Saturday 28 March 2020

Mussar: What are Your Passover Attitudes?

originally posted on April 19, 2014

Passover message from the moderator of Derech Emet:
G_d gave us Passover so we could thank Him and praise Him; not so we could complain.

On Passover we must all be diligent to think of the many positive aspects of the holiday, and to not fall into the trap of complaining.

[EG] Your actions and attitudes are noticed and remembered by your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
How to you want them to think about you?
Like this:
Chanah always complains about Passover cooking.
Or like this:
Chanah smiles while cooking for Passover.

Like this:
Reuven always complains about Passover costs.
Or like this:
Reuven is always eager for Passover to arrive.
Like this:
Sarah always complains about Passover cleaning.
Or like this:
Sarah happily prepares for Passover.
Like this:
Moshe complains about his Passover guests.
Or like this:
Moshe loves the mitzvah of Passover guests. 
Kol Tuv,

Thursday 26 March 2020

Origin of the Words "Tirosh" and "Yayin"

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First

                                       The Origin of the Words “Tirosh” and “Yayin”

           The word “tirosh” appears thirty-eight times in Tanach. What exactly does it mean? In order to understand it, we must understand the winemaking process.  The first stage was crushing the grapes.  The resulting juice included the skins, seeds and stems. These were then separated out and the juice that remained was transferred to vessels which were placed in a cool place until the juice was completely fermented (by the action of the yeast in the juice). When the fermentation process was complete, the result was “yayin.” 
            In English, “must” is the term for wine before it has completely fermented. A mainstream view is that “tirosh” is something like the Biblical term for “must.” In this view, “tirosh” would include both unfermented must, and must that has only begun to ferment (=early wine). For example, the Soncino commentary defines “tirosh” as “grape juice in its fresh state which has not become completely fermented.” See their comm. to Mishlei 3:10.  Similar is  Y. Feliks, Olam Ha-Tzomeach Ha-Mikrai, p. 24.
           “Tirosh” is often mentioned in Tanach in connection with “dagan” and “yitzhar.” (Sometimes with “dagan” only but often with “yitzhar” as well, as in the second paragraph of Shema.) From the parallels to “dagan” (grain) and “yitzhar” (oil in its pre-processed state), it seems evident that the reference to “tirosh” is a reference to a product in a simple state, before its processing.  (It bears pointing out that the process of turning “yitzhar” into “shemen” was not a simple one and had several stages.)
         Michah 6:15 has the following: “ata tidroch zayit ve-lo tasuch shemen, ve-tirosh ve-lo tishteh yayin”= you will tread olives but shall not anoint with oil, [you shall tread] tirosh but not drink wine.” The import is that just like the treading of olives is the preparatory stage to producing oil, the treading of tirosh is the preparatory stage to producing wine. Here “tirosh” seems to mean “grapes,” prior to treading.
        On the other hand, at Hoshea 4:11, we have the following: “zenut ve-yayin ve-tirosh yikach lev” (=Harlotry, yayin and tirosh take away the heart). (The Soncino commentary explains here: “ ‘lev’ means more than heart; it is also the seat of the intellect.) Here “tirosh” is given the ability to take away the heart. This verse suggests that “tirosh” is substantially similar to wine, or perhaps an archaic or poetic term for wine. 
           In the Hittite language (which is not a Semitic one, and which is attested to from the 16th-13th centuries BCE), there is a word “tuwarsa” that means “vine.”  See C. Rabin, Orientalia 32 (1963), p. 137.     Accordingly, Rabin believes that both “yayin and “tirosh” mean wine in the Tanach. Also, the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim 7:1) takes the position that “yayin” and “tirosh” have the same meaning in “leshon Torah,” even though they did not mean the same thing in the “leshon bnei adam” of its time.
