How I Make My Wife Sick…

I have actually already learned Hebrew.  At least, I can read it well enough.  My teacher thought that my only purpose was to read, while my purpose was simply to learn the language.  I wish I could speak it.  Were I taught to speak it, reading it would be a piece of cake.

I started with foreign languages in high school Spanish.  That was easy enough.  Then one summer, I learned Quenya.  It’s a language created by J.R.R. Tolkien that uses an abugida—a system of consonant signs (tengwar) with vowel and other modifying marks (tehtar).  The concept of vowel marks wasn’t foreign to me when I started Hebrew.  The only differences were the direction that you read and write, and that Hebrew is an abjad—you can leave the vowel marks out, and it’s still correct.

The fact that Hebrew words are built from three-letter roots, and several words can be made from the same root, reveals certain things that would be connected in the Hebrew mind.  “Knee” and “bless” (BRK)—you might kneel before someone who blesses you.  “Cattle” and “morning” (BKR)—you milk the cows in the morning.  Though I was once criticized for connecting the DBR words “word/speak” and “desert”.  Wouldn’t a Jew think about God speaking to them in the desert?

I love the way they use repetition.  King of Kings and Holy of Holies—fantastic constructs.  There are a few phrases that seem redundant to us, but to them it just means that it’s intense.  “You will die dying” or “He has triumphed triumphantly”.  I love how vivid it sounds.

And then, there is the infamous tetragrammaton.  YHWH.  The personal name of God.  So sacred, that eventually the Jews stopped saying it, pronouncing it “Adonay” or “Elohiym” instead.  They added vowel points to it differentiate which one it should be, and these words were later transliterated “Jehovah” or the much, much rarer “Jehovih”.  Eventually, our English Bibles printed the words “Lord” or “God”, and sometimes “Lord God,” “Lord God”, or even, “Lord God” (copied these over from Word, Firefox dropped their smallcaps… whoops).  Somewhere along the way, everyone forgot how to say “YHWH”.


One Response

  1. I think I should sit next to you when we take the alphabet quiz…ok I will probably fail the class for cheating, albeit it would help.

    I remember the first time I heard about the Jews respect for the name of God. regardless of the differences between the two faiths, I do admire the respect for God. I saw a political cartoon (for which I cannot for the life of me remember where) but it was a sketch of two toilets. In one was the Qur’an and in the other a Bible. The toilet with the Qur’an had a caption that said something like “hate crime” (or something like that) and the toilet with the Bible said “Art”

    It made me think of the total lack of disrespect that our society has for God.

    I am not envious of the laws that Jews follow in order to honor God, but I do wish we mimicked the devotion that fuels such obedience

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