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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Modern Hebrew Words


By Jeff A. Benner

Many will recognize this word as the ritual immersion, similar to baptism, as practiced in Judaism. However, unlike in Christianity, the ritual of miqveh is performed many times, such as before holy days. In Hebrew, this word is written as מקוה (miq'veh) and does appear in the Hebrew Bible, but not in the same context.

God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (RSV, Genesis 1:10)

In this verse, the phrase "gathered together," is the Hebrew noun מקוה (miq'veh, Strong's #4723). In the Bible, this word means a pool or collection of water and is also found in the following verse.

And the LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, `Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'" (RSV, Exodus 7:19)

While the word מקוה (miqveh) means "pool" in Biblical Hebrew, the modern Hebrew word for a pool is בריכה (beriykhah), which comes from the verb ברך meaning "to kneel," in the sense of kneeling down to a pool of water to get a drink.

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