            But looking at all the Biblical verses, especially all those references to “tirosh” in the context of “dagan” and “yitzhar,” the verses overwhelmingly points to “tirosh” meaning something significantly less than completely fermented wine. Therefore, the statement in the Jerusalem Talmud that equates them in “leshon Torah” perhaps should not be taken so literally.  
         Both the ArtScroll Stone Chumash and the Hertz Chumash translate “tirosh” as “wine” in all 10 occasions that it appears in the Torah. (Finally, they agree on something!) But the ArtScroll work may have done this because of the passage in the Jerusalem Talmud.  As to the Hertz Chumash, it utilized the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation as its translation. This translation was largely based on the King James translation of 300 years earlier.  
           Everyone agrees that the meaning of “tirosh” evolved by the time of the Sages. For example (as discussed in the above passage in the Jerusalem Talmud), if someone takes a neder forbidding “tirosh” on himself, there is a disagreement about whether we should interpret his “neder” as following “leshon Torah” or “leshon bnei adam.” In the former, wine would be prohibited. In the latter, it would not, as “tirosh” was not the equivalent of “yayin” in the period of the Sages. It developed a different meaning: “kol minei metikah.” See J. Talmud, Ned. 7:1. See also J. Talmud Nazir 2:1.
         As to the etymology of the Biblical “tirosh,” Rabin, who equates it with “yayin,” believes that it is not a Semitic word. He notes that “tuwarsa” means “vine” in Hittite.
        For those who believe that “tirosh” is a Semitic word and means something like “must,” the etymology is much discussed. The simplest view connects it to the Hebrew root Y-R-Sh. This root has meanings like “take possession of” and “inherit.” But in the hiphil (=”horish”), it many times seems to have the meaning “drive out,” since this is the first step in taking possession. See, e.g., Deut. 4:38. “Tirosh” is the juice that was driven out of the grapes.
           But there are those who think that “horish” never means “drive out.” Rather, it means “destroy someone so that someone else can possess his property.” See The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 6, p. 374. (This word “horish” may be derived from a different root, Resh-Vav-Shin, or Resh-Yod-Shin. These roots mean something like “to be poor.”) If there was no “drive out” meaning, then one needs a new etymology for a Semitic “tirosh.” Many have been suggested and they are usually farfetched.
               With regard to the word “yayin,” there is a Hebrew root Y-N-H which means “oppress.” (See, e.g., Ex.  22:20: “ve-ger lo toneh.”) Perhaps this derived from a more concrete root “press” and would be an explanation for “yayin.” But this is just speculation
               The Greek word for wine is “oinos.”  (One should ignore the “s” at the end which is just a suffix added in the Greek.) The Latin word for wine is “vinum.” (Similarly, one should ignore the “m” at the end.)  These Greek and Latin words bear a close similarity to the Hebrew “yayin” and to the similar word for wine in many of the other Semitic languages. Scholars have noticed these similarities.
                There are three main possibilities. One is that the Indo-European languages borrowed the word from the Semitic languages. Another is that the Semitic languages borrowed the word from the Indo-European languages. The third is argued by Rabin in the article cited above: Both borrowed it from the Hittite language, an early Indo-European language.  The Hittite word for wine is ”wa(i)ana.” (The Hittites were centered in a region of modern-day Turkey.)  
                 Finally, it is important to point out that Neviim and Ketuvim are comprised of many books spread over about 1000 years and authored in different regions of ancient Israel. This helps explain why we cannot get a uniform picture of “tirosh” within Nach.                                                                                       
Mitchell First can be reached at Unfortunately, he is not a wine drinker but a grape juice drinker. For more of his articles, please visit his website at He would like to acknowledge Herb Edelman who asked about “tirosh” and inspired this column. 


