Issues in English



The purpose of the written word is to convey the meaning it carries to the reader as smoothly as possible. This has been the overriding consideration in determining the following conventions.

The Names of God

·        We have translated the Name Havayah throughout as “GOD,” using small caps. We have translated the Name Shakai as “Almighty.” All other Names are translated as “God,” with certain exceptions.

·        Since the book contains the Name Havayah in Hebrew, it is not necessary to spell “God” with a hyphen (“G-d”).

·        When it has been necessary to refer to a specific Name, we have usually altered the spelling according to common practice (“Elokim,” “Kel,” etc.)

Other Proper Names

We use Anglicized forms of proper names when these are likely to be familiar as such to the reader (e.g., Abraham, Moses rather than Avraham, Moshe), and the Hebrew forms when they are likely not to be so (e.g., Tzurishadai rather than Zurishaddai or whatever). We have relied on our own discretion (which is admittedly sometimes arbitrary) to determine which is which.

Similarly, Hebrew nouns that are part of English are not italicized (for exceptions, see below), and are usually given in their most common form, e.g., “Kabbalah” rather than “Kabbala.” Regarding chasid and its derivative forms, Kehot’s convention is to use one “s” so we have followed this. The adjective “Chasidic” has not been italicized since the rule is that any foreign word that is given an English ending should not be italicized. We have always used “Chasidic Teachings” rather than “Chasidism,” “Chasidut,” etc., in order to avoid a word the reader might not recognize.


We have aimed toward a reasonable, readable system. Although we have aspired to be consistent, we have sometimes made exceptions to the following rules.

·        We have used the Sephardic consonants and vowels.

·        We have generally used an “e” to indicate a sheva na (“Bemidbar,” “Berachot”) except where doing so would look strange.

·        We have generally used an apostrophe to separate consecutive vowels, so they not be construed as a diphthong (“Ba’al,” “Hitva’aduyot”).

·        We have generally used “ei” for the long “a” sound and “ai” for a long “i” sound (“Masei,” “Vayeitzei,” “Shakai,” “Bechukotai”). Exceptions include sefer (instead of seifer)

·        We have indicated a final hei (even when not sounded) with an “h” (e.g., “Sarah”).

·        When the Hebrew word begins with a prefix, we have indicated this by beginning the word proper with a second capital letter (e.g., “Sefer HaSichot) or—if the prefix is “of” or “and”—leaving the prefix as a lower case letter (e.g., “Pirkei deRabbi Eliezar,” “Kaftor vaFerach”). The one major exception to this is the names of the parashiot (e.g., Vayikra instead of VaYikra, etc.). We did this because these words have become proper names in themselves and are not usually related to in people’s minds in terms of their actual meaning (which is why we use the Hebrew forms in the first place instead of writing, “In parashat ‘And He Called’”).


Neologisms, such as “inter-included,” are defined the first time they appear and will appear in the glossary.


The trend in written English has been away from capitalization, favoring more and more the use of non-capitalized nouns. Generally, this is in accord with the principle stated above: the purpose of the written word is to convey meaning to the reader as quickly and smoothly as possible, and a capital letter tells the reader to stop, “sit up straight,” and take notice—slowing him down. Therefore, capitalization has been used only (1) when there are solid conventions for doing so (e.g., proper names), and (2) when not doing so would lead to ambiguity, causing the reader to pause and figure things out.

With that in mind, here are the conventions we have adopted:

1.     Eretz Yisrael, Eretz Mizraim, etc., have been translated “Land of Israel,” “Land of Egypt,” etc. Leaving the word “land” lower case would mean “the land” in the sense of “the dirt, the earth,” and as opposed to “the bodies of water.”

2.     For the same reasons, the terms “Promised Land” and “Holy Land” are capitalized.

3.     The word “River” as part of a name (“Jordan River”) is capitalized.

4.     “Golden Calf” is capitalized.

5.     Many authorities favor capitalizing terms of the form “the X of the Y,” such as “the Ark of the Covenant,” etc. We have tried to avoid this except where doing so would prove ambiguous.

6.     “Tabernacle,” “Temple,” and “Sanctuary” (when referring to the Mishkan or the Beit HaMikdash) are capitalized, but their furnishings and accoutrements are not (e.g., “golden altar,” “menorah,” “ark,” “courtyard,” “urim and tumim,” etc.).

7.     The exception to #6 is “the Ark of the Covenant.”

8.     “Ten Commandments” is capitalized.

