Questions tagged [hebrew]

Questions pertaining to the Hebrew language, as related to Judaism. See the help center: http://judaism.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic

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Nefesh, neshama and ruach as words for "soul"

All three words can mean something like "soul", e.g., neshama in גלגול נשמות, and ruach in וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם (Bereshit 45:27). So, what is the difference?
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8 votes
6 answers
1k views

Is there a Mitzva to speak Loshon Kodesh?

Is it a Mitzva to speak Loshon Kodesh? (sources)
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7 votes
5 answers
882 views

What color is Yarok?

Yarok ירוק in modern Hebrew means green. What color does it refer to in Mishnaic Hebrew? I have heard that it refers to yellow and not green because the Mishna in Sukkah (on 34b) discusses a citron ...
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41 votes
5 answers
8k views

Which alphabet were the original Torah scrolls in?

I've assumed that the Torah scrolls we read today as the same that Moses wrote. I always assumed it's been the same alphabet. However lately I came across documents explaining the evolution of the ...
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10 votes
3 answers
907 views

לשון הקדש: the oldest language?

Rashi to B'reshis 2:23 says that the language Adam spoke was one that Rashi calls לשון הקדש, lashon hakodesh (or l'shon hakodesh), and that contains the words אִשָּׁה and אִישׁ. Keeping to Rashi's ...
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10 votes
1 answer
527 views

A Lubavitch custom of reciting zecher and zeicher in "Ashrei"?

My cousin, a Lubavitcher, says both zecher and zeicher (that is, both זֶכֶר with a segol and זֵכֶר with a tzeire) in "Ashrei". I noticed this when I visited him a good few years ago, and assumed it ...
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8 votes
5 answers
24k views

what does baruch atah Hashem mean?

most times, the beginning of a beracha is Baruch Atah Adonai, etc. which is usually translated as Blessed are You God, etc. what does it mean to say that God is blessed? (on the surface it implies ...
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17 votes
8 answers
37k views

What does Kadosh really mean?

What do the terms קדוש (Kadosh), קדושים, קדושה, and קדיש really mean?
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21 votes
2 answers
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Different traditions in Hebrew pronunciation [closed]

The theme of Hebrew pronunciation is one that facinates me and, as such, I want to get some feedback on some issues I've been thinking about for years. I have already discussed some of these issues ...
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12 votes
4 answers
464 views

All you need is love?

I once had a Hebrew professor state with absolute determination that "Ahavah" (the Hebrew word for "love") does not, in fact, mean love. His proof was twofold: 1. G-d could not have commanded us to "...
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11 votes
7 answers
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Hard Yeshivish phrases to translate [closed]

Does anyone ever have trouble finding good English translations of certain yeshivish phrases, especially when in conversation with someone who would not understand the original? Post your favorite ...
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18 votes
3 answers
506 views

First-Temple-Era names of the Hebrew months?

The Chumash refers to the months simply as "the first", "the second", and so on. Today we know them by their Babylonian names (Nisan, Iyar ...) Occasionally the Prophets from the First-Temple Era use ...
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10 votes
5 answers
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Chassidic Rebbes don't use Hebrew Grammar?

I have not witnessed enough test cases to statistically verify anything, but I have heard various Chassidic Rebbes make b'rachos and daven out loud, and without fail, they mispronounce a majority of ...
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22 votes
4 answers
5k views

Relationship between Samekh and Sin

What is the relationship between the letters samekh and sin? Did they ever have distinct sounds? Why do they exist as separate letters?
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5 votes
5 answers
1k views

What's the most efficient method for learning biblical Hebrew?

I have gone through some basic schooling at a modern yeshiva. For 10 years I haven't touched a Chumash, but would like to get back into it. I have started reading the Artscroll Chumash--reading the ...
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7 votes
5 answers
476 views

רָקִיאַע or רָקִיַע

The Minchas Shay at the beginning of B'reshis cites a dispute whether the word 'רָקִיעַ' (and likewise for other words with a furtive patach) is pronounced as רָקִיאַע or as רָקִיַע, that is, with a ...
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3 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why is a patach chet at the end of the word pronounced "sdrawkcab" (backwards)?

It seems that all Hebrew words that have a vowel under the letter are pronounced with the letter ("consonant") followed by the vowel. The only exception that I can think of is when a patach is ...
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14 votes
5 answers
998 views

Learning Hebrew on my own? [closed]

I am trying to learn Hebrew on my own. I currently am not in a position to be attending Hebrew classes, and I tend not to do so well in a classroom environment. I wish to learn biblical Hebrew ...
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12 votes
2 answers
447 views

Is there a reason or pattern as to when the Torah uses אֵת instead of אֶת?

