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Jun 30, 2010

how to say "to sense" in Hebrew... (click to view today's dose of Hebrew!)


I believe that empathic listening can solve most if not all of the world's interpersonal problems. Such listening takes two sides - an empathic listener and a speaker who is willing to be listened to.

An essential part of empathic listening is an emotional component - that is, when someone is listening with empathy, his heart is attuned to the heart of person he's listening to. She must be able to sense - לָחוּש (lah-HOOSH) the other person's changing emotional state.

In order to do that, הָאָדָם צָרִיךְ לָחוּשׁ אֶת הָרְגָשׁוֹת שֶׁל עַצְמו (hah-ah-DAHM tsah-REEKH lah-HOOSH et hah-reh-gah-SHOHT shel ahts-MOH) - the person needs to sense his/her own feelings.

Listen and repeat...

Today's call to action

I invite you to do a simple four-step process today:

1. Take a few moments to breathe deeply and לחוש your own emotional state.

2. The next conversation you get into, listen with an open heart - without interrupting except to demonstrate that you really understand the person.

3. Compare the quality of this conversation to that of other conversations that didn't involve empathic listening.

4. Pass on this call to action.

Jun 29, 2010

how to say "to take advantage of" in Hebrew...


In English, to take advantage can mean a personal violation, or it can mean a productive, sometimes win-win situation.

The same is true in Hebrew.

It's possible לְנַצֵּל בֶּן אָדָם (le-nah-TSEL ben ah-DAHM) - to take advantage of a person, such as a tourist in a foreign country that doesn't know the exchange rate. It's also possible לְנַצֵּל הִזְדַּמְּנוּת (le-nah-TSEL heez-dahm-NOOT) - to take advantage of an opportunity, such as this service that provides you with a free daily dose of Hebrew...

By the way... you're welcome to let all your friends in on this הזדמנות as well :)

This is the logo of a nonprofit organization in Israel that helps disadvantaged kids.
As far as I know, the organization has no idea that I've linked to them.


It's possible to rise in the world at the expense of others. That's the first meaning of לנצל that I've discussed.

But it's also possible to rise without hurting others... sometimes even helping others. Those are the הזדמנויות (heez-dahm-noo-YOHT) - opportunities - that are most worthwhile לנצל.

The Three Weeks Challenge

I invite you to seek one הזדמנות over the next day that will benefit yourself and someone else. If you'd like, you can share the wealth (the idea) with this blog's readers by hitting the comment field below.

In the meantime... listen and repeat...

learn to speak Hebrew with us... this summer!

Ulpan La-Inyan midsummer classes

We've got a midsummer session of our fun, relaxed and highly-effective conversational Hebrew classes, starting on July 25 and running through September 2.

We're offering a variety of levels at the AACI in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. 

To save 50 shekels, you must register by July 8.

I hope to see you in class! 
(I'll be sure to drop in at both locations)

how to say "to dedicate" in Hebrew...


If you've been to a synagogue or a Jewish family for a traditional Shabbat meal, you're more than likely familiar with the Hebrew word קִדּוֹש (kee-DOOSH) - Kiddush. In many synagogues, this word is associated with cholent, cake and coffee with non-dairy creamer.

The word קידוש itself means sanctification; the root is ק.ד.ש (, which bears the core concept of sanctity - that which is not mundane, but rather special, distinguished.

לְהַקְדִּיש (le-hahk-DEESH) is to dedicate or to set aside.

Today marks the opening of what is known in traditional Jewish circles as The Three Weeks. These are the weeks that trace, historically, from the invasion of Jerusalem by the Babylonians to their destruction of the Holy - Sacred - Temple. The latter occurred to both Temples, according to tradition, on the 9th of the Hebrew month of אָב (ahv).

The loss of the Temple signifies the loss of the Jewish dignity. And this is a very special - sacred - dignity.

What is Jewish dignity?

I believe that Jewish dignity is about doing that which is right in God's (proverbial) eyes. So that when we, as a people, resorted to wanton abandon of any boundaries, and to hatred and pettiness, we stripped ourselves of our dignity. And thus our Temple fell.

