My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

First, Ten “Says” (Creation); Then Ten “Acts” (of Divine Intervention); Finally, Ten “Speaks” (Commandments)

Biblical Hebrew offers a fundamental distinction between “Say” and “Speak”. The difference put them worlds apart:

  • In “Say” one sends a message in one direction; There is no expectation of a response. “Say” implies sending contents that no doubt will be accepted (by listeners) or implemented. Kings and absolute rulers “Say”. They do not speak. An example: “And God said let there be light and there was light” (Genesis 1:3);
  • In “Speak” one sends contents in expectation of a dialogue with the receiver of the message. “Speak” implies an expectation of a listener that reacts and responds. An example: “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am Jehovah” (Exodus 6:2). One wonders why the repetition of “Speak” and “Say”. But there is no redundancy. First— a message is sent to the reader that God started a dialogue with Moses. Then the message itself is said by the supreme ruler.

A byproduct of this distinction, an expression of the unique role of “speak” in biblical Hebrew, is Davar (thing). The latter derives from same root as “speak”. This sends a powerful message that every “thing” in the universe is intended to speak to us. Nothing is “message-less”. All have meaning. And that message speaks unto anyone who wishes to listen and maintains a constructive dialogue with the world and all that it contains. A good example is God Jehovah forming “out of the ground” “every beast of the field and every bird of the air” (Genesis 2:19), bringing them to Adam “to see what he would call them and whatever the man called every living creature that was its name” (Genesis 2:19). Thus, names are not senseless combination of letters but rather expressions of the essence of that which is named. And same goes to every Davar in the universe, defined by a certain combination of letters in biblical Hebrew.

Having elaborated on the distinction between “Say” and “Speak”, one may monitor the evolution of the dialogue of the Divine with mankind. Witnessing the different forces of nature and their seemingly unpredictability (for example, the seemingly random trajectories of the stars in the sky), ancient generations had no choice but to believe that they are helpless living creatures under the control of forces that they cannot understand or maintain dialogue with. The main message of the Torah is that this perception is fundamentally flawed, and it gives a timeline for the evolution from an “incomprehensible world” to a world, the creator of which wishes to listen and to respond.

Certain time-points mark the transition from the one to the other. First, Jehovah God calls unto Adam “Where are thou? (Genesis 3:9). But Adam prefers to hide and not to maintain a dialogue with the Divine because Adam, like most humanity nowadays, does not like anyone to tell him what he is allowed to do and what he is allowed not. This led to a perception of the world as rule-less, in ancient times, or as intervention-less (by the Divine), and ruled only by the mathematical laws of nature, as revealed to us by modern science. But in truth, nothing has fundamentally changed in the basic condition of humankind: Only the randomness of a chaotic world, as perceived by our ancestors, has been replaced by a rule-full world, as described by modern science. But with non-explainable randomness notwithstanding, randomness of a different sort. Seemingly randomness of the observed world of ancient times has been replaced by the inexplicable randomness of current laws of science. For example: The phenomenon of the constant speed of light, as well as the very value of the latter, both remain as mysterious and as random and inexplicable today as were directly observed natural phenomena of ancient times. Seemingly randomness has migrated from the directly observable natural phenomena to the non-observable, but just as random and inexplicable, laws of nature, as articulated by modern science.

To demonstrate to the struggling human species that not all is indeed random and that there is a monitoring authority that is not subject to laws of nature, yet wishes to start a dialogue with us, human beings, the ten plagues of Egypt were initiated and carried out by messengers of the Divine, Moses and his older brother Aaron (starting at Exodus 7:20). The ten interventions of the Divine, as unfolding in Exodus, were meant by Torah to send a single message— The Divine is maintaining a dialogue with us, mere mortals. If only we listen. This dialogue is succinctly summarized in Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:12):

“And he dreamed and behold a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it”.

We are reminded that in biblical Hebrew “angel” is malach, namely, a messenger whose only function is to carry a message or carry out a message. For example: “But there came a messenger (“Malach”) to Shaul, saying, “Make haste and come, for the Philistines are raiding the land” (1 Samuel 23:27).

