Special Sub-Topic: Biblical Hebrew Alphabet and other points
|True or False? The first letter of the Biblical Hebrew Alphabet is "aleph". It is a pronounced as a guttural and has no corresponding English equivalent?|
True. While it is a artistic looking letter, it is barely recognizable in pronunciation. The vowel mark below it is the sound you recognize at first.
|Are there 2 letters that look absolutely alike in Biblical Hebrew, except for one small aspect?|
Yes. The letters sin (sounds like "seen") and Shin (Sounds like "Sheen") look just alike. They both look like the English "W". The exception is a point above the far right stem of the "W" which makes the letter "shin". If the dot is over the left stem of the letter, it is pronounced as an "S" sound. If the dot is on the right, then it is pronounced as a "Sh" sound.
|Traditional Hebrew texts have always included the vowel points.|
False. In traditional Hebrew texts there are no vowel points because in the earliest days Papyrus was a precious commodity and so they did not waste the space to place vowel points in the texts. The rabbis and teachers already knew what the word was and knew how it was to be pronounced.
You can go to the Jewish Virtual Library to learn more about this great language:
|This letter is the smallest in appearance, but also begins the name of the Jewish or Christian God. Can you guess which one?|
Yod (the "o" sound is the long vowel sound). The tradition in Hebrew text is that the Name of God has no vowel points and is never pronounced. It is traditional for the interpreter or Rabbi (Teacher) to substitute "Adonai" for the name that appears in the text itself. This is done out of respect and awe for their Lord.
There is also a tradition that states that if you know someone's name, then you have power over them. By simply uttering their name you have their attention. This was also believed to be true of God, thus they never fully copied God's name and eventually all who knew the name in full died off and never revealed it completely. There are educated guesses out there, but nothing definitive with proof.
|In Hebrew school, we learned a song about a vegetable that begins with this Hebrew letter. Can you name it?|
Mem. The song was called "Malafaphone". That is spelled phonetically. It was fun for awhile, but it is one of those songs that can get stuck in your head and you have trouble getting rid of it, even after you are tired of it.
|Another song we learned uses two of the letters to begin both words. It was called "King David" in English; can you guess the Hebrew letters' names?|
Dalet and Mem. Phonetically it is spelled "Daweed Melek". It, too, was fun at first; but after awhile we got tired of it also. It did teach us the letters very well. Songs are a great way to learn any new language. We should have done this in German and Spanish classes in middle school and high school.
|One of my favorite times in Hebrew school was when we translated the Book of Jonah. Of course my favorite part is in Chapter 2, Verse 10, where he is thrown out of the fish's belly. What letter does the word meaning "vomit" begin with?|
Quf. The word in Biblical Hebrew is (phonetically) "ki" . The last syllable has the guttural Aleph on the end; which as learned earlier, makes no audible noise.
|One trick we always tried is to sound out the word and see if we can make out what it is phonetically. You cannot do this with one Hebrew word. It is the word for "Egypt". It begins with this letter of the alphabet.|
Mem. The Biblical Hebrew word is "Mitzrim". That is not even close to how it sounds in English. It never failed that one of us at some point in Hebrew School would try to either conjugate this as a verb. We quickly learned that you don't conjugate proper nouns like names of countries.
|Besides "Shin" and "sin", there are two other Hebrew letters that look a lot alike. If you are not careful, you could mistake the one for the other. Unfortunately they do not make the same or similar sounds.|
True. The letters are "Chet", which makes a hard "k" sound and the other is "Tav" which makes the "t" sound. The difference is that the front leg of the letter "Tav" (the one on the left side of the letter) looks like a Swiss Alphorn or a Smoker's Tobacco Pipe lying on its side. "Chet" only has the straight leg in that same place.
|Yes or No: There is a Hebrew Alphabet song.|
y. It is a fun song. Unfortunately I do not know the tune we were taught, but there are versions out on the web that use other catchy tunes to help you remember them in order.
I hope you had fun playing.
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