Defining words in Biblical Hebrew

 

 

I monitor a Facebook group called Hebrew Learn E-Vreet.  It’s always good when members participate.  We had one member talk about the meaning of El-Shaddai.  Well, there have been many discussions on this name of God by many scholars and rabbis for hundreds of years.

But you want to know the best way to define a Hebrew word in Biblical Hebrew?  See how the Hebrew word is used in the Bible.  First, see how it is used in Genesis.  Then, in the Torah, and finally, in the Tanakh.

But the most important thing is to let the whole verse, the whole chapter speak to you.  The reason we learn Biblical Hebrew is to understand what God is trying to tell us in the Bible.  So let’s look at El-Shaddai אל שדי in the first-mention, Genesis 17:1 in the JPS translation:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine,

the LORD appeared to Abram,

and said unto him:

‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.

El אל is the short for for Elohim אלהים .  We cover this in our course, Learn Hebrew from the Bible.

The root verb of El-Shaddai is SDD שדד

The verb is not used in Genesis.  It’s not used in the Torah.  We don’t see it until Judges.  It is used in its negative sense–to destroy.  Hebrew verbs can be used negatively or positively.  You can use strength for good or bad.  Obviously, God uses it for good.

There are no easy answers for the meaning of Shaddai.  So let’s focus on what God is trying to tell us in the verse.  He’s talking to Abram, before the name change to Abraham.  He’s directing Abram to follow Him, follow in His ways, His manner.  He asked Abram to be wholehearted.  What does that mean?  The word in Hebrew is תמים T’MIM and it means integrity, not to be of two minds–be fully engaged.

This is just a quick blog to stir your heart.  Read the whole chapter; read the chapters surrounding Genesis 17, giving you context.  And that will give you the meaning of אל שדי

By the way feel free to join our Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/evreet/

Who’s coffee is it?

Bow-care Tov בוקר טוב
Shhh, you are talking way too loud. I’m just having my first coffee קפה. Care to join me for a little Hebrew עברית while brewing your coffee קפה? (Couldn’t resist the pun.)
Today (hi-yum היום) I want to talk about how Hebrew עברית makes possessives. English makes a possessive like this:  Mano’s coffee — with the apostrophe and the letter “s”.  Sometimes we say “the coffee of Mano” although it’s a bit old-fashion.  But hold on to the old-fashion way because this way will help you understand the Hebrew method of showing ownership.
To show ownership in Hebrew.
1.  Use the old fashion English way of showing possession:
     THE COFFEE OF MANO
2.  Drop the “THE” and “OF”
     COFFEE MANO
Note:  If we leave it like this, Mano is in desperate trouble.  He doesn’t own the coffee.  Anyone could take it, and he could have a bad start to the day.  Hebrew realizes this and has a solution.  So watch the video here.  It’s a clip from the UDEMY course “Learn Hebrew from the Bible”.

What does the word Hebrew mean?

In our UDEMY course, Learn Hebrew from the Bible, a student of mine asked this question: what does the word Hebrew mean.  As usual, students inspire teachers.

Interestingly, you won’t find the word “Hebrew” used in the Bible for the Hebrew language. Hebrew comes from the word EVRI עברי. It’s like Eber’s name in Genesis 10:12

For word origin, I always like to go to the verb because that is where the root meaning is. So that takes us to ABAR עבר.

עבר means to pass over, to cross a national border. IVRI people were sort of known as “the people who passed over from the other side.”

The best way to understand a word in Biblical Hebrew is to see how it is used in the Bible. The first time it is used is always significant. Let’s look and see for yourself:

Genesis 8:1

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind TO PASS OVER the earth, and the water subsided.

(This gives you the basic characteristic of the word.)

Genesis 12:6

Abram PASSED THROUGH the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

Genesis 14:3

And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew–now he dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner; and these were confederate with Abram.

(Now you see how people talk about Abram as the “overpasser” or “passerover”. It’s the same root: עבר

E-Vreet goes over this later in the course. By the way, עברית (E-Vreet) is the feminine form of עברי. The feminine form is used in Modern Hebrew to refer to the language. In Biblical Hebrew, עברית is talking about a female Hebrew. See Exodus 1:19.

