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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew’

Jewish Survival in the Face of Existential Threats: a Focus on Women

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Women have exercised their inherent gift of intuition and bravery to influence the course of Jewish history from the earliest time recorded.

The dramatic confrontation between Sarah and Avraham over the choice of successor, in effect a struggle over the survival of Judaism, was reenacted a generation later between Rivka and Yitzchak. In the face of his own preference, Rivka, just like Sarah, was intrinsically directed to choose the optimal heir to Yitzchak.

Egyptian Exile and Exodus are pivotal landmarks in the history of our people’s struggle for survival. References to Galut Mitzrayim (Exile in Egypt) and Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt) are central to the entire corpus of Jewish socio-ethical teaching. Against such background, the rabbinic dictum that “It is to the credit of the righteous women that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11) is quite remarkable. Our rabbis recognized the roles women played in making redemption possible.

The Hebrew midwives, who at the risk of their lives defied the edict of Pharaoh “and let the children live” (Sh’mot 1:17), were rewarded for their great courage, and “G-d granted a bounty for the midwives, and the nation multiplied and grew very mighty” (Sh’mot 1:20). The other women also did their share to ensure survival by keeping their appearance attractive and boosting their husbands’ morale.

Within this context the Midrash focuses on the role of Miriam whose admonishment prompted her own father to resume his marital duty. And so, the birth and survival of Moshe, the Divine instrument of Israel’s redemption, was the consequence of intuitive acts by a number of women which included, besides Miriam and Yocheved, even Pharaoh’s daughter who, by adopting Moshe and providing a Hebrew nurse for him, completed the first phase of Israel’s redemption.

Regarding the next phase of redemption, Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, our rabbis claim that the women were given the Torah first because it is they who teach their children “the ways of the Torah.” The teachers of “the way” to the next generation hold the secret of a people’s survival. They are the bridge to the Jewish future.

The Biblical precedent established a pattern for women of later generations to have a historically defined role as the vanguard in the struggle of Jewish survival. At every crucial juncture women have stepped into the historical vacuum to provide roles as unseen movers based on their prophetic intuition and their ability “to tune into” the existential self of the Jewish people.

From Rebbetzin Recha Freier who spearheaded a movement which evolved into the Youth Aliyah, a major instrument of rescue for Jewish children during the Holocaust, to Rivka Gruber, teacher, librarian, and social worker, who, after her two sons fell in Israel’s War of Independence, became the founder of a string of settlements in the Sharon Valley, women have been silent movers, creating educational, social, health and welfare infrastructures for the Jewish community.

And how about the women in our present situation of surrounding existential threat, the war of terror in Israel?

That chapter is being written even as we speak. Do you remember the name Chava Shatsky? How could you? She is one among innumerable heroines whose children were murdered by Arab terrorists, one name among hundreds. Her 15 year-old daughter Keren was killed by an Arab terrorist in the Karne Shomron mall on Motzei Shabbat, February 16, 2002.

I happen to remember because of a personal connection. Reading in The Jewish Press that Karen and the other casualties were pupils in Kedumim’s Ulpana Lehava, where someone from my family taught English, I immediately contacted her to offer my emotional support. When I started to speak and my words drowned in tears, it was she who comforted me. Yes, Keren was her pupil, she said, and Keren’s mother, Chava Shatsky, was the chairman of the department at Lehava.

“You must speak to Chava,” she advised me. “Chava will give you chizuk, strength… she gave chizuk to all of us. In our grief over Keren, the faith of Keren’s mother gave us all strength,” the young teacher said. When I expressed profound amazement, she continued: “Yes, it is amazing. Yet there are many other women who react similarly. And these women are the guarantee that we will make it,” she said with pride.

The young teacher’s words helped me. They helped me cope with the grief and face the future. Indeed, these heroic mothers, like Jewish women throughout our history of confrontation with existential threats are the guarantee that we will make it.