9.     “Messiah” when referring to the person is capitalized, but the adjective “messianic” is not.

10. “high priest” and “red cow” are not capitalized.


Ideally, italics should be reserved only for emphasis. But since it is conventional to use italics for foreign words, we have to adopt conventions regarding which Hebrew/Aramaic words are italicized and which are not. The rationale for italicizing foreign words is to notify the reader’s eye that the word he is about to see is not English and he should therefore not puzzle over it and try to figure out what word it is. (The drawback of using italics both for emphasis and to indicate foreign words is that it then becomes impossible to emphasize a foreign word.)

Generally, words that have been adopted into the English language (the proof of this being if they are found in an English dictionary) are not italicized. This excludes a priori the following:

gerah, hin, kikar, ephah.

However, shekel is not italicized.

As for names of the holidays, some are in the dictionary and some are not. To be consistent, therefore, we have italicized all of them, even Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We have also italicized the names of the Hebrew months.

Abbreviations (and the use of Latin)

·        We have used “i.e.” and “e.g.,” but have spelled out “Mount” in all cases.

·        In the footnotes, we have used “cf.,” “ibid.” and “ad loc.” but not “v.” (except to mean “verse”), “idem,” “loco cit.,” etc.

·        Regarding “ibid.,” we tried to avoid using it as the first reference on a page (since that would sometimes force the reader to flip back to see what the reference was, and our goal is to make things as user-friendly as possible).


·        We use the “serial comma,” i.e., the comma after the second-to-last item in a series (e.g., “x, y, and z” rather than “x, y and z”).

·        When we begin a sentence with “Now” used to introduce a new topic or a new angle on the topic, we follow it with a comma (e.g., “Now, this is different…”). Without a comma it would have its temporal sense (“now” rather than “later”).

Bulleted and Numbered Lists

The Chicago Manual of Style does not allow punctuation in bulleted or numbered lists, but The New York Public Library Writer’s Guide to Style and Usage does, so we have allowed ourselves to use it when it seems suitable. Example:

1.     apples,

2.     peaches, and

3.     pears.


·        If the locution “ascent offering” (for olah) is left unhyphenated, it would most likely be interpreted to mean “an offering of an ascent,” that is, someone takes an “ascent” and offers it on the altar, just like a “grain offering” means someone taking some grain and offering it on the altar. By hyphenating the two words, we come closer to achieving the meaning “an offering that effects an ascent,” which is what is wanted. The same applies to “peace-offering” (for shelamim). Again, a “sin offering” (chatat) is not the offering of a sin on the altar, but the offering of a sacrifice that is meant to do something to a sin; therefore, it seems best to hyphenate it. The same applies to “guilt-offering” (asham).

So once these four are hyphenated, it seems best to also hyphenate “grain-offering” (minchah), “fire-offering” (isheh), and “raised-offering” (terumah).

·        We have used “life-force” rather than “lifeforce” or “life force.”

Supra or Super?

It is common in Chabad English literature to refer to something that transcends the intellect as being “super-conscious” or “super-rational.” There are two problems with this: (1) these terms may have very specific meanings—which we do not intend to refer to—for professional trained in psychology or psychoanalysis, and (2) the prefix “super” can be understood to mean “to a very great extent” just as easily as it can be understood to mean “higher than.” (E.g., “super-rational” can mean “really, really rational.”) For this reason, you sometimes see the use of “supra-” instead. When this is appropriate, we use it, otherwise, we get around the problem by using “transcend” in some form or other.

Call-outs for the commentary

When we quoted a verse at the beginning of a comment, we did not distinguish between words that were part of the actual translation (the boldface) and those that were only part of the interpolated commentary.

Finer Points

·        Some writers and editors try to avoid the use of the same word more than once with a certain range of words, opting instead to use synonyms. Although there is merit to this approach, we felt that here, since we are dealing with precise ideas—both in the interpolated translation, where precision is paramount, and in the Chasidic insights, where the ideas are sometimes very subtle—it would be confusing to use different words for the same idea. Doing so would run the risk of obscuring the point in the reader’s mind. When this was the case, we were not concerned if the same word was repeated even several times in the same passage.

·        Some writers and editors feel that the word “to” should be used instead of “in order to.” Although this is often the case, we found that in some cases, the causal sense was lost when just “to” was used. In these cases, we used “in order to.”

·        Our preference has been toward active verbs rather than using gerunds (e.g., “He offered it to other nations before He gave it to the Jewish people” rather than “He offered it to other nations before giving it to the Jewish people”).