Wednesday 25 March 2020

The Corona Virus: What are We to Learn? Post 1

This is the first of a series of posts through which I want to investigate, with the input of others, how we, as believers in Hashem and followers of Torah, should be responding to this reality of the viral pandemic that the world is facing. This is not to say that we should necessarily respond differently than others. In fact, in many ways if not most, we should be responding as other intelligent and knowledgeable individuals respond. How is the acceptance of Torah reality, though, to possibly change our response?

To begin this discussion, I want to first discuss the issue I had in naming this post. Should the question be 'What are We to Learn?' -- which I eventually chose -- or 'What is God's Message?'. The reason I finally rejected the second choice is because the idea that any human being can determine God's message must always be recognized as beyond us. No human being can definitely state why God did something or does something unless this person had a prophetic vision from God informing this person of this truth. The most we can propose is what we are to learn from an event. To undertake this investigation correctly, however, we must still believe that we are striving to know and understand the truth of God's message which we believe is inherently intertwined in what we are experiencing. We must, though, still accept that whatever we conclude is our own personal determination of how we interpret what is happening. Thus, the question must be what are we to learn.

Nevertheless, I considered the language of God's message because the further consideration for a believer in Hashem is that this event is not just the product of science and nature but a creation of a Thoughtful Being. This does not mean that we are not to respond to the facts as they are. The facts, the reality, are still true and demand proper responses in themselves. The point is that this reality is not just a reflection of some random coincidence but must have been created with some purpose. The reality has a point. The further call for one who accepts the reality of Torah must be, as such, to consider this further point. What are we, thus, to learn from all this?

This, of course, opens a whole collection of possibilities. There are those who offer universal answers and those who define things more personally. There are always those who declare that the lesson is for the other -- and who can say that it is not. Yet, the lesson may also be for you. The further fact is that, since there are many sides to our personalities, there may be many different sides to the determination of this issue. How are we affected as Jews? simply as human beings? within our personal lives? The world is considering how to respond to the facts as individuals, as communities, nationally and universally. In the same manner, we can ask what we are to learn, as Torah Jews, from all this.

It is this investigation, in its various parts, that I hope to initiate in these posts.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Nishma-Parshah: Vayikra

Take a look at what's on
for Parshat Vayikra

P. Vayiqra - Shemen for M'nachot and the Mystery of the Pach Shemen

P. Vayiqra - Lirtzono, Kofin Oto ad she'omer "Rotzeh Ani

P. Vayiqra - Two Mussar Maxims from Torah T'mimah

Vayikra: Progression and Regression

Parshah: Vayikra, "Leviticus, Sacrifices, and Dialectic"

Parsha: Vayikra, "Catholic Israel"

P. Vayiqra - The Torah on Infallibility

  P. Vayiqra - "Qorbon

Monday 23 March 2020

Rav Herschel Schachter on Removing a Coronavirus Patient from a Respirator

From RRW
 As distributed by the RCA
Every legal system has a principle that the ends justify the means. The question however is, which ends and which means. If a woman is in labor and her husband is rushing her to the hospital at three o’clock in the morning on the highways where there are no other cars, the police will radio ahead to let the husband pass through all the red lights so that the woman would arrive in the hospital on time. The halacha considers the mitzvah of “v’chai bohem” (the mitzvah of pikuach nefoshosh) of supreme importance and it takes precedence over almost all of the other mitzvos in the Torah. Sick or elderly people whose life might possibly be endangered by fasting on Yom Kippur are required to eat. Likewise, if one’s life may be in danger we all know that we must violate Shabbos by driving to the hospital even if there is only a sefek sefeka of a sakonah and even though driving a car on Shabbos constitutes a melocha d’oraisa.
The halacha however, has three exceptions to the rule where pikuach nefesh does not take precedence. One of the three is murder. We may not kill one person in order to save the life of another person. We may not make calculations that the life of one individual is more valuable than the life of another individual (see Mishnah end of seventh chapter of Oholos and see Gemorah Pesochim 25B). Even if one individual is on a respirator and his chances for survival are very slim, and even if he survives he will not live that many added years, and another person is in need of the respirator whose chances of survival are much better and will probably live many more years, the halacha declares that we have no right to make such calculations. Even if the individual on the respirator is a goses, the din is still the same. One who kills a goses b’yidei shomayim, is given the death penalty (Sanhedrin 78A). 
The Rash in his commentary on the last Mishna in the eighth chapter of Terumos, quotes a passage from the Talmud Yerushalmi which has been codified both by the Rambam (Yisodei Ha’torah 5:5) and by the Shulchan Aruch ( Yoreh Deah 157:1 in the Ramoh). The Yerushalmi states that if murderers surround and capture the city and threaten to kill all the people in the city unless they will hand over on person whom they will kill, this is not permitted. The Kesef Mishna in his commentary on the Rambam points out that this Yerushalmi is adding a chidush that even if the situation is such that at the end of the day, we will be saving more lives by killing the one person, the halacha still forbids this act of murder. Even if the murder is only in the form of Gram R’zicha, which would not deserve a death penalty, the halacha still does not permit it.

Sunday 22 March 2020

קיצור דברי הרבי מצאנז נתניה אמש* תמצית דברי האדמו"ר שליט"א

From RRW

Courtesy of rabbi Mark Dratch
*קיצור דברי הרבי מצאנז נתניה אמש*
תמצית דברי האדמו"ר שליט"א

* לדעת כשם שאת הוירוס לא ניתן לראות בעיניים ולמרות זאת רואים שזה הופך את כל העולם,  כך גם הקב"ה אינו נראה, אבל מנהל את העולם כולו.

