Hebrew Language Blog

Tal: The Origin of a Common Hebrew Name Posted by on Apr 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tal - dew 1

Photo by Ayana

I personally know nearly a dozen people that go by the name Tal (טַל), both men and women. It’s a pretty popular name in Israel, though it means “dew”. Yes, yes, the droplets of water that appear on objects in the early morning due to condensation. The Hebrew dictionary defined טַל as:

רְסׅיסֵי לַיְלָה, טׅפּוֺת שֶׁנּוֹצְרוּ עַל יְדֵי אֵדׅים שֶׁהׅתְעַבּוּ עַל שְׁטָחׅים קַרׅים – עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה אוֹ עַל גַּבֵּי צְמָחׅים וְכַדּוֹמֶה. הַטַּל מַרְוֶה אֶת הָאֲדָמָה וְאֶת הַצְּמָחׅים בְּעוֺנוֺת שֶׁל יֺבֶשׁ

[Night droplets, droplets formed by condensation upon cold spaces – upon ground or upon plants etc. In dry seasons the dew drenches the soil and the plants.]

Nowadays the use of irrigation systems is an integral part of modern agriculture. But during the biblical time sprinklers, dripper lines and timers did not yet exist. The benefit of dew as a water source was essential. This is why the Talmud asserts:

כָּל עׅיר שֶׁטְּלָלֶיהָ מְרֻבּׅין מֵחַבְרוֺתֶיהָ פֵּרוֺתֶיהָ מְרֻבּׅין

[A city that enjoys more dew than other cities, enjoys more fruits].

This is also why טַל appears frequently in the bible in proximity to rain (מָטָר). For example in the Book of Kings 17, 1:

אִם יִהְיֶה הַשָּׁנִים הָאֵלֶּה טַל וּמָטָר– כִּי אִם לְפִי דְבָרִי

[There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.]

This phrase – טַל וּמָטָר – also appears in the daily prayer that the Jews pray three times a day. Since they pray for טַל וּמָטָר only during the winter, this phrase written down inside the prayer text in smaller letters.

Tal 4

Photo by Ayana

The relative size of the font of this phrase in the Jewish prayer book create a new idiom: אוֺתׅיּוֺת שֶׁל טַל וּמָטָר. The idiom meaning is simply small letters, and one can use it whenever one desires to describe small letters.

For example:

הַחֲדָשׁוֹת הַמֵּבׅישׁוֺת נׅכְתְּבוּ בְּאוֺתׅיּוֺת שֶׁל טַל וּמָטָר

The embarrassing news was written in dew and rain letters.

?לָמָּה הַהוֺרָאוֺת תָּמׅיד כְּתוּבוֺת בְּאוֺתׅיּוֺת טַל וּמָטָר

Why are the instruction always written in dew and rain letters?

And just for the fun here is a segment from a comedy show in Israel (with Hebrew subtitles). Starring is a famous Israeli comedian, named Tal Friedman. Enjoy 🙂

[The link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORtm6OP1lRQ]


Related posts:

Shahar: The Origin of a Common Hebrew Name

Adi: The Origin of a Common Hebrew Name

Aviv and Stav: The Origin and Meaning of Two Common Hebrew Names


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