This lends Jacob’s dream a whole new interpretation: Every human being sends messages to Heaven of his/her wishes and desires. Most often, these messages are not expressed explicitly, but at times they do (as in prayer). These messages are “processed” and sent back down to Earth in corresponding Divine messages, to be executed by “descending messengers of God”.

How does Torah make explicit this dream, making clear that the dialogue between Heaven and Earth is a living reality?

By showing that the Divine intervenes in all that occurs on planet Earth, at times even via violating laws of nature.

This had occurred with the ten plagues of Egypt. And to Pharaoh, who had initially stated “Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2), ten Divine interventions sent a clear message, causing Pharaoh to change his stance:

  • First, acknowledging Jehovah as a judge of the Earth (“..I have sinned this time: Jehovah is righteous and I and my people are wicked”; Exodus 9:27);
  • Eventually, by letting Israel go out of Egypt to worship their Jehovah God, but with a little request: “..Rise up and get you out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel and go serve Jehovah, as you have said, ..and be gone and bless me also” (Exodus 12:31-32).

The ten Divine interventions in Egypt had started, indeed made possible, the process of a dialogue between heavens and earth. Now ten Divine “says” of creation, of the first chapter of Genesis, followed by the Divine seeking a dialogue with humankind (“Where are thou?”), then ten interventions demonstrating that the Divine is not subject to the rule of nature, eventually culminating in ten Divine “speaks”, as manifested in the Ten Commandments:

“And God spoke all these things (Dvarim), saying: “I am Jehovah thy God, who has brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slaves; Thou shall have no other gods beside me.” (Exodus 20:1-3)..”..Thou shall not murder   Thou shall not commit adultery   Thou shall not steal   Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:13).

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: “World is My Own and I have Made Myself”— A Tale of Two Cultures

Prophet Ezekiel is prophesying on doomsday destiny of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on doomsday destiny of Egypt’s ego-centered culture, of which Pharaoh is top representative. Ezekiel quotes the life-philosophy of that culture:

Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great crocodile who couches within the midst of his streams, who has said “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).

What is the message conveyed by the prophet?

Yeor is biblical Hebrew for the Nile river, source of life that flows throughout Egypt and has enabled, throughout history, flourishing Egyptian civilization and human habitation, even though rain is rare in this geographical region. There is seemingly no need in this region for the grace of the Divine to live (have water). The constantly flowing Nile provides that commodity aplenty throughout the year and no prayer to the Divine for life-giving rain is required. The immediate consequence is this: “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

Not surprisingly, the life-giving Yeor had been raised by ancient Egyptians to the level of Deity, as told to us by historians of ancient Egypt. Prophet Ezekiel succinctly summarizes the underlying philosophy of the supreme being of Egypt, King Pharaoh: Not only has he raised himself to the level of Deity (“I produced myself”) but he has also made the world in which he lived, the Nile river (“the world of the great crocodile”) his own (“Yeor is my own”). Contrast this with the prevailing Scripture principle: “How manifold are thy works, O Jehovah, in wisdom have you made them all” (Psalms 104:24).

The Land of Israel is diametrically at odds with the Land of Egypt. And the Torah finds it necessary to explicitly state the essential difference in the physical reality encountered by human beings living in the two regions:

For the land, into which thou go to possess it, is unlike the land of Egypt… where you sow thy seed and water it with thy foot, as in a garden of vegetables; The land, which you transit into to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, by rain of heaven would thou drink water” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12).

Two regions, naturally (but not necessarily) leading to two cultures: One culture expressing no faith in the Divine (“I have produced myself”) or in Divine intervention (“World is my own”); Another based on inherent faith in the Divine and in Divine intervention.

The story of Pharaoh is not singular in the Bible. In fact, its underlying theme resurfaces in three different variations (as will be expounded soon). The background “story” differs between variations. Yet, the underlying theme remains the same, and this same theme has re-surfaced as a major guiding principle in today’s prevailing culture, contrary to what a simple fact-finding exploration might have taught us.

After nearly five hundred years of modern science (starting with its initiators, like Copernicus (1473-1543), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727)), and accompanied by advances in technology that have immensely improved our well-being (and occasionally also our “bad-being”), humankind has not moved one iota closer to solving the fundamental mysteries of human existence on Earth, mysteries that confront us every single day of our lives:

* Why are we here?

