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).

Piles And Clever Seas

Each of these items on its own has no major value, but when grouped together in a pile, can become something important. In the same way, cleverness is like a pile of thoughts that the intelligent person has considered.

Putting Things In Their Place

Rabbi Pappenheim notes that in many instances natan and sam can be interchangeable, because they basically refer to putting something somewhere.

Just Stop!

The way Rabbi Grayever explains it, chadal connotes the inability to perform a certain action, or sustain a reality, that leads to something being stopped – whether this inability stems from nature or from legal considerations.

The Many Names Of Moshe Rabbeinu

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz (1902-1979) explains that each of Moses’ ten names reflects a different facet of his personality and teaches us something different about his greatness.

Through The Grapevine

Rabbi Pappenheim argues that gefen connotes the wing-like shoots and buds that protrude from a grapevine.

Cold And Colder

Shoresh Yesha connects the tzinah as coldness to the tzanuah/tzniut (modesty), explaining that like a modest person is not ostentatious or flamboyant but prefers to remain reserved or reticent, so is the cold winter a time for retreating into one’s abode and not venturing outside.

Wake-Up Time

This is why, when a person wakes up, it is called oorah –an entire world is now revealed to him.

Seeking Salvation

Although the Rabbis tended to conform to biblical Hebrew in the phraseology of the prayers, here they used the word purkan because the root peh-reish-kuf already appears in the Torah in the context of “salvation.”

Almonds, Almond Trees And A City Or Two

Alternatively, shaked may refer to the almond fruit/nut itself, and to the almond tree only in a borrowed sense – while luz refers directly to the almond tree. It seems that Avraham Even-Shoshan’s dictionary follows this approach.

Disgraceful Disparagement

Selling low or engaging in wasteful spending shows that one’s assets are not so valuable and important to him, so zal/zollel came to also refer to something that has a lowered value.

Hebron: The City Of Four And More

Kiryat Arba is an older name for the city of Hebron (Josh. 14:15, Jud. 1:10). It means “City of Four” or “Tetrapolis.” But what does Hebron have to do with the number four?

A Word By Any Other Name

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Hanau writes that the word teivah means "box, chest" and refers to the written word because books that contain written words are stored in a teivah.

Seeking Completion

After banning Jews from being augurs, diviners, sorcerers, and necromancers, the Torah commands that one should be “tamim with G-d” (Deut. 18:13).

Seasoning The Land (Part II)

Avot de-Rabbi Natan explains that the world is called taivel because it is “spiced up” (metubal) with Torah, so that the Midrash is emphasizing the importance of Torah in that the entire world is called taivel simply because there’s a little bit of Torah “mixed into” it.


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