Entertaining, erudite, and enjoyable…. The articles are thoughtful, witty, well written and – in many cases – challenge previously held assumptions. — Jerusalem Post
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 our 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 has produced a groundbreaking study of Jewish intellectual history. — Professor Sid Z. Leiman
Mitchell First… combines extensive research into primary sources, the contributions of other contemporary scholars, and his own original ideas to build stronger structures in the pursuit of truth. — Rabbi Hayyim Angel
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 Words for the Wise
Words for the Wise contains sixty-two short articles on Hebrew, Holidays, History and Liturgy. On Liturgy, 8 articles, including the origin of and insights into Shalom Aleikhem, Anim Zemirot, and Maoz Tzur. On Holidays, 9 articles, including the origin of the recital of Le-David Hashem Ori, the underlying meanings of the words lulav, atzeret, and Pesaḥ, and the background to the Fast of Gedaliah. On History, 18 articles, including a history of the city of Acco, and on the lives of Rashbam, Judah Touro, Golda Meir, and Yigael Yadin, and on an important manuscript of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. On Hebrew, 27 articles, including insights into the roots ישן ,חול ,זמר ,זהר and רגע, the etymology of the word ממזר, the meaning of כתונת פסים, and interesting words in Hallel.
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