* Where have we come from and where are we going to (if at all)?

* Why does the world exist?

* How has the universe come into being out of nothing?

* Is there God?

Yet, advances in science and technology (modern day “eating of the fruit of knowledge”) have blinded us to this grim reality and hid it from our vision. Consequently, we find ourselves today unknowingly in the same state-of-mind as were Adam and Eve, as were the builders of the Tower of Babel, as was Pharaoh, king of Egypt:

* Adam and Eve wished to eat of the fruit of knowledge to be Elohim-like (knowing law of nature, thereby controlling nature); Yet they ignored the true name of God, Jehovah-Elohim, which conveys the double-faceted leadership of the Divine in our world. The narrator of the story of the Forbidden Fruit repeats this double-name no less than eleven times, using no other name for the Divine; Yet Eve and the Serpent relate only to Elohim. For not desiring at all to be also Jehovah-like, Adam and Eve were doomed to be expelled from the Garden of Eden, with the Serpent, which can never advance in a straight-line, becoming their permanent escort;

* The people of the city of Babel, led by Nimrod (literally meaning “Let us rebel”; Genesis 10:9-10), have just developed new technologies to rule nature and have proven them viable: “And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly; And they had brick for stone and slime had they for mortar” (Genesis 11:2). Once the people of Babel have become aware of their newly acquired technological capabilities, allowing control of nature, the immediate aftermath of this realization is not unlike modern day response to current-day scientific and technological advances: “Let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches Heaven” (Genesis 11:4);

* Pharaoh: “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).

Three biblical stories telling same story in three varieties. They all convey same human condition in which we find ourselves today (only to the extreme), resulting in an identical response:

“World is My Own and I have Made Myself”


*Shorty is a short post

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: Scripture on “Animals Killing Animals”

How does Scripture relate to killing scenarios (human beings, animals, within and in between) — “Human beings killing human beings”; “Animals killing animals”; “Human beings killing animals”.

What does the Bible declare about all these killing scenarios, at present and in future?? 


Human beings killing human beings. Is this natural?

The Bible is very definite: No!!! And there is cost to be paid!! Scripture provides verses aplenty to drive this home. Examples:

* “Whoso sheds man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has He made man” (Genesis 9:6)

* “Thou shalt not murder…”    (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:13)

* “ ..nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).


Animals killing animals. Is this natural?

The Bible is very definite: No!!!

At present, “animals killing animals” is natural, not an anomaly; However, this is so merely for a limited time, just for the time being!!

“Animals killing animals” is, per Scripture, a display of evil,  unacceptable and against Divine will. Therefore, in future, when “things” finally fall into their (correct) place, peace prevails and world order restored to its natural course, cruelty of predators (“animals killing animals”) would disappear and predators become plant-eating animals; Or, alternatively, predators themselves would be extinguished from the surface of Earth, leaving to survive only “non-evil” animals:

*  “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…the lion shall eat straw like the ox; the sucking child shall play on the hole of the cobra and the young child put his hand on the viper’s nest; They shall neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the water covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9);

* “Wolf and lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox and dust will be a serpent’s bread” (Isaiah 65:25);

* “And I will make with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land… “ (Ezekiel 34:25);


Human beings killing animals. Is this natural?

* “And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed that is upon the face of the whole earth and every tree having fruit yielding seed to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29);

* “..replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28; refer also to Genesis 9:2);

* “…I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the impulse of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21); And soon thereafter: “Every moving thing that is alive shall be for you to eat; Like the green plants am I giving you all” (Genesis 9:3).


*Shorty is a short post


My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Videos

One-on-One with Avi Ben Mordechai and Haim Shore (Three half-hour episodes)

Below are links to three videos, produced by Avi Ben-Mordechai, following our three-hour talk during the meeting that took place at the office of the university:

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 1 maintains a certain line-of-thought conveyed to the viewer from beginning to end. The other two comprise short excerpts from our talk about various subjects that came up during the conversation.

No pre-publication review of the produced videos had been done on my part.

I am indebted to Avi Ben-Mordechai for kindly allowing me to post these videos in public on my YouTube personal channel.


