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.

Seasoning the Land (Part I)

The Radak in Sefer Shorashim also connects eretz to the idea of running – in this case because of the planet’s non-stop astronomical motions.

Calling The Defender

A meilitz yosher is a defender who emphasizes a person’s good and “straight” deeds, while a prosecutor emphasizes a person’s evil and criminal deeds.

Output Understood

The concept of “roundness” also comes into play in this discussion. The Hebrew word galal in the sense of “dung” appears five times in the Bible (I Kgs. 14:10, Job 20:7, Zeph. 1:17, Ezek. 4:12, 4:15).

All In The Family

When it comes to the word yavam, Rabbi Pappenheim explains that this term for a relative-in-law contrasts with other terms for relatives-in-law.

The Ultimate Teacher

As a young child, Joash was hidden away in the Holy Temple by his uncle Jehoiada, the Kohen Gadol, and later ascended the throne.

Anger Issues

In exploring the etymologies and polysemous usages of just a few of these words, we will shed light on the nuanced differences among some of the words for anger in our list.

Welcome To Rooster City

Siddur HaRokeach adds that just as the rooster closes one eye when G-d is angry, so was Balaam blind in one eye, and just as the rooster stands on one foot when G-d is angry, so was Balaam lame in one foot.

Wholly Grains

A person who is not careful to speak precisely… disregards the quality of his speech, as if he is grinding kemach.

Speaking of Speaking…

Yabia means speech that flows from the depths of one’s heart … or speaking continuously, non-stop, like an ever-flowing spring.

Biblical Refuseniks

A person who pesters another and unrelentingly tries to convince him of something is called misarev (Nedarim 8:7), because he refuses to give up on changing the other person’s mind.

Revolting Revolutions

The poshea is not one who tries to rebel but is rather one whose indolence shows that he does not care about the result of his actions.

Big Fish, Little Fish, Boy Fish, Girl Fish

According to the explanation that dag means “male fish” while dagah means “female fish,” it is hard to understand why the Jews in Egypt would have specifically eaten female fish and why the Plague of Blood would have only killed female fish.

Fishy Words (Part I)

Rabbi Marcus argues that at the core of “taninim” (sea-monsters – see Genesis 1:21) is the word “nun.” In offering this explanation, Rabbi Marcus explicitly rejects scholarly speculation that “taninim” is a Sanskrit loanword.

I’m Too Tired

Not only does G-d strengthen those who are tired, He also energizes those who are completely exhausted.

Brilliant Prohibitions

In the same way that rays of light spread out to illuminate as much as possible, an enlightened person must spread his intellectual purview…in order to not violate what is expected of him.


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