Archive for 'Word Focus'

What does Joseph’s Egyptian name “Zaphenath-paneah” actually mean?

Byline:  Dec. 18, 2009–4:00 PM

41:45 וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה שֵׁם־יוֹסֵף צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ  — Pharaoh then gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah — Like other foreigners, Joseph assumes an Egyptian name so that he would better fit in Pharaoh’s court and be better accepted by the Egyptian people. The meaning of this Egyptian name is remains unclear and the certainty of its meaning has eluded scholars since the time of the Septuagint and rabbinic tradition.

For example, the some early exegetes think the name means, ...

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What is the meaning of the names “Esau” and “Jacob”?

The story about Esau and Jacob may be found in the book of Genesis 25-27. Here is a brief passage we shall examine:

24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.d Isaac was sixty years old when ...

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Think like a Haredi?! The Roots of Haredi Misogyny

It has long been my contention that if you want to understand the mindset of the ultra-Orthodox world in Israel and in the Diaspora today, one must first learn how to think like one. Having been once an ultra-Orthodox Jew, I thought it would be helpful to deconstruct their way of thinking, which is probably a mystery to most normal thinking people.

וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ  – You shall teach them to your children  . . .  (Deut. 6:7).

The Talmud in tractate Kiddushin ...

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Word Focus: What is a Mamzer?

לֹא־יָבֹא מַמְזֵר בִּקְהַל יְהוָה גַּם דּוֹר עֲשִׂירִי לֹא־יָבֹא לוֹ בִּקְהַל יְהוָה

“No child of an incestuous union (mamzer) may be admitted into the community of the LORD, nor any descendant of his even to the tenth generation” (Deut. 23:3).

What is a מַמְזֵר  “mamzēr”?

The Septuagint (which is the world’s oldest  translation of the Bible), translates מַמְזֵר as referring to “a child of adultery” (πορνῆς = pornes). Some modern Hebraic scholars think that the root of מַמְזֵר might be מָזַר which ...

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Why does the Torah begin with the letter “beth”?

I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.

AUGUSTINE, Confessions, Book XI

When it came to the beginning of creation, Augustine was not the only person who struggled with the meaning of time. Rabbinic wisdom teaches that there are some aspects to creation that are hidden; we cannot presume to know the mind of God. “Why does the Torah begin with the letter ...

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