Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

I once read that in the Inuit language there are well over fifty different words that describe snow. Following are just a few examples: Tlapa – powder snow, tlacringit – snow that is crusted on the surface, kayi – drifting snow, tlapat – still snow, tlamo – snow that falls in large wet flakes, tlatim – snow that falls in small flakes, tlaslo – snow that falls slowly, tlapinti – snow that falls quickly, kripya – snow that has melted and refrozen, tliyel – snow that has been marked by wolves, tliyelin – snow that has been marked by Eskimos, blotla – blowing snow, pactla – snow that has been packed down, hiryla – snow in beards.

To us the only thing that matters to us about snow is whether it will impact driving conditions, close school, and if it will be good for snowball fights. But when snow is your life, every different variation is important and matters, and needs to be described accordingly.


The number of words that a language has to describe something is very telling about its people. In Italy there are tens of different words that describe different variations of pasta. Following are just a few examples: Bavette, Bavettine, Ciriole, Capellini, Cavatappi, Conchiglie, Ditalini, Farfalloni, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Grattoni, Lasagne (Gravagna), Linguine, Maccheroni alla molinara, Mafaldine, Manicotti, Mostaccioli, Pappardelle, Penne, Pizzoccheri, Quadrettini, Ricciolini, Rigatoni, Rotini, Sagnarelli, Spaghetti alla chitarra, Stringozzi, Tagliatelle, Tortiglioni, Tripolini, Vermicelli, Ziti.

Some are long, some thin, some coiled, and some folded – all in different shapes, variations, and sizes. The Italians take their pasta very seriously!

So, what do we take seriously? What concept does lashon hakodesh have many different variations for, which other languages may be able to describe in just a few basic words?

The answer is Tefillah! In Yishtabach alone we utilize fifteen expressions of praise for Hashem. We take prayer very seriously and spend a great deal of time and effort to understand the significance and potency that our prayers have.

Yitzchak Avinu uttered the legendary words: “The voice is the voice of Yaakov; the hands are the hands of Eisav.” We believe that talk is anything but cheap. Perhaps talk is easy, but it isn’t cheap. In fact, when Eisav declared to Yaakov, “Behold, I am going to die, so what use to me is the birthright?,” he didn’t only mean that since life is temporal, he doesn’t want to be busy with the birthright. He also meant to say that he was going to die because of the birthright. He felt he could not observe all the restrictions and laws involved in serving G-d and he would end up dying on account of violating the laws. But more specifically than speech generally, we believe that prayers have an effect on the entire world.

In parshas Bereishis, the Torah states that after the world was created, “Hashem G-d had not yet sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the ground” (Bereishis 2:5). Rashi explains that it did not rain because there was no man to appreciate the gift of rain. When Adam was created and understood the vital need for rain, he prayed for it and then it fell. It was the prayers of Adam that brought the rain.

The Italians enjoy their pasta, the Eskimos live in the snow, and we thrive with prayer!

At present, all of Klal Yisrael is mobilized in the war against Hamas in Gaza. Our soldiers are on the front lines. The rest of us are in the prayer brigade, accruing merits and protection to them. From the many stories and video clips that have emerged from the front in recent weeks we know well that our prayers are literally guiding our soldiers in battle.

May Hashem protect every one of our soldiers and bring them home safely.


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Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author as well as a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ. He has recently begun seeing clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments and speaking engagements, contact 914-295-0115 or [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at