The Sickle And The Grim Reaper

Israeli archaeologist Dr. Shmuel Yeivin (1896-1982) writes that some scholars have proposed that “chermesh” is a “sickle” while “magal” is a larger “scythe.”

Animal Sounds (Part II)

Rabbi Pappenheim traces “yehgeh” to the root hey-gimmel, which primarily refers to diligence and consistency, making its derivative “yehgeh” refer to a lion consistently crying.

Animal Sounds (Part I)

An apocryphal Midrash describes the colorful sounds made by the animals etched on King Solomon’s throne. Most of these words do not appear in the Bible.

Fake Faces

Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim of Breslau (1740-1814) writes that “masveh” and “suto” are related to “stav” (autumn or fall) and refer to soft, spongy fabrics worn to insulate oneself from cold weather.

Remember Forever

“Pakad” primarily means remembering something or someone in order to deal with it, and the most basic way of dealing with something is to determine whether it’s actually present or not – hence, it means to count.

Feeding The Lie

Indeed, the Talmud (Shavuos 26a) exempts a person from punishment if he swore falsely to something that he thought was true.

Just Winging It

Rabbi Wertheimer further notes that wings create shade and thus serve as a metaphor for offering protection.

Through The Looking Window

We now turn our attention to “eshnav.” This rather obscure word only appears twice in the entire Bible.

Coming And Going

The Zohar interestingly seems to echo this idea (Bo 34a), stating that “Bo el Pharaoh” teaches us that G-d brought Moses into some sort of heavenly inner chamber that was somehow associated with the sea-creature that characterizes Egypt.

Marshes, Marshes, Marshes

Rabbi Pappenheim writes that “achu” refers to the brotherhood between the different animals that join up in fertile land to feast on its produce.

Hard Work And Hard Hearts

Rabbi Hirsch notes that because kuf can be interchanged with gimmel, “kashah” is also related to “gishah”/“gashash” (approaching, impacting). Most people only consider solid objects substantial enough to approach or cause an impact.

Boats, Ships, And Nautical Rhapsody

Not every mention of a seafaring vehicle in the Bible, however, contains the word “oniah.”

Coming Close

Following this explanation, it seems that when Yehudah approached Yosef, he came physically close to him (vayigash) - perhaps even in a threatening way.

To Be A Wise Guy (Part II)

The Talmud (Chagigah 12a) teaches that G-d created the world using 10 different qualities, the first three of which are chachmah, tevunah, and daat.

To Be A Wise Guy (Part I)

Rabbi Pappenheim also argues that “cheich” [palate] comes from “chakah” because the open fish net resembles a person’s mouth opened wide in anticipation of food.

Pick Your Wax

More scholarly-oriented etymologists are at a loss to explain the origins of “donag.”

Castle In The Sky

“Apadna” appears once in the Bible (Daniel 11:45), and the commentators explain that it denotes a palace. In the Talmud, “apadna” sometimes means, not a palace, but a den that is especially grand or kingly.

Boys And Girls (Part II)

A whole slew of other words also come from ayin-lammed, including “elyon” (high), “l’maaleh” (up), “oleh” (elevate), “aleh” (leaf, which grows on a branch), “ohl” (yoke, which placed on an animal), “meil (tunic, which is worn on top of other clothing), “na'al” (shoe, which is worn on top of the foot), etc.

Boys And Girls (Part I)

Rabbi Mizrachi explains that Rehoboam was called a naar at 41 because he was immature and had weak leadership skills...

Elephants Galore

“Pil” actually doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible. Biblical Hebrew seems to have a different word for elephant, “shenhav,” which appears twice in the Bible.

A Laughing Matter

In four places in Tanach, the middle patriarch is referred to as "Yischak," not "Yitzchak."

Holy Matrimony (Part II)

Dr. Michael Satlow suggests that “kiddushin” is actually a loanword from the Greek legal term “ekdosis,” which refers to a bride's father handing over his daughter to her husband.

Holy Matrimony (Part I)

The Torah’s word for betrothal is “erusin,” and its cognates appear throughout the Bible. The Mishnah, however, more often uses a different word: “kiddushin.”

The Power To Hold Back

In Cheshek Shlomo, Rabbi Pappenheim connects “eitan” to the biliteral root aleph-tav, which he further reduces to the monoliteral root tav. He explains that this root means connections and linking.

The Strong Ones (Part II)

Another verse in Psalms (68:35) exhorts the reader to give “oz” to G-d. Obviously we can’t actually strengthen G-d.

The Strong Ones (Part I)

Rabbi Wertheimer explains that the greater Torah scholar a person becomes, the more effort he must exert on performing good deeds and not lose himself in the more theoretical world of study.

Peace And Quiet

“Shalom” implies the cessation of hostilities, while “sheket” implies the cessation of any rush or toiling that force people to be constantly moving about.

Remembering The Wall (Part II)

Other words derived from this root include “chatzi” (half), “chazot” (midday or midnight), “chutz” (outside/exterior), and “cheitz” (arrow).

Remembering The Wall (Part I)

Rabbi Pappenheim suggests that “chomah” is related to “milchamah,” as the main purpose of building a city wall is to protect its inhabitants from enemy warfare.

When Suddenly…

The Talmud (Kritut 9a) states that “peta” connotes shogeg (by mistake), while “pitom” could connote oness (by accident), meizid (on purpose), or shogeg. The Midrash (Sifrei to Numbers 6:9) disagrees.


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