Running On Willpower

A number of commentators explain that “chefetz” is a strong, physical type of desire while “ratzon” is a more subtle desire to do the right thing.

My Dear Deer

The Land of Israel is often called the desired land: “eretz chefetz” (Malachi 3:12), “eretz chemdah” (Jeremiah 3:19, Zecharia 7:14, Psalms 106:24), and “eretz ha’tzvi” (Daniel 11:16, 11:41).

Jacob’s Three Names

How do we know that Yeshurun is Yaakov? One place where the equivalence is clear is a passage recited before the morning prayers.

A Biblical Feast

Ibn Janach writes that produce is called “tevuah” because it comes at certain times of the year.

Holy Priests Vs. Unholy Priests

Rabbi Hirsch ties “komer” to the emotional manipulation commonly employed by idolatrous priests.

A Real Toss Up

Not all appearances of “hashlachah” carry a negative connotation. Some connote throwing something deliberately to bring about certain results.

Good Morning, Sunshine

During the evening or at night, the lack of light makes everything appear mixed up and one cannot discern the differences between them. (“Erev” means both night and mixture.)

The Ovine And Caprine Families

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 26a) points out that "yovel" also means ram, and was borrowed to mean a ram’s horn (Joshua 6:4-5), as well the 50th year – the jubilee, an English word derived from the Hebrew "yovel," when such a horn is blown.

Smooth Sliding And Glad Gliding

Rabbi Mecklenburg notes that another cognate, “sha,” means “closing one’s eyes” (Isaiah 6:10 and 32:3) since when a person closes his eyes, it appears as though he attaches his upper eyelid to his lower one.

The Old Man And The See

“Sav” is related to the Hebrew word “seivah,” and both these words form the basis of “saba,” which means “old man” or “grandfather.”

Where Are You?

Rabbi Wertheimer writes that "ayeh" is used when one has no inkling where something is, while "eifo" is used when one does have a general sense of where it is.

Dirt, Dust, And Ashes

Another word for dust, mentioned above, is “avak.” Rabbi Pappenheim argues that afar is run-of-the-mill dirt while avak is finer dust.

Be A Man

The Vilna Gaon argues that man stopped resembling G-d in the generation of Adam’s grandson Enosh when idol worship began to develop.

A Holiday Of Gathering

The Malbim argues that “asifah” connotes bringing inside what one has gathered, while “kovetz” connotes gathering without necessarily bringing inside.

Return To Sender

Righteousness is man’s natural state; sinfulness, in contrast, is considered unnatural. Therefore, a wicked person who repents is viewed as “returning” to his natural state.

The Fourth Dimension

Some Jews have a custom to greet others on the first night of Rosh Hashanah with the words “Le’shanah tova tei’katev ve’tei’chatem le’alter le’chaim tovim u’le’shalom.

Forms Of Forgiveness

“Selichah” also refers to a type of liturgical poem, or piyut, characterized by begging for forgiveness.

Forget About It

Rabbi Hirsch writes that “shachach” implies forgetting as a result of focusing on something else while “nashah” is forgetfulness that results from a weakened memory.

The Shining Sea Of Galilee

It’s possible that this body of water actually does not have its own name and is identified instead by the most prominent city on its banks.

Sleep Tight

...the Torah is telling us that Og was so big and strong even as a baby that he needed a metal crib to contain him; otherwise he would have broken his bed.

Bovine Words: Cows And Cowboys

In Hebrew, an egel is a male calf, while an eglah is a female calf. Calves are immature bovines that rely on their mother’s milk to survive and grow.

Heavy Taxes And Empty Pockets

Another Hebrew word for tax is meches, appearing six times in chapter 31 of Sefer Bamidbar.

Are You Really ‘With Me’?

If G-d told Balaam not to go with Balak’s men, why did He seemingly “change His mind” and later allow him to go?

Laws And Orders

Classical writing requires ink and paper, which are technically separable. In engraving, the material being engraved becomes the writing.

Names For The Netherworld

Rabbi Pappenheim maintains that “hayaven” is derived from the root yud-nun, which means trickery or deception.

Indulging In Pleasure

Something that is adin or adinah (see Isaiah 47:8) is sensitive, delicate, or dainty – it is susceptible to being over-stimulated by sensory overload.

On Cloud Nine?

In times of surplus (brought on by ample rain), people tend to treat each other more fairly and are at peace with one another versus times of austerity and famine when people compete with each other for limited resources.

You Can Say That Again

When He revealed the Decalogue at Mount Sinai, however, the entire Jewish people were gathered at the mountain, so G-d “raised His voice” and we therefore speak of the “Aseret HaDibrot.”

Karet And Ariri

The Torah refers to a punishment that seems identical, or similar to, karet with the word "ariri."

Boys And Bars

Rabbi Pappenheim maintains that “bat” (daughter) is also derived from the root bet-nun and should really be spelled “banat” (like it is in other Semitic languages).


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