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Topic: Afternoon, Hebrew in Plural

Mimi Katz from Chicago, IL wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

If, in Hebrew, "good morning" is "boker tov," "good evening" is "erev tov," and good night is "lailah tov," then why is "good afternoon" said in the plural "tzohorayim tovim?"


Dear Mimi Katz,

The word for noon in Hebrew, tzohorayim, is plural. Why?

Nachmanides in his commentary on the Chumash addresses this question. He explains that the singular, tzohar, means "light" (compare the word zohar which means "shining"). Noon is called tzohorayim, "lights," in the plural for the following reason: In the morning when the sun is in the east, there is a shadow on the west side of objects. In the afternoon when the sun is in the west, there is a shadow on the east side of objects. Only at noon, when the sun is directly overhead, is there no shadow, neither to the east nor to the west of objects. Both sides are light, hence, noon is called "tzohorayim" in the plural to indicate a time of total light.

Sources:

  • Ramban's commentary to Chumash Shmot 12:5


 
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