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Orthodox Judaism/the Aramaic word\s for death


Dear Rabbi Rosenblum, I noticed that the pestilence plague we just read about in the Torah is called in both the Targums "Mosa", but isn't Mosa just plain death (as seen in the Targum on Genesis 42:4, 38 and others)? I checked further and found death translated alternately as both "Mosa" and "Misusa" in several dozens upon dozens of places in Tanach and Chazal. I tried finding some kind of explanation but could not. Can you help? I know many Rabbis do not usually study Targum, so I would greatly appreciate your help.

Dear Chaim,

I am not a Rabbi.

Great question.  Mosa means death.  I am unable to explain why the Targums chose that word.  But I found in the tochacha in Bechukoisai, the word "dever" translated as "mosana", which is the arameic word for pestilence.

As I wrote this, I had a thought.  Perhaps not everyone dies during a pestilence, even if they get sick.  Maybe the Targum wants to stress that this pestilence killed every creature that was affected and chose to bypass the literal translation.  I have no basis for this thought what so ever.

Kol tuv.

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David Rosenblum


I am an ex-student of yeshiva and I like to be presented with Torah study problems. If you have studied the Torah and have questions on the subject matter, I want to hear about it. I am not a Rabbi and not qualified to decide halachic issues. I am still interested in halachic questions for which I can sometimes offer general guidelines or present decisions in halachic works such as Mishna Berurah. I welcome questions from non-Jewish people but I cannot respond to religious references that are not part of Judaism. If you are working on a paper or doing research and want general information on a Jewish subject, I may or may not satisfy your need, depending on how comfortable I am with the question. If you have a personal problem, I am not qualified to help you but I will do what I can to offer you some assistance.


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