Biblical Hebrew Qal Verbs: Yatza and Matza (but not Matzah)

Let’s look at two Qal verbs in biblical Hebrew: יָצָא (“yatza”), which means “to go forth,” and מָצָא (“matza”), which means “to find.” (Remember, Qal is a type of Hebrew verb stem, or “binyan.” If you don’t know what that means yet, that’s okay – you can still learn these verbs and their meanings.)

I have found it easiest to learn these two words, “yatza” and “matza,” together because the sounds are similar and the meanings can be easily related. Think of it this way: “Go forth and find it!”

As you would expect from me, I also came up with my own ways of remembering each word.

I loved to play the game Yahtzee when I was a kid; our family played this game together, and I have fond memories of those times. We started each round of Yahtzee by shaking the dice in a cup and sending the dice flying out onto the table. In other words, the dice had to “go forth” onto the table for the next round to begin. The word “yatza” sounds similar to Yahtzee. So I remember those dice “going forth.”

Let’s review: יָצָא (“yatza”) = “to go forth.”

To remember the next word, “matza” (מָצָא – “to find”), I think about how I like “to find” “matzah balls” in my soup.

Now, I have to emphasize that this is just a mnemonic device to help me remember the meaning of “to find” for the Hebrew word מָצָא (“matza”).

In reality, the word מָצָא (“matza” – “to find”) has nothing to do with the Hebrew word מצה (“matzah“), which refers to unleavened bread or the flour that we would find in matzah ball soup (note the difference in spelling – the word for unleavened bread ends with a “heh” ה, not an “aleph” א).

Now you’ve learned another word in Hebrew: מצה (“matzah”), and you might enjoy taking some time to research this word. There is a lot of biblical symbolism in the use of unleavened bread (think especially of the Passover).

Keep in mind that my reference to “matzah” (מצה) as a mnemonic device for “matza” (מָצָא) is not in any way meant to diminish the biblical significance of “matzah.” It is simply a way to help new biblical Hebrew students (who are often overwhelmed by trying to associate new sounds with meanings) to make a connection with something they are probably familiar with, i.e., “matzah ball soup.”

If you find “matzah” in your soup, hopefully you will remember that the meaning of “matza” (מָצָא) is “to find” (without the final “heh”).

Over time, you will be able to keep those two words separate. You will start to remember how each one is spelled and which one means which. But for now, if finding matzah balls in your soup can help you remember that “matza” (מָצָא) means “to find,” then feel free to use that mnemonic device.

If that way doesn’t work for you, find the way that does work. What’s important is that you find your best way to learn the meanings of the words in biblical Hebrew. God bless!

Interested in getting a taste of biblical Hebrew? There’s more to learn on my biblical Hebrew blog.

Want to jump into the basics of biblical Hebrew? Here’s a beginning biblical Hebrew course I offer online.