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Hebrew Word of the Day

Word of the Day (tzedaqah)

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Hebrew Word of the Day

Word of the Day (tefillah)

“Prayer is not a list of requests. It is an introspective process, a clarifying, refining process of discovering what one is, what he should be, and how to achieve the transformation. Indeed, the commandment to pray is expressed by the Torah as a service of the heart, not of the mouth (Talmud, Tractate Taanis 2a)….  Prayer is uniquely a human function, because it blends man’s intelligence and imagination with his ability to put concepts into words. The faculty of intelligent speech, more than any other, sets man apart from animals.”


Excerpted from Rabbi Nasson Scherman, “Prayer: A Timeless Need,” The Complete Artscroll Siddur (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Mesorah Publications, 1990; orig. 1984).

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Hebrew Word of the Day

teshuvah (repentance)The Hebrew word teshuvah comes from the hollow shoresh (root) שוב, which has a tandem (2-part) meaning:

  1. to turn away from sin, pagan ways, and/or worldliness, and
  2. to simultaneously turn to/toward HaShem and His ways.

This involves not just remorse over a committed sin, but also a commitment to never return to it, opting for Torah living instead.

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Hebrew Word of the Day

emunahRabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the root of the Hebrew word for faith (emunah) is a picture of the glue-making process: taking an animal (aleph) hide and soaking it in water (mem) to make a glue (nun = peg), so faith, like glue-making, involves a sacrifice — the sacrifice of whatever in us is pagan.

What does that look like?  In Temple-less Judaism, it is constructed on the “Three Ts” — teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedeqah (righteousness, i.e. ministry to others).  Judaism would agree with Ya’aqov (James) in his “faith without works is dead” teaching.  These three Ts are the fruit that genuine faith produces.

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Hebrew Word of the Day

Hebrew Word of the Day (brutish person)The Bible has nothing good to say of the person who behaves like a brute (beast).  We first encounter the word בַּעַר in Psalm 49:11 (English 49:10), but it is Psalm 73:23 (22) which unpacks its meaning — “So brutish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before you.”

A brute is someone who would strike a cripple down or would treat a brother like a slave outside of Israel is treated.  A brute is considered a person who is human in form but a beast in behavior.

Hillel said of the brutish person: “The brute will not fear sin.  The ignoramus will not be saintly…. In the place where there are no human beings, try to be one.” (Pirqei Avoth 2:5).  Rashi defines a brute as “one bereft of any qualities,” and Maimonides echoes this, insisting that a brute is devoid of wisdom and ethical qualities.