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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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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30 votes
2 answers
4k views

What does "mi yodeya" mean?

What does "mi yodeya" mean?
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  • 619
29 votes
5 answers
761 views

Female praying in masculine language

When women daven (pray), even by ourselves, it is convention to daven with male-gendered words ("modeh" vs "moda" as one of many examples). Why is this; are there sources that say we should be doing ...
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24 votes
3 answers
5k views

Hebrew document found in grandfather's attic—what does it state?

I found this document in my grandfather's attic and would be thankful if someone could tell me (a) what this document is, (b) whether there are any names written, and (c) which, if any, religious ...
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23 votes
6 answers
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Silent letter in Yisachar

Why don't we pronounce the second ש in יששכר?
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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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22 votes
2 answers
4k views

Why does the Hebrew alphabet not have letters representing vowels?

The Hebrew alphabet is actually an abjad rather than a "true" Western-style alphabet, in that every letter represents a consonant, and vowels, if they're indicated at all, require diacritics. This ...
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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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21 votes
5 answers
752 views

Zeraim Moed Nashim Nezikim Kodshim Taharos - why not Moadim?

The names of the Shisha Sidrei Mishna (Six Orders of Mishnah) are: Zeraim, Moed, Nashim, Nezikim, Kodshim, Taharos. All of them besides Moed are in plural form. However Moed is in singular form. Why ...
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21 votes
5 answers
654 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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21 votes
2 answers
1k views

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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20 votes
6 answers
4k views

Difference between אֲנִי and אָנֹכִי

Throughout the Tanakh, I have come across אֲנִי (ʾani) and אָנֹכִי (ʾanokhi) many times, which both mean "I". What is the difference between the two words in Tanakh?
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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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18 votes
9 answers
1k views

Why is "Shalom Aleichem" always plural?

Why do we say Shalom Alaichem to one person if Alaichem is plural? Is it saying you and all of the Jews? Is that why it's plural?
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18 votes
3 answers
503 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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18 votes
4 answers
33k views

Proper recitation of Hamakom Yenachem

Is the proper phrase to console a mourner always the plural המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים or should it be changed depending on whom it is said to (singluar, feminine, etc.)?
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18 votes
3 answers
1k views

Why aren't Tefillin called Totafot?

They're called Totafot in the Torah, so why do we call them Tefilin?
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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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  • 6,548
17 votes
4 answers
29k 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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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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16 votes
4 answers
603 views

Why the Sanhedrin has a Greek name?

This bothers me since a long time. The biggest Jewish halachic authority, arguably, the peak of the Torah world which can be ever imagined, which has its most basic definitions in the Chumash (70 ...
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  • 604
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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15 votes
3 answers
671 views

Why is Hebrew Called "Jewish" in the Bible?

We see that in most of the Bible, the Jews are called "בני ישראל/Israelites"; only in later books are they called "יהודים/Jews" (e.g. Esther 2:5, Zechariah 8:23), after the loss of the 10 tribes. ...
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14 votes
4 answers
313 views

In the Bible, why did robbers bother tunneling into houses to rob them?

Exodus 22:1 speaks about the robber who was found "tunnelling in" to someone's house (vis-a-vis self-defense). Is that just a figure of speech, or did they actually go to that much trouble? (What ...
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  • 126k
14 votes
7 answers
48k views

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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14 votes
5 answers
984 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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  • 563
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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  • 20.7k
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
13 votes
2 answers
2k views

What does "prohibited l’chatchila" mean?

To me the phrase prohibited l’chatchila seems a bit confusing. Can someone explain what this means in plain and simple english? (context: someone says "action X is prohibited l’chatchila")
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13 votes
3 answers
12k views

Two words for "redeem": what's the difference?

When we talk about "redeeming" a first-born son or a captive, we use "pidyon" (root פדה). When we talk about what God does for us we use "goel" (גאל). My dictionary translates both of these roots as ...
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13 votes
4 answers
7k views

Where can I get the free Hebrew text of the Siddur or Benching?