Ancient Text May Have Been Written in Hebrew

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

In July, JewishPress.com reported on archaeologists finding a 3000 year old, jar fragment written in a seemingly unknown script, it has been called the Ophel Inscription. The Ophel is the archaeology park next to the Temple Mount where the jar segment was uncovered.

Near Eastern history and Biblical studies expert Douglas Petrovich told Fox News that he believes that the writing is in an ancient Hebrew script.

If Petrovich’s analysis is right, then this is the earliest example of written Hebrew found to date, and scientific proof that the Israelites were able to compose the Tanach in real-time.

For more information, read about the background of the find.

Oldest Alphabetical Written Text Found near Temple Mount

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Hebrew University archaeologists have found the oldest known alphabetical inscription from Jerusalem, dating back to the period of Kings David or Solomon, 250 years before the previously oldest known written text.

The inscription was found near the Temple Mount but is not in Hebrew and was from the pre-Temple period, in the language of one of the peoples who occupied Israel at the time, according to the archaeologists.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription’s meaning is unknown.

The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar’s contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar unearthed the artifact, in the Canaanite language and engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. He said it is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and is an important addition to the city’s history.

The previously oldest known script, in Hebrew, was from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BCE.

The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in.

An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.

According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and probably wound around the jar’s shoulder, while the remaining portion is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning.

This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem.

This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem.

How to Say “Era” in Hebrew

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

The Hebrew word for period of time or era is תְּקוּפָה (listen and repeat). I’ve known this for a long time, but not its full meaning – until I just researched it to present it to you.

The word appears in the Bible, but its meaning has become less and less specific over the generations. In Biblical Hebrew, תקופה refers to a particular point in time that marks the culmination of a cycle. In Mishnaic Hebrew, it refers to a period of time that repeats itself. And in Modern Hebrew, it refers to any period of time. (ויקימילון)

I fully grasped the word’s meaning when I saw its root – ק.ו.פ (k.w.p), the same root as the word for to encompass - לְהָקִיף (listen and repeat). The root ק.ו.פ is about coming full-circle. Thus a תקופה, even in Modern Hebrew, is a period of time – with a beginning and an end.

An example: מִלְחֶמֶת הָעוֹלָם הַשְּׁנִיָּה הָיְתָה תְּקוּפָה קָשָׁה לָאֱנוֹשׁוּת.

World War II was a difficult period of time for humanity. (listen)

And in lighter context: הֵם בָּאוּ לְבַקֵּר לִתְקוּפָה קְצָרָה.

They came to visit for a short time. (listen)

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In Hebrew: ‘Intelligence Agency’

Friday, May 31st, 2013

סוֹכְנוּת בִּיּוּן Yesterday we saw some information about הַמּוֹסָד- the Mossad.

Today we’ll look at the general term for intelligence agencyסוֹכְנוּת בִּיּוּן.

The Hebrew word for agency is סוכנות, most recognizably in the Hebrew name of The Jewish Agencyהַסּוֹכְנוּת הַיְּהוּדִית, or simply הסוכנות- The Agency. A סוֹכֵן(male) or סוֹכֶנֶת(female) is an agent, so סוכנותmeans agency. This term comes from Biblical Hebrew.

The word for intelligence in the context of an intelligence agency is בִּיּוּן. This word comes from the Biblical root ב.ו.נ (b.w.n) or ב.י.נ (b.y.n), internalization.

You may recognize this root in the word for to understandלְהָבִין. But whereas in להבין, the root is plugged into the active-causative הִפְעִיל verb form, in ביון, the root is plugged into the active-intensive פִּעֵל form yielding the verb לְבַיֵּןand its noun form ביון.

So what do לבייןand ביון mean, specifically? In mathematics there is a concept called interpolation, which involves estimating the location of various data points within a range – a precise, sophisticated game of connect the dots. Which is exactly what an intelligence agency – a סוכנות ביון- does – it “connects the dots” in a real-life political, often international scenario to create a plan of action.