General My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

Present-Day Double Message of the Forbidden Fruit

The forbidden fruit, in Adam and Eve Genesis narrative, carries a double message for our time.

As humans we experience two worlds: The “World of Law-of-Nature” and the “World of Randomness”. Violating law in the former incurs immediate penalty. In the latter world, we are uncertain of the consequence of our decisions and therefore it is in this world solely that we may exercise free will. I have addressed this distinction at some length previously (for example, here and here) and therefore will not elaborate on it further here.

The relevance to our days and time of the sin of eating of the forbidden fruit, as described in Genesis (3: 1-19), had been discussed by me in a separate post. Here I expand on that and address the double message conveyed by the story of Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden “Tree of Knowledge, Good and Bad” (Etz ha-Daat, Tov ve-Ra), or “Good and Evil” (as commonly translated, erroneously in my opinion).

Studying present-day relevance of the forbidden fruit, particularly with regard to the two worlds, as just described, reveals stunning new insights. Let us start by elaborating on the true meaning of the Hebrew Daat (knowledge).

There are two modes of learning (obtaining knowledge), which in biblical Hebrew are denoted by two separate terms: One may learn by absorbing new information, utterly dis-associated from the source of knowledge; or one may learn (and know) by experiencing, by connecting to the source of knowledge. An example for the first mode is conducting research on the Internet. No personal experiencing of the subject of learning is involved. An example for the latter mode is touring a mountainous area, as a result of which one is acquainted, connected, knowing by personal experience, the visited area.

The Bible is permeated aplenty with the distinction between “Acquiring knowledge” (Haskalah) and “Knowing by Experiencing”, or “Knowing by Connecting” (Daat). For example, prophet Jeremiah calls, in the name of the Divine: “Thus says Jehovah: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glories glory in this – Haskel (“Acquiring knowledge”) and Yadoa Oti (“Knowing Me”) that I am Jehovah exercising grace, justice and righteousness in the land, for in these I delight”, so says Jehovah” (Jeremiah 9:22-23). And elsewhere in the Bible: “He who keeps the commandment shall experience no evil thing (Lo yeda davar ra); and a wise man’s heart would discern (“Yeda”) both time and method” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). And similarly: “And Adam once more knew (Va-yeda Adam od) his wife and she bore a child and she called his name Shet” (Genesis 4:25). Likewise, in modern day Hebrew we wish a bereaved family Lo tedeo od machov (“You shall know pain no more”). Knowing here is devoid of any of the common sense reserved for knowledge, but everything to do with personal experiencing.

Given these sources and others, it is essential that we take note that the forbidden tree is not a tree of wisdom, neither a tree of understanding or of advice. No. This is a tree of “Knowing by Experiencing”, Etz ha-Daat, which spells a two-stage learning process: First we experience and then we internalize that experience so that we are capable of telling apart the “bad” from the “good”. The first stage of the learning process is prone to pain and suffering because only after experiencing the “good” and the “bad” may one tell them apart. Not a moment earlier. Adam and Eve, not privy to the agony associated with experiencing the “bad”, are eager to eat of the forbidden fruit noticing only the end result— that they will be like Elohim (God as creator). In modern day parlance, such a fake imaginary process of learning is called “Instant Learning”

But what is “Good” and “Bad”?

Given the two worlds that we constantly experience in our lives, the “World of Law-of-Nature” and the “World of Randomness”, it is obvious that one needs to specify “Good and Bad” in terms of both worlds. Not coincidentally, the narrator of the story of the sin of Adam and Eve already relates to the Divine only by the double name, Elohim-Jehovah, imparting the two aspects of leadership that the Divine exercise in His world: Leadership by Law-of-Nature (scientifically exposed, “public” leadership by the creator, Elohim); and the hidden, concealed leadership by Jehovah in the world of free-will, in the seemingly “World of Randomness”. There is perhaps no better demonstration for the latter than the famous dialogue between Abraham and Jehovah:

“And Abraham drew near and said:” Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?  .. Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do justice?”; And Jehovah said: “If I find in Sodom fifty just men within the city then I will spare the whole place for their sakes” (Genesis 18:23, 25-26).