ואם תאמר שהרי בכלים נכונים ניתן לראות גם את הוירוס, אכן דע, כי אם יהיו לך את הכלים הדרושים תוכל לראות גם את הקב"ה.

* מה שנאמר אין פורענות באה אלא בשביל ישראל,  הפירוש הוא כדי לרומם את כלל ישראל. ואכן רואים בכל ההתרחשיות שהקב"ה מכוון לטובתם של ישראל.

* בוודאי שאסור לומר על דבר שמקרה הוא, וצריכים להתבונן על מה עשה ה' ככה.

יש כאלה שתולים זאת בסיבות כאלה ואחרות.
אבל אנחנו קבלנו מאבי זי"ע - וזה היה אחד מעיקרי היסודות בחסידות - שלא לחפש את החסרונות אצל אחרים.

לא החילול שבת ההוא אשם ולא העבירות והחטאים של ההם אשמים.

ובוודאי שלא לומר כך במצבים כאלה כשצריכים לעורר רחמים וצריכים להמליץ טוב על עם ישראל

בזמן כזה על כל אחד לחפש אצלו, מה אני יכול אצלי לתקן איך אני יכול להוסיף זכויות עבורי ועבור כלל ישראל. 

כל אחד יבדוק עצמו מהן חולשותיו בתורה בתפילה ועוד יותר בבין אדם לחבירו.

* אנשים מפוחדים ולחוצים, ומטבע הדברים נכנסים למתח ומאבדים את סבלנות בבית ובחוץ.

* במצב הזה כאשר הילדים בבית, כולם בבית, ועוד כעת לפני פסח שגם ככה אנשים לחוצים,

הדבר הראשון שצריך לקבל על עצמנו זה, להיות בשמחה, להיות רגועים בעצמנו, להיות רגועים עם הילדים, להקדיש  זמן לילדים,לבנים ולבנות,  ועוד יותר מבזמנים רגילים.

*אני חייב לומר - וזה העיקר מה שגרם לי לדבר כעת - שלמרות שנהגו נשים צדקניות להקדיש את כל מרצן להכין את הבית לפסח.

הרי שאני קבלתי כמה פעמים מאבי זי"ע, שחג הפסח לא נועד כדי לחדש את הבית ולא כדי לנקות את הבית מכל מיני הלכלוך וכדומה.

לכבוד פסח צריך רק להוציא את החמץ. ועל פי הלכה בביטול בעלמא סגי.

אבי היה מספר שאצל זקנו בעל הבני יששכר היו מנקים את הבית בזמן של בדיקת חמץ וזה היה כל ההכנה לפסח.

אבי בעצמו היה מזהיר את ילדיו בתקופות שהיו מטופלים בילדים קטנים,  שלא יטרחו מעל החובה ולא יהפכו את הבית כדי לנקות.

היצר הרע מוכן שיכניסו הביתה מתח, לחץ, עצבים על הילדים, ושיהיה מתח בין בני הזוג כי צריך *לעשות פסח*

צריך לדעת שנקודה אחת של כעס, רגע אחד של מתח, יותר גרוע מחמץ בבית!

החובה המוטלת עלינו, על ההורים על הנשים הצדקניות היא,
להכניס רוגע בבית - הפסח היה כשר גם ככה - עושים כמה שאפשר באופן רגוע, ותו לא.

אבל הרבה יותר מכך היא המצווה של "והגדת לבנך", לשמור על הילדים ברוחניות וגשמיות. להזהר שלא ינזקו בשבועות הללו בהן הם עלולים להנזק גם ברוחניות וגם בגשמיות.

מי שיודע יודע, הלחץ והמתח עלול לגרום להרבה תוצאות לא רצויות.

מה שמצפים מאתנו כעת מהשמים - ויהודי הרי רק רוצה לעשות את רצון השם - שבבית יהיו רגועים ומאושרים.הקב"ה מנהיג כך,  אז אני מקבל זאת בשמחה.
בלי כעסים מריבות וצעקות.

נשמור על עצמנו רגועים, ולא נחמיר במה שלא צריך ולא להקל במה שאסור.

* בוודאי שצריך להקפיד גם כעת על ביטול תורה, אבל עיקר הלימוד הוא עם הילדים - ושננתם לבניך.

להקדיש זמן לילדים, אבות עם בנים אחים עם אחיהם הקטנים. להכין אותם לפסח.

