Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Shabbat haGadol or Shabbat haGedolah? Dikduk (1)

Jews from The Netherlands don’t know Hebrew but they do know Dikduk — Hebrew Grammar. However, often people who are excellent in Hebrew do not even know the most basic simple Dikduk.

Shabbat haGadol is the Shabbat before Pesach. Shabbat is female, so shouldn’t it be: shabbat gedola? Gadol / gedolah means “great” (m/f).

Rabbi Adin ben Rivka Leah Steinsaltz (may he have a complete recovery, speedily and in our days, together with all the sick we Jews care about) once suggested tongue in cheek, that this Gadol could refer to the lengthy sermons on that Shabbat which make the day seem go on forever. These preachings should help people repent, just like those on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, but most of the time they are just hot air, jointly creating what we know in Israel as: chamsin: 50 days in spring and autumn of heat waves. Could that be?

No, Shabbat haGadol does not mean the Great Shabbat because hagadol here is not an adjective but a noun. And the ha- here is not the definite pronoun “the” (what it normally is) but is part of the s’michut construction, which makes one definite noun possessive of another one. (If it’s three or more definite nouns in a row, only the last one get the ha- – if it needs that to become definite.)

A few easy examples will clarify this all. Don’t panic. It won’t get more complicated than this! The Hebrew words I’ll use are: sus = horse, melech = king, ha- = the, shel = of, and there is no Hebrew for: a.

hasus shel hamelech = the horse of the king, but also:

sus hamelech = the horse of the king – in the s’michut construction does not need shel or the first ha-

sus hamelech ≠ (a) horse of the king, because for that there is a second s’michut construction type:

sus lemelech – though that also could mean: (a) horse to a king

sus david = the horse of David (David is a definite noun without the or ha-)

sus melech david = the horse of King David (three nouns in a row).

Therefore: Shabbat haGadol means: The Shabbat of the Great – what was so fantastic? The Miracles that happened on the Shabbat before the Exodus from Egypt, which we acknowledge and celebrate every years on our Shabbat before Pesach.


Same story for the greeting Shabbat Shalom.

It’s not shabbat sh’loma, because Shalom here is a noun too. [I wish you] a Shabbat of Peace should actually be: shabbat leshalom, as we saw in the example above. However, that could also mean: a Shabbat towards peace, and we do not want to bless someone half-way.

A similar case we see in the First Blessing of our Main Prayer:

go’eil livnei veneihem = literally: (a) Redeemer to-sons-of their-sons, which (no doubt on purpose) could mean two things:

(a) Redeemer for the sons of their sons, or even more hopeful, actually:

a Redeemer of the sons of their sons.


Bonus remark: In the s’michut construction, the first nouns(s) sometimes change(s). Shabbat in s’michut has twice the vowel patach. So even for Charedim:

no: shabbos hagodoil, but: shabbas hagodoil

no: shabbos sholoim, but: shabbas sholoim.

Easier: Gut Shabbos!


In the Hymn after a bread meal we mention on Shabbat: hashabbat hagadol vehakadosh haze – this great and holy Shabbat, all in the male. Should this not be: hashabbat hagedolah vehakedoshah hazot – all in the female?

Well, this was a trick question, because it actually says: this Seventh day of the Shabbat, of the Great, and of the Holy – and “day” in Hebrew is male.


The Sages of Old knew Hebrew. They helped us by giving us a set prayer text because they saw that we don’t. We still need to read it as it says (to actually say what they had in mind) and understand it.

Shabbat haGadol Shalom!

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX, among his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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