Take A Breather (Part I)

Maimonides explains that “ruach” also means a life-giving spirit, which is what remains of a person after death (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

All About Hair

In another famous Talmudic passage, the rabbis speak about taming the force of the Evil Inclination for idolatry, which took on the form of a lion made of fire.

Kneading The Dough

Rabbi Mecklenberg writes that “arisah” is related to “eres” (bed): Just as dough consists of a mixture of flour and water, so too a bed’s mattress rest on a mixture of interplaced beams or planks.

A Coriander Conundrum

Ultimately, when Antoninus pointed out that doing so would totally erase his progeny, Rebbe encouraged the Roman official to have mercy on his deviant daughter.

Where’s The Gold?

Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz (1765-1821) writes that Ophir is Peru, where large deposits of gold are supposedly concentrated.

The Old Switcheroo

The Torah stipulates that if one tries to transfer holiness from one animal to another, both the original animal and the new animal become consecrated.

Divorce Bills And Other Documents

Rabbi Sofer explains that all legal documents are called “get” because they bring people together (e.g., lenders and borrowers, buyers and sellers, etc.).

Blemished Imperfections

Rabbi Dr. Ernest Klein explains that this word originally referred to a dot or speck on an otherwise pristine background and was later expanded to mean any type of blemish or defective imperfection.

Sing And Song (Part II)

The word “yashar” (straight) would seem to hold the opposite meaning of “shirah,” but Rabbi Shapiro notes that in rabbinic literature the two are linked.

Sing And Song (Part I)

In what is possibly a separate explanation, the Malbim writes that “shirah” is a more general term that can refer to song both in a religious sense and in a secular sense, while “zimrah” refers specifically to a religious song that speaks of G-d’s praises.

Laborious Work And Angelic Creativity

Rabbi Kook warns that sometimes a person can become so involved and devoted to his work that his work controls him instead of the reverse.

Better Late Than…

Rabbi Shapira-Frankfurter discusses a third word for delay or late: “hitmahmah.” In his view, this word denotes a delay caused by moving slower than usual.

Five Ways To Be Silent

A fourth word for quiet is “hass.” This verb means making others quiet (i.e., hushing them). The etymology of this word might be an onomatopoeic adaptation of the sound used to quiet others (like “shh…”).

How Many Foreheads?

The Mishnah and the Talmud do not explain what “padachat” means, so how do we know it means “forehead”?

Stealing And Robbing

The gaNav steals at Night [i.e., when nobody is looking] while the gazLan steals in the Light [i.e., out in the open].

Heat With The In-laws

The groom does not join a new family, but rather branches off from his own family, creating a new subdivision of it.

Spoils Of War

Rabbi Pappenheim traces the etymology of “baz” and “bizah” to the biliteral root bet-zayin, which refers to something unimportant.

That’s A Flogging

He argues that "malkut" only denotes physical hitting while "makkot" denotes any sort of painful ordeal.

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.


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