*לקוות מאד שנזכה עוד השנה להקריב קרבן פסח. מי שיכול שלימד הלכות קרבן פסח.

*העולה על כולנה היא, תורת חסד, להרבות בחסד.
בזמנים כאלה, יש בתים שמתנהלים בקשיים, מוטל עלינו לעזור במה שאפשר, מי שיש לו בנות גדולות שיכולות לעזור לשכנים או לזקנים. בזכות זה נזכה גם אנו לחסדים ורחמים מן השמים.

* ילדים ובחורים שיזהרו מאד - וביותר בימים הללו שעלולים להכשל בכך - לכבד את ההורים שהיא מצווה מעיקרי הדת.

* לא צריך לומר. ברור על פי התורה ועל פי האמת, שצריכים להישמע לכל התקנות וההנחיות - יש מושג של השטן מקטרג בשעת הסכנה.

לצערנו ישנם הרבה חולים, ואם אומרים שניתן למנוע זאת ע"י ההנחיות אסור לזלזל בהן.

ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם אין לו גבול. ומחללים שבת ויו"כ על ספק ספיקא של פיקוח נפש. ואדם צריך יותר להזהר שלא יזיק מאשר שלא ינזק. וזה מה שהתורה דורשת מאיתנו כעת.

ובמה שניתן ואפשרי להזהר אנחנו מחוייבים ובמה שלא ניתן אסור (להזהר) ולא צריך.

*  ובוודאי שצריכים להוסיף כמה פרקי תהילים ולבקש מהקב"ה מנע מגיפה מנחלתך.
- ותוך כדי אני עכשיו חושב, לא כתוב מנע מגיפה, כתוב מנע מגיפה *מנחלתך* כי לפני שהמשיח יבוא יהיה מגיפה, אבל מבקשים שלא יפגע בעם ישראל. -

* צריכים להחדיר בבנים ובבנות את  הביטחון בהשם, שידעו כי השם שומר ישראל.

ולחזק אותם ולרומם בהם את המושג של עשיית חסד עם אחרים גם ברוחניות וגם בגשמיות.

וכך נזכה לישועה שלימה, כי בשמחה תצאון ובשלום תובלון  בב"א.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Mussar M'sirat Nefesh, a Constant Struggle or a One Time Sacrifice

first posted on August 17, 2013

From Derech Emet -

Sefer Pele Yoetz, chapter Copheh, paragraph 4:

Behold, our eyes have seen that almost all Jews may be
assumed to be proper Jews who would sacrifice their
lives to glorify the Name of G_d [when necessary].

But no one can control his temptation [yitzro] completely, to be a completely righteous person in the world who [only] does goodness and never sins at all.

The reason [for this apparent contradiction] is that
sacrificing our lives is a temptation we can control,
because every Jew appreciates the severity of the sin. of abandoning the faith [when being threatened with
death by evil Gentiles].

But this is not true for other sins because our spirit
of temptation [Yetzer HaRa] makes them [the other sins]
seem small in the eyes of people, as has been explained
with respect to Bereishit, chapter 6, verse 5.

More reasons [for this apparent contradiction] are:

Death is only felt for a moment; and everyone eventually. dies anyway; and when he sacrifices his life to glorify the. Name of G_d, he is immediately saved from his temptation; and he is prepared for the afterlife of the righteous [Olam HaBa].

This is not true for other sins, where it is more difficult
for him [a Jew] to suppress his temptation, because his
temptation pursues him always, and the Satan stands
on his right side to instigate him [to commit sins].


Best Regards,

Friday 20 March 2020

Parshas Pekudei: Revelation Takes Work; Holiness Is A Step By Step Engagement

From RRW

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran on the parsha -- hope you enjoy
Baltimore Jewish Life | Parshas Pekudei: Revelation Takes Work; Holiness Is A Step By Step Engagement

Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Rabbi Yaakov Hoffman
Below is a halachic guide I prepared for my shul on how to daven on Shabbos without a minyan, and general halachos one should know that are affected by not being in a shul framework on Shabbos. Feel free to use/adapt for your own shuls. Also, I would be happy to receive any he'aros you may have. Thanks.

Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide
·         One should make an effort to daven Mincha on Friday before plag ha-mincha (this week ~5:50pm).
·         It is not necessary to recite the full Kabbalat Shabbat as recited in shul; reciting Lecha Dodi, Mizmor Shir leYom haShabbat, Hashem Malach Ge’ut Lavesh, and Bameh Madlikin is sufficient. One should recite Lecha Dodi and Mizmor Shir leYom haShabbat before sunset (this week ~7:07pm).
·         Although ordinarily one should daven Maariv after nightfall when praying without a minyan, on Friday evening one may daven after plag (preferably one should wait ~20 minutes after plag). The Shema must be repeated after nightfall (tzeit ha-kochavim, this Friday ~7:42pm).
·         One may make Kiddush and begin the meal immediately after davening Maariv. If one has not yet begun the meal by tzeit ha-kochavim, one must repeat the Shema before eating.
·         Those who arise early are strongly encouraged to daven ke-vatikin—timing one’s Shacharit to begin the Amidah at sunrise (this week ~6:56am).
·         If one is pressed for time (e.g., in order to daven at sunrise, or because one needs to help out at home), one can skip the extra psalms added during Psukei de-Zimra on Shabbat, with the exception of Mizmor Shir leYom haShabbat and Hashem Malach Ge’ut Lavesh.
·         Men should take care to daven Shacharit before the latest time for the Shema (this week ~10am).
·         After the Amidah of Shacharit, one recites Ashrei and then the Amidah of Musaf, followed by Ein k’Elokeinu, Aleinu, and Shir shel Yom.
·         It is extremely advisable to read or study the weekly parashah at some point over Shabbat (and to be extra careful about shnayim mikra during the preceding week).
·         On Shabbat Mevarchim, it is a good idea to remind oneself and one’s household about the upcoming Rosh Chodesh (Rosh Chodesh Nisan is Thursday March 26). One does not recite the formal prayer for the upcoming month that is recited in shul.
·         One should wash for the Shabbat morning meal before midday (this week ~1pm).
·         One should daven Mincha before eating se‘udah shlishit.
·         Se‘udah shlishit should begin before sunset, and may extend as long as one likes. After benching, or after 10 minutes post-sunset (whichever is later), one may not eat or drink anything except water until after Havdalah.
·         One should not daven Maariv on Saturday night until after Shabbat is over (this week ~7:50pm); preferably, one should not do any melacha before davening Maariv (with atah chonantanu) or making Havdalah.
·         Baruch Hashem L’Olam is omitted in Maariv when not davening with a minyan. The rest of Maariv, including additions for motza’ei Shabbat, is recited as usual. Veyiten lecha may be recited after Havdalah. Vihi no‘am and ve’attah kadosh are omitted on the Saturday night preceding Pesach (and Shavuot, but hopefully we will be back in shul well before then!), but veyiten lecha is still recited.

Yaakov Hoffman
Rabbi, Washington Heights Congregation

Thursday 19 March 2020

The Three Meanings of the root H-L-L

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First

                            The Multiple Meanings of the Root “H-L-L”