You may be familiar with the word מוֹדִיעִין, also referring to intelligence (as well as to a city situated between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), as in חֵיל הַמּוֹדִיעִין- the IDF’s Intelligence Corps. In that phrase, intelligence refers to gathering information rather than interpoling, so מודיעין, of the root י.ד.ע meaning knowledge, is used.

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In Hebrew: ‘Institution’

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

מוֹסָד

The Mossad – Israel’s premier intelligence agency – is famous for conducting some of the most daring and surprising undercover missions in the world.

The word Mossad in Hebrew - מוֹסָד- means institution or institute.

Referring to the intelligence agency, we say literally, The Institute - הַמּוֹסָד.

For example, educational institutions are מוֹסְדוֹת חִנּוּכִיִּם(though מוסד is a masculine noun, it takes on a feminine suffix when used in the plural).

מוסד comes from the root י.ס.ד (y.s.d) meaning foundation - an institution has been instituted or founded.

To institute is לְמַסֵּד, an active-intensive פִּעֵל verb.

For example:

בַּמֶּמֶשָׁלָה מִשְׁתַּדְּלִים לְמַסֵּד גִּיּוּס חוֹבָה לְכֻלָּם.

In the government (people are) trying to institute a mandatory draft for everyone.

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In Hebrew: The Many Ways to Say ‘Of Course’

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

בֶּטַח, בָּרוּר, כַּמּוּבָן! In monday’s dose of Hebrew, we touched on the Hebrew word for securityבִּטָּחוֹן. The root of בטחון is ב.ט.ח meaning sureness and security.

To say, for sure! or of course! in Hebrew, you’d use one of several terms. Here are three of them:

בטח! A less formal way of expressing of course or for sure is to say !בֶּטַח. This word means, literally, securely! To strengthen the tone of agreement, some say !בֶּטַח שֶׁכֵּן- literally, of course that yes!

Take this short dialogue for example:

אַתָּה בָּא אִתָּנוּ לַסֶּרֶט? בֶּטַח שֶׁכֵּן! Are you (a male) coming with us to the movie? Of course I am!

ברור! Another informal way of saying of course uses the word for clearlyבָּרוּר.

כמובן! The more formal word for of course is כַּמּוּבָן. It means, literally, as that which is understood, with כַּmeaning as that which or as the, and מוּבָןmeaning understood. מובן is an adjective deriving from the passive-causative הֻפְעַל verb form, the opposite of the active-causative verb,לְהָבִין- to understand.

Take another short dialogue for example:

הַאִם הֵם מֻזְמָנִים לַמְּסִבָּה?
כַּמּוּבָן!
Are they invited to the party?
Of course!
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In Hebrew: ‘To Carry’

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

לָשֵׂאת One Torah portion recently read on Shabbat by Jews around the world is called נָשֹא (nah-SOH), which, literally, means lift up or carry (in the Biblical context, it meanstake a census or lift up the heads of children of Gershon, so that they can be counted).

The infinitive form of that word is לָשֵׂאת (lah-SET). In Modern Hebrew, לשאת means to carry. However, unlike the word carry in English, a very common word, לשאת is most often used to refer to carrying in a non-literal sense.

For example:

הִיא נוֹשֵׂאת אֶת הַתִּינוֹק. She is carrying the baby. (hee noh-SET et hah-tee-NOHK).

הֵם נוֹשְׂאִים בְּאַחְרָיוּת הָאֵרוּעַ. They are taking responsibility (literally, carrying the responsibility) for the event. The more common, literal word in Hebrew for to carry is לִסְחוֹב (lees-KHOHV), meaning literally, to drag or to carry with difficulty… or just to schlep.
For example:

הוּא סוֹחֵב הַרְבֵּה דְּבָרִים בַּיָדָיו.
He is carrying lots of things in his hands.
(hoo soh-KHEV hahr-BEH deh-vah-REEM beh-yah-DAHV).
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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/ktzat-ivrit/in-hebrew-to-carry/2013/05/28/

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