legos logo

While learning how to develop a course, we always had to remember the K.I.S.S. principle–Keep It Simple Sweetheart.  Actually they use Stupid for the last S. in the acronym.  And I was.  Stupid.  I had so much fun designing the Legos course for Biblical Hebrew–delighting in how it could help future students of Biblical Hebrew understand how Hebrew words that I got carried away.  Most teachers get carried away.  Most good teachers who are passionate about their subject get carried away.  That’s why we need students who feel that they can talk to us.

Some of my beta-testers had no problem in telling me that the course went from being very simple to very complicated.  Just because I was enjoying how I could play with the Legos doesn’t mean a new student would enjoy it.  The new student would feel overwhelmed.

So I had to do what I was taught to do in writing classes at University–murder your children.  That sounds awful.  It is awful.  It means that you have to delete a lot of work that you love, that you created, but is not relevant for the project.  Like Sherman in the South during the Civil War in America, I had to slash and burn.

I was annoyed with myself for losing the perspective of my students.  I had castigated other Biblical Hebrew teachers for doing the same thing–using material that was overwhelming for the normal student.  I was seduced by my own creativity and utter brilliance and innovation.  Yes, another leader in the field of Biblical Hebrew told me that the course was “revolutionary” and that he wanted to link it to his website when I had finished it.  But I needed to put the course on the alter, have a sacrifice, and see what was left over.

Well, I think I have the essence now.  I’m happy with the course.  I could probably continue to enhance it for years.  But instead, I’ll start doing the narration for the videos and upload it on Udemy with my other courses.  I’ll take a break for the summer.  Then perhaps I’ll find all the dead work that I murdered and ressurect it for another course.  Or maybe I’ll get a new idea.  Who knows.

Anyway, if you want to see it, it’s on my website as pdf files which I need to convert again from the powerpoint presentation–this time as jpg files, and then pdf files.  TMI?  Sorry, sorry, I’m suffering from P.I.D.S. Post Instructional Design Syndrome.

Here’s the website. http://evreet.wixsite.com/evreet


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:
2.  Drop the “THE” and “OF”
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”.

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.

If you only knew the first four letters of the Hebrew alphabet

I am just about finished uploading my new and improved videos on my Udemy course, Learn Hebrew through the Bible.  My new Mac Book Pro has been able to handle churning out all these videos. Camtasia has been a great help.  The new version doesn’t seem to crash so much now.  It’s easy to edit out mistakes and add stuff in.  I produced intro videos for each of the five units so students have a head’s up on what to expect.

The first unit is easy: א ב ג ד are not too complicated. Think A B G D but backwards because we read Hebrew from right to left. So if you only knew these letter, you can make the following words:

אב for father  AV

בא for (he) came.  BA (bah)

דג for fish  DG (dag)

דב for bear  DV (dov)

So if this is a method that you would like to try, come join me here.

גג for roof  GG (gag)

Now you can make these sentences:

אב בא Father came. or A father arrived.  AV BA

גב בא  A bear came.  DoV BA

דג בא  A fish arrived.  Dag BA

גג בא  A roof arrived.  GaG BA

Notice that father and a father are the same word אב.  There’s no a in Hebrew.

Notice that אב seems to be the only word that has a letter that is a vowel.  Funny thing about Hebrew: it doesn’t always need a letter to make a vowel.  In the rest of the letters, the vowel is embedded.

Notice also that ב changes on you.  When it is at the beginning of a word, it has the B sound.  But when it is at the end of a word or syllable, it has the V sound.

Why You Should Have a Study Buddy for Hebrew

If you haven’t been brought up in an observant Jewish home and have gone to Yeshiva, you might not know that traditionally, students of Biblical Hebrew were assigned another student with whom to study.

This concept is call Hav-rutah  חַבְרוּתָא, in Hebrew aka “the buddy system.”  Havrutah means  “friendship”.  Rabbis would have pairs of students analyze, discuss, and debate verses in the Bible. Robbis would pair students who had similar knowledge and ability, but a little different, so one could teach the other.  This study method is practiced at work, home and even on vacation.

