Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Etzem

    Etzem means what is inner and essential. In modern Hebrew, politicians will frequently say "etzem ha'inyan", which means roughly, "the essential fact of the matter", and is equally vacuous and clichéd. The word itself means bone, and we see the similarity to the now archaic English phrase, "the marrow of the matter".

    Three times, the Torah uses the phrase "b'etzem hayom hazeh". It's sometimes translated as "on that very day", but we can see that the sense is more, "by virtue of the essential nature of that day". It occurs in Exodus 12:51 where God is described as taking Israel out of Egypt b'etzem..."the day on which we now celebrate the Seder"; then again in Leviticus 23:14 when the day of bringing the Omer offering is called b'etzem. And finally it is used twice about Yom Kippur, Leviticus 23: 29-30. The common understanding underlying these cases seems to be that the day itself is transformative. We may experience and re-experience this potential year on year.

    Etzem meaning essential also has a place in yeshivish slang. Chaim Weiser gives the example: "It's less the taste of yeshivah food that bothers me than the etzem quality."

Jewish words

Darchei Shalom

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Darchei Shalom
Jewish words

Chizuk

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Chizuk
Jewish words

Harat Olam

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Harat Olam
Jewish words

Ga'agua

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Ga'agua
Jewish words

Nafka Mina

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Nafka Mina
Jewish words

Machzor

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Machzor
Jewish words

Geshmack

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Geshmack
Jewish words

Neilah

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Neilah
Jewish words

Taharah

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Taharah