I noticed a mix of the two forms of the Hebrew objective marker commonly pronounced אֶת. in the Torah. (There is no English translation of this word. It is used only to notify that an object follows ...
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16 votes
5 answers
6k views

Is Hebrew the mother of all languages spoken today in the world?

I often wonder what language Adam, Seth, Noah and Abraham (may peace and blessings be upon them) used to speak. What was their native tongue? Was it classical Hebrew? If yes, then would it be right to ...
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15 votes
1 answer
13k views

Does ב"ה actually stand for Boruch Hashem?

We asked here about writing either ב"ה or בס"ד on the top of a letter. In the question it was assumed that ב"ה stands for Boruch Hashem. Do we have a source that ב"ה actually stands for Boruch Hashem?...
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12 votes
3 answers
376 views

"־הם" versus "־מו"

Usually, the suffix "־הם" is used to mean "them" as an object, as is "להם" or "אליהם". Or it is used to mean "their" in possessive form, as in "כליהם" or "אבותיהם". But sometimes, the very same usage ...
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12 votes
1 answer
625 views

Kubutz and shuruk in Polish/Hungarian pronunciation

What is the origin or basis of the Polish and Hungarian prevalence for pronouncing "oo" vowels as "ee"? The variants of other vowels are easier to understand in the context of phonological shifting, ...
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  • 7,142
12 votes
2 answers
256 views

"m'nora" on Chanuka

My kid came home from school one day insisting that the thing we light on Chanuka is not a m'nora but a chanukiya. I replied that that's the word most Israelis use now but that m'nora is a perfectly ...
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11 votes
5 answers
468 views

The meaning of aishdas

I have read that aishdas (Deut. 33:2) means "fiery law" or something of the sort. However, doesn't the word das with the meaning of law/religion come from Persian (i.e. did not have the ...
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10 votes
4 answers
572 views

Ashkenazic vs. Sefardic grammar tendencies

I notice that when referring to God in the second person in a possessive form, Sefardim often use the female form where Ashkenazim use the male form. For example, where Ashkenazim say in kedusha, "...
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6 votes
2 answers
690 views

Why would people assume that "Afriki" is Africa?

Follow up on this question. Other than the name being similar to the English one, why would one assume that אפריקי in the Gemara has anything to do with Africa? The names are similar, but is there ...
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23 votes
3 answers
1k views

Where did "shabat shalom" come from?

What is the source for the greeting "שבת שלום"? Where is it earliest attested in print? What does it mean?
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14 votes
1 answer
1k views

הוא is he? Or is it?

The third-person feminine pronoun in Hebrew is היא, "hee." But in most instances in the Torah, the word is spelled הוא, with a vav rather than a yud as the middle letter. How does this make sense ...
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6 votes
5 answers
6k views

What is the meaning of יוֹם (yowm) in Bereshit?

I've heard conflicting reports of how the creation days' יוֹם (yowm), in Bereshit are interpreted in the Jewish community. How do actual Hebrew scholars define day in Bereshit? Six 24 hour periods or ...
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19 votes
5 answers
1k views

Meaning of ודו"ק

It is fairly common to find the abbreviation ודו"ק at the end of a complex explanation of a Torah thought (Maharsha, for example, famously does this very often). Roughly, it means: "I didn't explain ...
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17 votes
4 answers
31k views

"Anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world": Jewish life or any life?

I am puzzled by the Mishnah's original text of the famous Jewish idea that "whoever saves one life [...] saves an entire world" (Sanhedrin 4:5). The English from sefaria.org reads thus: "It was for ...
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13 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why can't Ploni Almoni be a real name, in Ruth?

The verse states (Ruth 4:1): וּבֹעַז עָלָה הַשַּׁעַר, וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם, וְהִנֵּה הַגֹּאֵל עֹבֵר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-בֹּעַז, וַיֹּאמֶר סוּרָה שְׁבָה-פֹּה פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי; וַיָּסַר, וַיֵּשֵׁב Now Boaz ...
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10 votes
1 answer
23k views

what is "kodesh"?

What does the word קֹדֶשׁ (sometimes קודש), kodesh, mean? Its form is that of a noun, like אֹכֶל or בֹּקֶר or לֹבֶן. But קדושה is a noun, and (I'm pretty sure) it means "the state/quality of being ...
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8 votes
3 answers
758 views

Moses' Hebrew name was given to him in Egyptian?