Unlike a teacher-student relationship, in which the student memorizes and repeats the material back in tests like a parrot, havrutah-style learning puts each student in driver’s seat.  He or she analyzes the text,  organizing his thoughts into logical arguments, explaining his or her reasoning to the partner, hearing out the partner’s reasoning, and questioning and sharpening each other’s ideas, often arriving at entirely new insights into the meaning of the text.

So how does this work in learning Hebrew?  A language is the road between two people where they can share their ideas, feelings.  If you have nobody to talk to, the language isn’t real.  It’s just a code you are learning like C++.

You and your partner can make your own little Hebrew world where mistakes are allowed.  As long as you can understand your partner, then you’re ok.  You use English or whatever to get by.  Use each Hebrew word that you learn in conversation with each other.  Learn how to use the Hebrew typefont and send emails to each other with the Hebrew words that you have learned. You play with the language together.  One of you will be stronger in Hebrew.  By helping your partner, your Hebrew becomes stronger.

So you don’t know of anyone in your town who wants to learn Hebrew?  So what!  You have the whole world with the internet.  Find someone and use Skype.

So that is how the E-Vreet course works.  If you haven’t signed up for a course, now’s your chance.  It’s a Udemy course called Learn Hebrew through the Bible, and I should say, Learn Hebrew with your Havrutah.

Learning Biblical Hebrew: Masoretes were the first Geeks

Ok, to be honest, I am not a big fan of the dots and dashs (aka nikudim) on the Hebrew letters for most people just beginning to learn Hebrew.  Studies have shown that people who read Arabic have to use different parts of their brains due to interpreting all their little dots and dashes.  I would venture to say that more Arabic readers need glasses.  Hebrew didn’t have the dots and dashes until the Masoretes came along.  They had good intentions.  They did not live in the digital age.  They couldn’t record how the language sounded.  So they devised their own system that would represent the vowels.  Today, they would have been working for Microsoft, writing code.  They were technically accurate.  The work they did was tremendous and essential.  But it was not necessarily the greatest teaching methodology.

But when you are first starting out learning Hebrew, it can be a bit daunting to find that one letter has eight sounds, depending on how many dots and dashes it has.  Many teachers end up teaching Hebrew linguistics instead of the Hebrew language.

The dots and dashes show how the vowels work in Hebrew.  But let’s talk about words–words mean something to you.  When you learn a word, your brain grabs it as language, and you’ll pick up how the vowels work along the way.

Let me show you what I mean: you all know the Hebrew name Adam which means “man” in Hebrew.  First of all Hebrew doesn’t have any capital or small letters, so it’s ADAM.  A-DAM has two syllables.  The stress is on the first syllable, so Hebrew swallows up the unaccented vowel, and this is the result: ADM.

There are other features about the sylhebrew morphlables,  but one of the best ways to learn about how Hebrew works is to watch what I call the Hebrew Morph.  (Can someone write a song called “The Hebrew Morph?) The Hebrew Morph shows you the process of how an English word can be morphed into Hebrew.  To watch the Hebrew Morph in action, take the free course at Udemy called Learn Hebrew through the Bible.

Psalm 119 teaches you the Hebrew alphabet

Psalm 119 aleph

This is a picture of the first section of Psalm 119 in Hebrew.  Psalm 119 has 22 sections: one for each letter of the alphabet.  Notice how each verse begins with the same letter.  That letter is the Aleph: the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Its name is similar to the Greek letter, Alpha.  So the Hebrew alphabet is called the aleph-bet or aleph-bait.  Notice how we read Hebrew from right to left.  This is a type of Hebrew poetry called acrostics.  It helps you remember the verses too.  Listen to this psalm in Hebrew and learn the sounds of each letter of the Hebrew alphabet as the sound changes after eight verses.  http://www.mechon-mamre.org/mp3/t26b9.mp3

To learn more, check out the course “Learn Hebrew through the Bible” while it is still free at Udemy.