Mercantile Man

The prophet Zecharia foretells of the Messianic Era – which will occur long after the Canaanites had ceased to exist as a nation – when there will no longer be any c’naani in the Holy Temple (Zecharia 14:21).

Saving Survivors

In Modern Hebrew, the term miklat came to refer to a bomb shelter, which likewise receives those fleeing air raids and protects them.

And Before Creation, Nothing

Both of these words are commonly translated as “nothingness,” but understanding the nuances expressed by these ostensible synonyms will help us better understand what exactly the Torah means to teach us about the state of the world before Creation.

Single Guys

In this article, we explore the etymologies of ravak and two other Hebrew terms for an unmarried or single man – panui and bachur – try to zone in on the nuances they express.

Don’t Trample On Me

In this essay, we explore the verb romes and its etymology, with an attempt at discovering if and how romes differs from its apparent synonyms, dorech and boss.

Piercing Spears

In this essay, we take a closer look at the Hebrew word used for Phineas’ weapon of choice and compare it with other Hebrew words like chanit and kidon that seem to refer to the same or very similar weapons.

The Right Site

Instead of viewing atar and makom as pure synonyms, the aforementioned exegetes all make a point of noting that atar is actually an Aramaic word while makom is Hebrew.

All Tied Up

The term asirah derives from another triliteral root, aleph-samech-reish, which appears close to ninety times in the Bible.

Learning The Ropes

In this passage, three different words are used for “rope” or “string”: chevel, tikvah, and chut. This essay attempts to trace the etymology of those words, seeking to clarify exactly how they relate to one another.

Just Say No

Various prohibitions in the Torah use the word lo when mentioning a proscribed act while the rabbis instead use the word bal.

Into The Wild

The word midbar appears approximately 270 times in the Bible and is often attached to a proper place-name, like Midbar Sinai, Midbar Sin, Midbar Paran, Midbar Shur, Midbar Kadesh, Midbar Damesek, Midbar Ein-Gedi, and Midbar Yehuda.

Getting Stoned (Part Two)

As mentioned last week, the Bible actually uses both regimah and sekilah in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:25). Rashi explains that this is because Achan himself was subjected to regimah, while the animals he took as booty were subjected to sekilah (see also Targum and Radak there).

Getting Stoned (Part I)

The term sekilah appears in two instances of men who were stoned to death: Achan, who illegally took the spoils of war from Jericho (Joshua 7:25); and Naboth, against whom Jezebel and Ahab conspired to take his vineyard (I Kings 23:10-15).

Showing Teeth

Although the word shein usually means “tooth,” sometimes it refers to things made out of ivory, which is a material made out of teeth.

Chair of Thrones

Maimonides (Guide for the Perplexed 1:9) writes that the idea of a kisseh implies importance and power, presumably because in ancient times ordinary people did not have chairs but merely sat on whatever flat surfaces were available.

Turning The Corner (Part I)

Rabbi Pappenheim relates the word zavit to the word ziv (“splendor,” “radiance”), and he offers two different ways of explaining the connection between the passages.

Speedy Horsepower

Many commentators explain that achashtranim refer to mules that were born from the union of male donkeys and female horses (as opposed to hinnies, which are born to male horses and female donkeys and are typically weaker beasts).

Yisro: Murder He Wrote

While both retzicha and harigah refer to the act of taking another’s life, Rashi’s grandson Rashbam lays down a general rule to distinguish retzicha from harigah. According to Rashbam, retzicha always refers to killing somebody for no legitimate reason.

Scribal Culture

The Hebrew and Latin terms for scribe are similar to each other in that both are cognate with the word for book in their respective languages (sofer and sefer, libellarius and liber).

Parshas Bo: Please Stand Up

While the term amidah is teleologically neutral and simply relays the notion of standing in place, the term nitzav implies standing for a specific purpose.

The Trick Of Magi

In his commentary to Sanhedrin 67b, however, Rashi says the Talmud holds that lahat is something performed by the practitioner himself, while lat adjures sheidim to act on one’s behalf.

Drawing Water

As we explained earlier, “drawing water” and “lifting up” can actually be seen as one act.

Famishing Famines

Various permutations of this word appear around 130 times throughout the Bible.

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.


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