהתקדשתי is קדש, but you can't tell that from the pointers I listed.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 0:55
  • @yoel, I was also wondering what msh210 was up to by listing ק among the prefixes, until I remembered that it is used in Aramaic as a particle indicating the present tense - e.g., קמיפלגי, "they disagree" (from the root פלג, "split"), or קאמר, "he says" (from אמר).
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 2:06
  • "changing the root (some in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, some in both): אבדהויכלמנקשת" hehe, sounds like you should just list the letters that are not prefixes :)
    – avi
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 8:16
  • Hayesod Is a good book to learn modern hebrew grammar. amazon.com/Ha-yesod-Fundamentals-Hebrew-Luba-Uveeler/dp/…
    – avi
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 8:17

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