Where can I get the text of the siddur/prayer book (or at least benching/grace, mincha/afternoon prayer, and/or ma'ariv/evening prayer) in a free computer friendly format? I'd like to be able to make ...
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  • 345
13 votes
3 answers
1k views

Did Rembrandt really get the 'mene, mene' inscription in his painting of Belshazzar's Feast wrong?

Forgive me if you feel this is not the best forum to ask this question on, but it seems the most apposite one out of those currently available. The inscription that appears on the wall in Daniel 5:25 ...
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13 votes
5 answers
13k views

Meaning and pronunciation of יישר כחך

What is the exact meaning of the phrase "יישר כחך", and what is the gramatically-correct way to pronounce it?
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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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13 votes
5 answers
1k views

What's "chelek Eloak mimaal"?

I have frequently heard the human (or only the Jewish?) soul referred to as "חלק אלוק ממעל", literally "portion/section/piece/allotment of God (from) above". What does this mean? Who's the first to ...
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13 votes
3 answers
38k views

What is the original meaning of the word "hevel"?

I am not religious myself, but lately I have found myself somewhat attracted to Ecclesiastes. Reading about it, I am fascinated about what seems to be endless meanings and interpretations of the word ...
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  • 238
13 votes
3 answers
666 views

Disparity between male and female pronunciation of Cholam

In many Yeshivish communities in the US, the male segment of the population vocalizes the cholam as "oi," while their female counterparts vocalize it as a long "o". How did this come about? Does the ...
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13 votes
3 answers
5k views

חס ושלום! (whatever that means)

What on earth does חס ושלום mean literally, or what is its etymology? Why do people use that phrase in particular to "ward off" bad things? (That last part of the question is not asking whether saying ...
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  • 73.4k
13 votes
1 answer
1k views

What is the source of the expression המבין יבין?

The Forward writer Philologos in his most recent column claimed that the earliest uses of the expression והמבין יבין are found in the Ra'avad and in the Radak. Based on the fact that both these ...
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13 votes
3 answers
221 views

Grammar question in Vayera

I've been learning Bereshit with Rashi in school, and while reading a part of Vayera, I noticed that there were two grammatically different statements in one Pesuk. Bereshit (18:7) וְאֶל הַבָּקָר ...
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  • 4,486
12 votes
2 answers
442 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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12 votes
6 answers
2k views

Have any of you ever heard anyone pronouncing ayin as "ng"?

I have read that historically the letter ayin was pronounced by some Dutch, Portuguese, and Italian Jews as a velar nasal consonant (ng as in sing). Reference to this can be found here, here, and here....
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  • 4,999
12 votes
4 answers
459 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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  • 41k
12 votes
2 answers
255 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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  • 73.4k
12 votes
5 answers
13k views

Correct response to tizku l'mitzvot

What is the correct response to someone saying, "tizku l'mitzvot" after you do a mitzvah, or something helpful? For example, after helping someone make an Eruv Chatzeirot they might say "tizku l'...
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  • 2,413
12 votes
2 answers
524 views

Is the bracha pronounced "ha-MO-tzee" or "ha-mo-TZEE"?

The blessing we say on bread, "hamotzee lechem min ha'aretz" -- on what syllable is the stress in the word "hamotzee"? Is the bracha pronounced "ha-MO-tzee" or "ha-mo-TZEE"? In Psalms 104:14 we find ...
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  • 126k
12 votes
3 answers
373 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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  • 28.1k
12 votes
1 answer
620 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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  • 7,132
12 votes
4 answers
379 views

Why דָּת in Esther but דַּת in kidushin?

There are two places "דָּת" appears in Tanach in a form that means "the law of": Esther 2:12 and 9:13. In both places it appears as "דָּת" with a kamatz.[1] Yet, when we marry, according to the ...
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  • 73.4k
12 votes
2 answers
214 views

Leshabeichacha and loseis/latet shevach

Towards the beginning of the נוסח אשכנז version of davening, in the section beginning לעולם יהא אדם ירא שמים, we say as follows: לפיכך אנחנו חייבים להודות לך ולשבחך ולפארך ולברך ולקדש ולתת שבח ...
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