          The root H-L-L in Hebrew has three different meanings.  We all know the meaning “to praise.” There is another meaning “to shine.” This meaning only appears a handful of times, in both Job and Isaiah. See, e.g., Isa. 13:10.  Finally, there is another meaning “to act foolishy.” This meaning appears in various book of Nach.
            Are these three distinct roots? Or was there a common origin? This has been much debated. For example:
           -S. Mandelkern, in his concordance, believes in a common origin. He divides the root into categories I, II and III, but he does not have a dividing line between each entry. I have learned over the years that the lack of a dividing line is a big clue to his thinking. Then you look at his comments preceding each category. He calls the “praise” meaning (meaning II) a “brother” to the “shine” meaning (meaning I). He writes that when you praise something you are giving it “hod” and “tiferet.” As to the “act foolishly” meaning (meaning III), he also uses the “tiferet” word but suggests something like excess glorification which ends up in “shetut” and “bilbul ha-daat.”  This suggestion is obviously difficult.
             Another source I saw tried to unite all the meanings in the following way: “[H-L-L] denotes an exuberance, for whatever reason. It takes no great poetic leap to see symmetry between the shining of a star and the praising of a worshiper…. [H-L-L] denotes a letting go of restraints and inhibitions, and, entirely depending on the heart behind it, can result in either a complete surrender to God’s control, or a detrimental flight without anyone at the helm. [H-L-L] can turn to either a most holy expression of devotion or else a blasphemous display of derangement.” This source then cited evidence from brain scans to support its theory of similarity!
          -A. Even-Shoshan, in his concordance, combines meanings I and II, but lists meaning III separately.
          -E. Klein, in his A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, lists the three H-L-L meanings separately and does not make any attempt to connect them. (Often he lists meanings separately but makes suggestions to connect them. It is significant that he makes no such suggestions  here.)
            I am in agreement with Klein. I am not convinced that meanings I and II are connected.  Nor do I think that the “act foolishly” meaning has anything to do with the other two meanings. The Koehler-Baumgartner lexicon and Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament also view the three roots as not connected.
            I also saw a suggestion that the third meaning of H-L-L was related to Aleph-Lamed-Lamed, worthlessness, which may be the underlying meaning of “elil”=idol. It also may be the root of the word “Aleph-Lamed” with its meaning of “not.” (Whoever imagined that this two letter word had a root!)
            What about the words “holelut” and “holalim”? “Holelut” appears five times in Tanach, always in Kohelet and always with the “foolishness” meaning.  In contrast, “holalim” appears only in the book of Psalms. It appears three times: at 5:6, 73:3 and 75:5. Daat Mikra to 5:6 suggests two possibilities in this verse, either foolish ones (meaning III), or ones who have too much pride and are arrogant (meaning II). But a plain sense reading of all three verses in Psalms leads me to believe that “arrogant” is the meaning throughout.
           Rav S. R. Hirsch, who gives it an arrogant-type meaning at 5:6, comments: “Holalim is derived from HLL in the Kal form; i.e., to cast a “show” of radiance without an actual source of light being present. Had it been used in the Piel form, it would have indicated a radiation that can actually be traced to a shining source of light.”
            R. Hirsch also makes the following comment at Psalms 33:1: “  ‘Tehilah’ derived from HLL, literally “reflect,” portrays the acts and works of God as “emanations” or “rays” which call to mind the existence and Sovereignty of the Lord even as the rays of the sun proclaim the existence and efficacy of that heavenly body.”
            He also comments on Psalms 73:3: “HLL in the Kal form is “to shine,” “to have sheen and glitter without any inner substance.” In the Piel it means “to reflect,” “to emit rays” that indicate the presence of an inner radiant core; therefore: HLL, “to recognize someone’s greatness through his acts and to proclaim it.”
            Elsewhere I saw the suggestion that meaning II (praise) was an onomatopoetic word, like our English “la, la, la.”
            On a related subject, let us now deal with the various names for the book of Psalms. The English name “Psalms” is derived via Latin from a Greek word that means “a song sung to a stringed instrument.” This is how the word “mizmor” is translated in the Greek translation of Nach. (I.e., this is what the Greek speaking Egyptian Jews erroneously thought it meant.) Since the Greek name for the entire book is “Psalmoi,” there is perhaps an implication that the book was referred to in Hebrew as “Mizmorot.” Although not exactly a proof, there is evidence of a Palestinian practice to refer to each of the chapters as “mizmorot.” See, e.g., J. Talmud Shab. 16:1, and Taanit 2:2. This is the case even though the term “mizmor” is only found in 57 of the captions. The Syriac title of the book is “Kethaba de-mazmure.” (Syriac is a type of Aramaic.)
            The accepted name for the book in rabbinic and subsequent literature is “Sefer Tehilim” (=THLYM) This is how it is listed at Bava Batra 14b. (But the second word is sometimes spelled without the “heh.” See, e.g., Avodah Zarah 19a: “TYLYM.”)
              The word “Tehilim,” with its male plural ending, is surprising. The word “tehilah” is feminine; in the Tanach, its plural is “tehilot.” See, e.g., Ex. 15:11: “nora tehilot,” and Ps. 22:4 “yoshev tehilot.” Similarly, a masculine plural form also occurs in the case of tefilim/n, which is the plural of tefilah in the sense of “phylactery.” (The singular for phylactery is “tefilah.”  See M. Mikvaot 10:3 and M. Menachot 4:1.)
            Interestingly, Ibn Ezra and some others refer to the book of Psalms as “Sefer Tehilot.”
           The word “tehilah” appears seven times in the book but only in one caption (145:1).
            Book two ends with the phrase: “kalu tefilot David ben Yishai” (72:20). From here we might have expected a title: “Sefer Tefilot.”
           For further thoughts on the title of the book, see the introduction to the Daat Mikra edition, p. 1.
Mitchell First can be reached at Each week he tries to write shining articles (with only a bit of foolishness) that receive praise. For more such articles, please visit his website at