In שְׁמוֹת it says: וַתֹּ֧אמֶר לָ֣הּ בַּת ־ פַּרְעֹ֗ה הֵילִ֜יכִי אֶת ־ הַיֶּ֤לֶד הַזֶּה֙ וְהֵינִקִ֣הוּ לִ֔י וַאֲנִ֖י אֶתֵּ֣ן אֶת ־ שְׂכָרֵ֑ךְ וַתִּקַּ֧ח הָאִשָּׁ֛ה הַיֶּ֖לֶד וַתְּנִיקֵֽהוּ ׃ ...
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  • 369
7 votes
1 answer
937 views

What is the source for בית נאמן בישראל for newly married couples?

A common wish for couples about to be or just married couples is "May they build a בית נאמן בישראל". My translation (may be off, somewhat) is "An established house among (the people) of Israel." What ...
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6 votes
2 answers
524 views

Formal Hebrew honorific for one's mother

Many men, when going up for an aliya, tell the gabbai their name as, e.g. "Reuven ben Rav Yaakov", even if "Yaakov," the father, isn't actually a Rabbi." I believe the reason for this practice is to ...
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3 votes
6 answers
1k views

What does שליט"א stand for?

I thought that שליט"א came from the Aramaic word שליט (Ruler). But a Rabbi I told this to, pointed out that שליט"א is always written as with " , in the Middle so each the letters must ...
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  • 318
2 votes
4 answers
3k views

Most original form of the Hebrew Bible/Tanach

Not sure if they are the same thing (the Hebrew Bible and the Tanach). I read in this link that "there are many different Jewish translations of the Hebrew Bible". This kind of confuses me because I ...
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21 votes
5 answers
657 views

What is the nature of the numeral "ashtei-asar" (11)?

What is the nature of the numeral ashtei-asar (meaning 11) as in (BeMidbar 29:20, Parashat Pinchas): וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי פָּרִים עַשְׁתֵּי-עָשָׂר What is the basic word? Is this using ...
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13 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why "Lach" not "Lecha" in "Modim Anachnu Lach"

Could someone please explain why the "Lach" in Modim Anachnu Lach is not "Lecha"... I guess this is some grammatical point rather than the use of the feminime "you"?
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  • 133
9 votes
2 answers
635 views

מרדכי = Mord'chi?

When learning with Jews of the Syrian community, I noticed that they pronounced מרדכי (the name of the halachic commentary on the g'mara) as "mord'chi", as if the final vowel were a chirik. Why is ...
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  • 73.5k
9 votes
3 answers
794 views

גמר חתימה טובה gender

During the nine and a half days ending with Yom Kipur, we wish each other "גמר חתימה טובה" (an end to the good signing). This seems very strange. Shouldn't it be "גמר חתימה טוב" (a good end to the ...
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  • 73.5k
7 votes
2 answers
668 views

Davening not in Hebrew

Isn't it better to daven in your first language rather than davening in Hebrew and only knowing part of what you're sayig?
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  • 3,059
6 votes
1 answer
533 views

Is "tirtzach" 'murder'?

The way I was taught it (and confirmed by this answer and the comment on it), the Hebrew word "tirtzach" refers to murder, and is distinguished from the H-R-G and M-T roots which mean "kill." ...
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  • 36.6k
5 votes
1 answer
1k views

What is the difference between a Ger Toshav, a Ben Noach, an Akum and a Nochri?

These terms get used a lot in referring to gentiles. What are the precise differences, if any, between these different categories? Just for clarity, Akum is an abbreviation of the phrase 'Eved ...
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5 votes
2 answers
665 views

How does a Braille siddur work?

A member of our minyan has a degenerative vision problem and has, for a time, been using a home-made very-large-print siddur. After an absence, she returned this Shabbat with a guide dog and said she ...
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5 votes
5 answers
477 views

Why isn't Half Hallel called "85 percent hallel"?

When we say hallel on days like Rosh chodesh, we don't say parts of two prakim of tehillim. This is often called "chatzi" hallel, or half hallel. In fact, according to http://www.5tjt.com/local-news/...
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  • 36.6k
4 votes
2 answers
288 views

Are there any letters that do not have a distinct pronunciation?

Are there any two letters which do not have a distinction between their pronunciation in any tradition of pronunciation? To ask the inverse, is there at least one tradition of pronunciation for each ...
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4 votes
0 answers
105 views

Why does Echad mi Yodeia switch languages in middle?

Why does echad mi yodeia switch from hebrew (eg. אֶחָד מִי יוֹדֵעַ? אֶחָד אֲנִי יוֹדֵעַ: אֶחָד אֱלֹהֵינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ.) to arameic (eg. שִׁבְעָה יְמֵי שַׁבָּתָא), back to hebrew (eg. ...
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