Guest Posts

One Preposition That’s Two

Prof Shlomo Karni / The preposition אֵת or אֶת- has two distinct meanings, with some variants in each one: A. It is chiefly used as a marker before a definite, direct object following a transitive verb: בְּרֵאשִית בָּרָא אֱלֹקִים אֶת הַשָּמַיִם וְאֶת הָארֶץ :בראשית א1 the transitive verb being ברא and its two definite, direct objects השמים and הארץ. At times, but less frequently, it precedes an indefinite object: וְאִיש אֲשֶר יִקַּח אֶת אִשָּה :ויקרא כ 14 here אשה is the indefinite direct object of the verb יקח.

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Prof Shlomo Karni / In last week’s parashah, כִּי תָבוֹא ,we find — yes — another ‘hapax legomenon’. The verb הֶאֱמִיר appears only in Deut.26:17 – 18. (Strictly speaking, it is not a ‘hapax’, since it appears twice – but in close proximity, and with equal vagueness. ): “אֶת ה’ הֶאֱמַרְתָּ הַיּוֹם… וה’ הֶאֱמִירְךָ הַיּוֹם… ” Grammatically, the root is א-מ-ר , a very common verb, but used here in its rare causative stem of הִפְעִיל. Several explanations exist, e.g., Rashi notes that this word “has no other proving witness in the Bible”—Rashi’s own expression for ‘hapax legomenon’ — and he offers “to separate Israel (from all other nations and make it a precious people).” Ibn Ezra relates this verb form to the noun אָמִיר ,’ tree top’, and, by extension, to ‘elevate’. He also explains the causative form literally as, “to make you say that Hashem is your God.” Ramban and Sforno go along with ‘elevate’. The JPS translation reads “affirm”, with a footnote saying, “Nuance of the Hebrew uncertain.”

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Some Are Harder Than Others

Prof Shlomo Karni / In two previous notes (Sept. 20, 2011 and Oct. 11, 2011) we wrote about the class of unique words in the Bible, each appearing only once (‘hapax legomenon’). The Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem has named such a word מִלָּה יְחִידָאִית , from ‘single’=יָחִיד. We noted there the challenge and difficulties in getting at the meaning of such a word, since there is only the one context within which it appears. Here, we classify broadly the degrees of difficulties for this task:

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The Awe-Ful Days

Prof Shlomo Karni / The adjective נוֹרָא in יָמִים נוֹרָאִים (root י-ר-א, ‘fear’) has as its original meaning ‘awe-full’, ’fearful’, and, by extension ‘commanding respect or reverential fear’. It is found in the Bible as well as in our liturgy. The expression אָיֹם וְנוֹרָא in Habakkuk 1:7 serves in modern Hebrew as an idiomatic exclamation of dismay, shock, or fear. The moving prayer וּנְתַנֶּה תֹּקֶף in the Musaf service uses the reverse form נוֹרָא וְאָיֹם to rhyme with קְדוּשַת הַיּוֹם.

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Water: Appreciating a Limited Resource

R Yonatan Neril / Human beings depend on a sufficient supply of high quality fresh water for their survival. Because of this essential dependence, Jewish sources equate water with life. By recognizing our dependence on water, and ultimately our dependence on G-d, we can strengthen our appreciation and protection of our precious natural resources, and our relationship with the Creator of the world. Even before the Israelites entered the land of Israel, water was central to their collective experience. In the desert, uncertainty about water resources inspired numerous complaints and lessons for the wandering Jews. The Talmud teaches that in the merit of Miriam’s song, a well appeared in the desert which accompanied the Jews wherever they went. G-d gave us this essential resource, without which we could not live for more than a few days, in the water-scarce desert. But the long-term security of the resource was never certain.

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The Sukkah and… the Golden Calf?

Guest post by Prof. Shlomo Karni Shlomo Karni was Professor of Electrical Engineering and Religious Studies at University of New Mexico until his retirement in 1999. His books include Dictionary of Basic Biblical Hebrew:Hebrew-English (Jerusalem: Carta, 2002). The word סֻכָּה comes from the verb root ס-כ-ך , meaning ‘to cover’,’ to hide’. Thus, in the coming holiday, אָנוּ סוֹכְכִים אֶת ...

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Meat and Dairy In One Oven

R Michael Broyde / One of the most frequently asked kashrut questions deals with the procedure for cooking meat and milk in a single oven. This short article will address the halachic issues involved, explain the different opinions found in halacha, and recommend a practice to follow. I. Aroma and Steam The Talmud (Pesachim 76b) recounts a dispute between Rav and Levi as to whether aroma (in Hebrew, rei’ach) emitted from food is halachically significant or not — whether kosher food cooked in the same oven at the same time as non-kosher food becomes non-kosher because of the aroma. Rav states that such aroma is significant and thus the food is not kosher, and Levi rules aroma not to be problematic and the food kosher. While there are a smattering of rishonim who follow the ruling of Rav (see Tosafot s.v. orsa), most accept that the halacha is like the approach of Levi and that aroma is not significant and that such food is kosher; see Rambam, Maachalot Asurot 15:33; Rif, Chulin 32a and Rashi, Pesachim 76b s.v. amar lecha. However, they accept that aroma is only not significant post facto (bedi’eved), and that even Levi accepts that one may not deliberately cook kosher and non-kosher food in the same oven at the same time. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 108:1) accepts this approach, and permits aroma post facto, but prohibits this conduct initially (lechatchila).

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Half Pasuk

Guest post by R. Daniel Roselaar This week’s sidra contains the verse Vezot hatorah etc (Deut. 4:44) which is recited when the Torah is raised up during Hagbahah.The source for this recitation is in Massechet Sofrim (14:8) and the practice is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (OH 134:2). Ashkenazi practice is to append the words “Al pi hashem b’yad Moshe” ...

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9th of Av on Shabbat

A Conceptual Understanding of the Nature of the 9th of Av, When It Falls Out on Shabbat Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America. There have been many guidebooks published on ...

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Midrash “Lite”

Prof Shlomo Karni / Ahh! “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.” So kick off your shoes, sit back and enjoy a few entries from Midrash “lite”, alternately known by its original name as עוּרְבָא פָּרַח — a random collection of true historical events, gleanings from such sources as א.דְרוֹיַאנוֹב, סֵפֶר הַבְּדִיחָה וְהַחִידוּד, תל-אביב: דְּבִיר the ubiquitous author Anon, and personal notes.

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