On the one hand, these volumes are perfect for a quick read. The essays are short and can be read independently. This does not take away from their depth. On the other hand, they often left me wanting more. — Jewish Press
We owe Mitchell First out thanks for tackling such questions and broadening our Jewish horizons. — Dan Klein, Lehrhaus
I found the books pleasant to read and a welcome companion. — David Curwin, Tradition Online
Mitchell First’s scholarship is like detective work. It picks up on clues sometimes overlooked by others, coming to surprising conclusions. — Professor Reuven Kimelman
About Links to Our Legacy
Mitchell First’s 66 short articles address interesting questions about the Hebrew language, Jewish history, and liturgy. For example:
On Hebrew language: insights into the original meanings of the words chamushim, totafot, kohen, minchah, nefesh, netzach, selah, tefillin and many others.
On Jewish history: the order of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the absence of the book of Esther among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the distinction between Neviim and Ketuvim, Rashi’s motivations in writing his Torah commentary, biography of Nehama Leibowitz, and the symbolism of the Israel Postal Company logo.
On Jewish liturgy: the meaning of sekhvi, the authorship of U-Netanneh Tokef, and the origin of the reading of each of the Five Megillot.
About Roots and Rituals
Mitchell First’s 62 short articles address interesting questions about the Hebrew language, liturgy, Jewish history, and the calendar and holidays. For example:
On Jewish Liturgy: the origin of the Haftarah, the origin of the blessing “Who Has Not Made Me A Woman,” and the origin of our prayer for the government.
On Jewish Holidays and Calendar: the origin of the count from creation, the meaning of Yom Teruah, the meaning of “Maccabee,” identifying Achashverosh and Esther in secular sources, and the original three questions in the Mah Nishtannah.
On Hebrew Language: the origin of the words brit, boker, hefker, chalom, chatan, kesef, midbar, navi, olam, she’ol, and seraphim. Also, is there a connection between זכר meaning “male” and זכר meaning “memory”? Is there a connection between לחם and מלחמה?
He also has articles on words that appear only once in Tanakh, biblical words of Egyptian origin, wordplay in Tanakh, and interesting words in the daily Amidah.This book also includes two longer articles: “The Meaning of the Word Hitpallel (התפלל)” and “The Root of the Word מבול: A Flood of Possibilities.”
About the Author
Mitchell First has a J.D. from Columbia Law School and an M.A. in Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. He has published articles on Jewish history and liturgy in periodicals such as Biblical Archaeology Review, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Ḥakirah and AJS Review. He resides in Teaneck, N.J., and is a personal injury attorney in New York City. His previous books include Roots and Rituals: Insights into Hebrew, Holidays, and History (2018) and Esther Unmasked: Solving Eleven Mysteries of the Jewish Holidays and Liturgy (2015). He is presently a regular columnist for the Jewish Link of New Jersey.
Categories: History, Holidays, New, Tanach