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Top 5 Fancy Derashah Vocabulary Words


ven the most yeshivish derashah still includes some fancy terms and vocabulary words. You may not need a PhD in literature to use these words, but the “practical rabbinics” course in semichah studies clearly helps. Here is my Top 5 pick of fancy words that no derashah should be without.



Whether it’s in aliyos and yeridos or yemei sinah and yemei ahavah, religious life is always moving. One constant is the word “vicissitudes” to describe those ebbs and flows. So if you hear the word “vicissitude” in a derashah, don’t panic — vocabulary, like life, has vicissitudes, and shorter words are right around the corner.


When reflecting on our collective responsibility, we are often told “it behooves us.” Honestly, it might be time to retire the phrase. I don’t think it’s ever convinced anyone to be more behooved. It makes me want to be less hooved.


Something is clearly missing in the story of how this word crept into yeshivah parlance. The etymology of this, like many of our linguistic oddities, owes a debt of gratitude to ArtScroll. Thanks to the translation of the Aramaic term chasurei mechsara as “a lacuna in the text,” generations of Talmud students were introduced to a new word as they secretly wondered if there was an ArtScroll to translate this ArtScroll word.


The word epitome is the epitome of a dramatic derashah analogy. How else are you supposed to translate “bechinah”? There is no other word that epitomizes someone’s embodiment of a characteristic. Well, maybe “quintessential” gets a runner-up epitomizer award.


Nothing raises the ire of a rabbinic derashah like an errant juxtaposition. “Why are these stories juxtaposed?” “Why are these words juxtaposed?” The Gemara may debate if we are doreish semuchos (see Yevamos 4a), but everyone seems to agree that we darshen juxtapositions.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 695)


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