But fifty righteous men were not found, neither ten. And the people of Sodom were puzzled, probably to their last moments, why the world is so random and unexplainable. As were probably the residents of the corrupt “Sodom-like” ancient Pompeii, destroyed by random by mother-nature at 79 AD.

“Good and Bad” in the story of eating of the forbidden fruit therefore carries double meanings: “Good” and “Bad” in the physical world, which is governed by “Law of Nature” (imprinted on nature by Elohim, the creator); and “Good” and “Bad” in the “World of Randomness”, governed by “Law of Justice and Grace” (emanating from Jehovah, ultimate source of morality):

“For thus says Jehovah, creator of the Heavens, he is the Elohim that has formed the Earth and has made it”; Isaiah 45:18).

The double message of the “Tree of Knowledge” sounds loud and clear for our times:

Message 1: Not all that can be experienced in the physical world, in the “World of Law-of-Nature”, is allowed.

There is a spiritual dimension to our existence as human beings that imposes limitations on our behavior in the physical world and on what we may experience. Eating of the “Tree of Knowledge”, supposedly the most natural and beneficial thing to do, is not without boundaries. And once these are crossed, seemingly without inflicting physical harm, the spiritual dimension may adversely be affected, ultimately causing harm also in the physical world (due to loss of ability to exercise free will in the “World of Randomness”). This realization may at times be extremely excruciating and agonizing. Ask any ex-alcoholic, or ex-narcotics-addict, who had gone through rehabilitation, and you may get a faint idea what the process of “knowing by experiencing” may look like once the spiritual dimension of our existence is ignored.

(Again we note that Adam and Eve’s idea is limited, nearly contrary to reality: According to their perception, eating of the forbidden fruit would educate them how to distinguish “the bad” from “the good” in the physical world so that they would instantly be Elohim-like; all the while being unaware of the pain and suffering that this prolonged learning process, ignoring the spiritual dimension, may entail.)

Message 2: To live life fully, it is not sufficient to distinguish “Good” from “Bad” within Law-of-Nature only.

The “World of Randomness”, where free-will is exercised, has its own “Good” and “Bad”, decided by the “Law” that prevails in this world (law of morality, grace and righteousness; or law of Karma, as preached in some religions). And that law, relating to our spiritual dimension, should be heeded, learned and internalized no less than the “visible”, scientifically validated, Law-of-Nature, that we are so intent and careful on pursuing every single moment of our lives on this planet.



Shorty*: The Human Desire to be like God

At the core of all human endeavors is the burning desire to be like God. The desire is already expressed in the third chapter of Genesis:  “For God knows that on the day you eat of it” (of the Fruit of Knowledge) “then your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as God..” (Genesis 3:5).

But what does it mean to be like God?

The serpent expresses it explicitly: “You shall be like Elohim, knowing good and bad” (Genesis 3:5)  (Elohim is Hebrew for God as the creator).

Jewish prophets have incessantly preached differently:

“I am Jehovah speaking righteousness, I declare things that are right” (Isaiah 45:19) (Jehovah is Hebrew for God as source of morality and virtues).

Human history is the tale of nations and individuals seeking to be as powerful as Elohim via dominating resources (whether of knowledge, of humans beings (erroneously perceived as resource) or of physical properties).

Human history is also a tale of nations and individuals ignoring the message of the Jewish prophets that to be like God also means to be like Jehovah

(all the while concurrently harming the carriers of this inconvenient message).


* A “Shorty” is a newly invented word for a new idea or thought, expressed as shortly as possible..

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

“Good and Bad” and “Good and Evil” – Recording of meeting with Rav Ginsburgh and Rav Yaniv (Hebrew)

On a meeting that took place at Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh residence (Kfar Chabad; June 12th 2015), a discussion evolved of the meaning of “Tov ve-Rah”, as alluded to in the sin of eating of the fruit of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). The discussion focused on whether “Tov ve-Rah” implies “good and bad” in the utilitarian sense or in the moral (ethical) sense (as appearing in most English translations).

Participants to this meeting were, besides Rav Ginsburgh, Rav Samuel Yaniv, Mr. Pesach Melamed, Mr. Oren Evron and me.

A recording of part of the meeting (in Hebrew), addressing “Tov ve-Rah” in the Hebrew Bible and much more, is linked below (with permission):