 

Why French Fries are Important in Learning Hebrew

boardwalk friesLearning how to say french fries is a very important word to know!  I love french fries and love to go to to get them at Boardwalk Fries because they use only the best oil.  French fries are called chips in the UK.  Now as you may remember, there is no CH sound in Hebrew.  There is no Channukah, Chutzpah, Chai, Choopah, etc.  There is no ch like in church. This could be very sad–for how could you order your chips???

Well this is what E-Vreet (Hebrew) does with such a word–it gives it its own sound–a funny sound–TS.  Ok, you are saying, that’s really difficult.  Hold on, I’m telling you that you say it all the time, especially if you have cats.  Get it?  caTS.  You also say it if you say “Bar MiTSva”.  Or think of the word the Japanese gave us: TSunami.tsunami

So, back to french fries or chips because I know you are hungry.  In E-Vreet (Hebrew) you say Tsipps.  Click on the link and listen to the word pronounced in Hebrew for a couple of times.  Don’t try to say it until you have listened to it ten times.  Then listen to it and only say it in your mind ten times.  THEN and only then, say it if you want.  But don’t worry if you don’t get it right.

Remember, “pronunciation is caught and not taught”.  It will take time.  You will be able to say this sound when you don’t realize it.  It’s not crucial, because as long as you are in the ballpark, like Camden Yards, Oriole Park at Camden Yardsballpark, E-Vreet (Hebrew) speakers will get what you are talking about.  As you can see, that’s a pretty big ballpark.  So even if you don’t get the sound just right, you can still get your fries or chips or tsips. Why?  Because Context is King.  If you are standing in a fast food restaurant in Tel-Aviv and you are saying this word the best you can, (hopefully Boardwalk Fries will open one there soon), the waiter will know you want chips…or french fries. Enjoy!

Why English as a mother tongue is a language learning disability

At the Superbowl, there were thousands of people: most who spoke English as their mother tongue.  It would be inconceivable in the USA to think that the Patriots and Seahawks couldn’t understand each other.

If English is your mother tongue and you are not one of those “one out of twenty” people who has a natural gift for languages, you probably struggled in French class, had difficulties in German, or you felt you just got by in Spanish.  You might have thought you just didn’t have the gift of languages and that’s that.  If you have any EU friends, they probably told you the joke:  What do you call someone who speaks three languages?  Trilingual.  Two languages?  Bilingual.  One language?  American, (or British, Canadian, Australian etc.).

Well, unless you came from an immigrant family, you didn’t grow up listening to other languages the way you would in a lot of multi-cultural societies like India.  In India, you might speak one language to your mother’s side of the family, another to your father’s side of the family, another one to the maid, another one at school.  Your brain has built-in channels to go from one language to another, while the English-speaking person has to start digging a tunnel to learn each word of a new language.

Let’s say you are the adventurous type and you visit other countries outside of the Western world.  You even stay there longer than a tourist.  You learn a bit of the local language and try it out.  You want to make friends and find the fastest way of making friends is to speak English with the locals.  Once they figure out you’re an English speaker, it’s all over.  You suddenly become an English teacher perhaps to the horror of your English teacher back home.

If you are an American, you can travel literally for hundreds of miles in America and find everyone speaks almost exactly the way you do.  If you try that kind of travelling in Europe, you’d have to speak a different language for every state that you passed.  America is geographically isolated like few other countries are.  It has oceans on each side.  It even has   So unless you are close the Mexico, you may not have a lot of opportunities to hear the foreign language you want to learn.

People who speak English as their native tongue just don’t have the same motivation to learn a foreign language as others.  Motivation is one of the key factors that helps even the most disadvantaged student to learn a foreign language.
And then you try to learn Hebrew.  Even if you were brought up with listening to Hebrew prayers, people said them so fast that you didn’t get what they meant.  So you try to learn.  For both Jews and Gentiles, the struggle to learn Hebrew is something they both have in common.

 

So this is my poinchunnelt:  if you are struggling to learn Hebrew and are losing hope, and English is your mother tongue, realize that you have a language learning disability.  Give yourself plenty of room to learn.  It’s going to take special methods to build those tunnels in your brain.  Think of the English channel.  You need special tools.  E-Vreet offers these tools.