The Bible Said it First

This series of articles, originally written for the United Synagogue Daf Hashavuah, examines the many phrases that have entered the vernacular with origins in the Bible. Just click on any of the words or phrases below to find out when, where and why the Bible said it first.

There were three Torah personalities who exclaimed “Baruch Hashem” and their identities are somewhat surprising. The first was Noah, who said, “Blessed is the L-rd (Baruch Hashem), the G-d of Shem, and let Canaan be their servant” (Bereishit 9:26). The second was Eliezer who declared, “Blessed is the L-rd  (Baruch Hashem), the G-d of my […]

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The Times (4 June 2002) wrote, “When the Queen travels in procession to her thanksgiving service at St Pauls this morning, she will ride in the Gold State Coach, a four ton behemoth that she has used only twice before … it is a monster to drive”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary explains “behemoth” to be […]

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The catchphrase “Another redskin bit the dust” comes from stories of the Wild West, and was current amongst soldiers in the Second World War, especially in the RAF. “Another one bites the dust” is used in blunt or jocular vein to describe someone coming to an unsuccessful end or actually falling down dead.  The image […]

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There are two schools of thought concerning the origin of this saying. Some scholars claim that it used to be a nautical term.  Ships would have bitts, which were the strong posts or framework on the deck to which the anchor cable was attached.  The bitter end of the cable was the end nearer the […]

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The symbol of the British Medical Association and many other medical organizations features a serpent on a staff.  This symbol is taken from an episode recorded in today’s Torah reading. When the Israelites displayed ingratitude for the remarkable daily portion of manna that fell from Heaven, Hashem punished them by sending fiery serpents that bit […]

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Brouhaha is a commotion or uproar, indicating an over-excited and noisy response, sometimes reflecting unpleasant confusion.  The term is an alternative to “hubbub”.  Many etymologists believe that “brouhaha”, which is a French word, is onomatopoeiac and has no genuine derivation.  However, some scholars claim that this term comes from the Hebrew “baruch haba” meaning “blessed […]

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In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon declares, “Cast bread upon the waters for you shall find it after many days” (11:1). This is popularly understood as a call for charity with “bread” representing wealth and “waters” symbolizing an ocean of need. Our traditional understanding goes one step further.  Rashi explains this to represent a sound investment in […]

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The origin of this term is in today’s Haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh.  The Prophet Isaiah describes Hashem’s compassion for those who keep His word:  “It is to this that I look; to the poor and broken-hearted person who trembles (chared) regarding My word (Isaiah 66:2). Rashi comments that from here we see that Hashem […]

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The Times (Front Page, Saturday, 5 April 2003) commented, “If this was Saddam, his appearance to inspect bomb damage and prove that he is still alive, with U.S. spy planes scrutinising every square inch of the city, was a wild gamble, an act of brazen chutzpah”. “Chutzpah” is now, indeed, a widely used term, expressing […]

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In the Book of Ecclesiastes, which we read on this festival of Succot, King Solomon says: Then I commended enjoyment, because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, drink and be merry; for this shall accompany him in his toil during the days of his life which G-d has given […]

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