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Hebrew Word of the Week: mo‘ed

It occurs already in the first chapter of Genesis: “And they (sun, moon) shall serve as signs for (specific) times (mo‘adim) and (routine times) days and nights” (Genesis 1:14).
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October 14, 2016

It occurs already in the first chapter of Genesis: “And they (sun, moon) shall serve as signs for (specific) times (mo‘adim) and (routine times) days and nights” (Genesis 1:14). In the Bible, mo‘ed means “meeting place” (Joshua 8:14); “assembly” (Ezekiel 45:17); ohel mo‘ed “assembly (tabernacle) tent”; yom mo‘ed “holiday, time of festivity.”

In modern Hebrew: mo‘ed is used for “(examinations, elections) term”; mo‘adon “(social, political, intellectual) club.” On holidays, one greets with mo‘adim le-simHah “joyful holidays”; in Yiddish a “guten móed.” I heard members of the Persian community saying “mo‘adim shalom,” influenced by “Shabbat shalom.”

Hol-Mo‘ed “half-holiday, intermediate days” is literally “the hole, the break” (between the first and last days of Passover and of Sukkot). Hol (Hullin) is from H-l-l “to perforate, to pierce”; hence, Halil “flute”; le-Hallel Shabbat “to break (the sanctity of) Sabbath.”

*The plural is usually mo‘adim, but also mo‘adot (Dead Sea Scrolls; Rashi on Leviticus 23:2-3; Megillah 30b).


Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

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