Toldos: The Doers and Fighters

The Torah recounts a series of incidents between the shepherds employed by Isaac and those employed by Avimelech, the Philistine king of Gerar, in which the former dug wells, and the latter tried to usurp control of those wells.

Chayei Sarah: Take A Drink

Curiously, Rabbi Pappenheim argues that the word neshek (“weapon”) also relates to this root, because two opposing combatants approaching each other on the battlefield resemble two lovers approaching each other for a kiss, or because the mechanics of the neshek create a certain type of consistent noise.

Be My Guest

Interestingly, Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) argues for a Hebrew etymology of the word ushpiz in the sense of host by explaining it as a portmanteau of the Hebrew phrase yesh po zin (there is sustenance here).

Prime Property

While the words rechush and mikneh always appear in singular form in the Bible, the word nechasim always appears in the plural.

Revealing The Secret

...the word sod expanded in Rabbinic Hebrew to refer to any sort of restricted or confidential information to which only a select few are privy. Hence, the word sod came to mean secret.

The Beautiful Citron

In Modern Hebrew, the term hadar was redefined to refer to the entire citrus genus. This includes all sorts of citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, pomelos, kumquats, mandarins, clementines, and more.

The Shofar’s Horn

When monies are invested into a potential endeavor, the undertaking can go in one of two possible directions – the principal can be lost, or it can produce profit.

An Utter Embarrassment

According to Rabbi Bedersi, klimah is the most intense type of embarrassment: it results from somebody doing something that he was not supposed to do, or somebody being called out for his misdeeds.

Flowering Chicklings

Academy of the Hebrew Language and another article by Dr. Moshe Raanan of Herzog College explain that even though in earlier times the terms efroach and gozal were indeed synonymous, in Modern Hebrew there is a difference between these terms based on a zoological distinction.

Of Thorns And Thistles (Part II)

Now that we’ve seen the entire list, we can better appreciate a comment that Rashi made off the cuff.

Of Thorns and Thistles (Part I)

The famous Burning Bush where Hashem introduced Himself to Moses was called a sneh, and that word appears a total of six times in the Bible.

Mattos: The Names Of Jericho

One of the appellations given to Jericho in the Bible is Ir HaTmarim, “the City of Dates.”

In The Middle

It seems that the principle meaning of the root reish-kaf-samech is “to tie together.” When things are tied together, the nexus of the knot is the point where their connection is strongest and most-highly concentrated.

On Dry Land

Rabbi Pappenheim postulates that there are two different types of moistness: one refers to something wet on the outside but not necessarily on the inside, while the other refers to something saturated with liquid on the inside but dry on the outside.

Korach: The Gorgeous Windpipe

The word garon appears eight times in the Bible. In five of those cases, the word is associated with speech, so it is clearly talking about the trachea through which speech passed to exit one’s mouth

Empty Exaggerations

In explaining what a guzma is, Rashi writes that they are “simply words,” meaning they do not reflect the actual reality ... Similarly, Rashi explains that "words of havai" refers to speech spoken by common people, who often speak in vulgar ways that exaggerate the matter at hand.

On Misers And Cheapskates

The truth is that kilay in the sense of miser is a rather obscure and archaic Biblical Hebrew word, seemingly not used in Mishnaic Hebrew.

My Husband, My Man

The word baal not only means husband, but was the name of the chief deity of the Canaanite pantheon. Throughout the Bible, the Jews dallied with Baal-worship, and many of the prophets endeavored to break the Jews of that idolatrous habit.

More Cheese Please

The word gvinah only appears once in the Bible: Is it not like milk that You have poured me, and like cheese [gvinah] that You have solidified me? (Job 10:10).

The Year of Seven (Part II)

Another word related to both sheviit and sheva is shavua, but this word bears two distinct meanings in both Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew.

The Year Of Slipping Away (Part I)

How does the literal meaning of “slipping away” relate back to laws of the sabbatical year?

Purim: Words For Wine (Part II)

Rabbi Avraham Bedersi in Chotam Tochnit points out that in rabbinic usage, the term shechar clearly refers to some drink other than wine.

Purim: Words For Wine (Part I)

Although some Bible scholars claim that tirosh is an archaic Hebrew word for wine that was later replaced with the more modern word yayin in the Bible, this explanation does not really account for the difference between the two terms and why the newer term did not just completely replace the older term.

Pick Your Poison

Dr. Kohut was the first to note that Rashi’s explanation of eches as snake venom was likely informed by the Greek word echis (viper).

A Shekel For A Sela

The Mishnah itself implies that the sela coin is what the Bible calls a shekel, because the Mishnah uses the word sela in the same contexts in which the Bible uses the word shekel.

Is It A Book Or Is It A Scroll? (Part I)

We begin our discussion with an insightful analysis of the word sefer, the generic term applied to the 24 books of the Bible (although some books are described as a megillah).

The Many Shades Of Purple

Explaining argaman as red does not preclude explaining argaman as orange, for orange is a shade of red mixed with yellow.

Hooked On Hebrew

Some scholars even trace the name of the Angles, one of the Germanic Anglo-Saxon tribes that occupied what later became known as England, to the word in question.

Digging Deeper

Usually, a person does not literally dig their own grave during their lifetime.

Getting Clean

The Torah stipulates that a metal receptacle used for cooking the meat of a sin-offering must be thoroughly cleaned before being used for another purpose; it must undergo merikah and shetifah in water (Lev. 6:21).


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