I wish to dedicate - להקדיש - the Ktzat Ivrit entries for the next three weeks to words that contribute to the growth and renewal of the Jewish People's dignity, which has begun taking place in our times. You'll find entries about caring and love, about listening and empathizing... about the very basic human desire for closeness which, if heeded, can unite us all, allow us to rejoice in our differences, and restore our dignity.

May we - the Jewish people as well as all humanity - build the Temple in our hearts, first and foremost.

Jun 28, 2010

how do you say "supply and demand" in Hebrew?

היצע וביקוש

If you know a bit of Hebrew, you're probably familiar with the word for please - בְּבַקָּשָׁה (be-vah-kah-SHAH). When saying please, we're actually saying, I'd like to have some of that! Likewise, the economic term for demand is בִּקּוּש (bee-KOOSH) - formed from the verb לְבַקֵּש (le-vah-KESH) - to ask for something/ to request.

If you know some more Hebrew (I think this word is in our Level 3 course), you know that to offer or to suggest is לְהַצִּיע (le-hah-TSEE-ah). So while an offer is a הַצָּעָה (hah-tsah-AH), supply - as in "there is a huge supply of therapists on Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley" - is הֵיצֵע (heh-TSEH-ah).

So supply and demand are היצע וביקוש.

Jun 26, 2010

how do you say "world cup" in Hebrew?

גביע העולם

The international term for this event that is capturing the world's attention is Mundial.

The Hebrew word for world is עוֹלָם (oh-LAHM), and the word for cup, or more specifically, goblet, is גָּבִיע (gah-VEE-ah). This is also the term for kiddush cup or becher in Yiddish.

So the Hebrew term for the World Cup is גָּבִיעַ הָעוֹלָם (gah-VEE-ah hah-oh-LAHM).

Thanks, Aaron, for the request.

Jun 24, 2010

learn to speak Hebrew with us... this summer!

Ulpan La-Inyan midsummer classes

We've got a midsummer session of our fun, relaxed and highly-effective conversational Hebrew classes, starting on July 25 and running through September 2.

We're offering a variety of levels at the AACI in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as an intensive form of our Level 3 class in the Beit Shemesh area (registration deadline for that one is this Sunday, June 27). 

To save 50 shekels on the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv courses, you must register by July 8.

I hope to see you in class! 
(I'll be sure to drop in at all locations)

how do you say "to show up" in Hebrew? plus a thought from this week's Torah portion


There are a few Hebrew verbs that can mean to show up. One is לְהוֹפִיע (le-hoh-FEE-ah), or literally, to appear. You'd use that one in the context of she showed up at the party - הִיא הוֹפִיעָה בַּמְּסִיבָּה (hee hoh-FEE-ah bah-meh-see-BAH).

Another sense of "showing up" is he showed up at the (army) base - הוּא הִתְיַצֵּב בַּבָּסִיס (hoo heet-yah-TSEHV bah-bah-SEES). This is the more formal usage of "showing up," coming from the root י.צ.ב (y.ts.b) which carries the concept of stablity

The guy on the right is Josh Churney,
my housemate and a soldier who helps keep Israel stable... and safe.

Why do I write about this word - להתייצב - today? Because it appears in this week's Torah portion, which has some important content I'd like to share with you.

Here's the storyline: An angel of God with a drawn sword stands firm - מִתְייצֵב (meet-yah-TSEHV) - in the riding path of Bil'am (בִּלְעָם - beel-AHM) and his donkey. Bil'am's donkey sees the angel, but Bil'am doesn't. The donkey gets scared and moves around, plops itself down on the ground... but since Bil'am doesn't see the angel, he gets frustrated and beats the donkey. The donkey then speaks to Bil'am, expressing her pain and sense of betrayal, but Bil'am doesn't listen and continues beating her - until his "eyes are open" (a translation from the Biblical text) and he suddenly sees what his donkey has been reacting to.

Children's stories, as I learned this week in my Level 5 class from one my wonderful students who presented on a children's book with a universal message, sometimes convey to kids (as well as adults) some of the most crucial messages they need to live in this world.

Says Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "adults are big children."

This children's tale placed smack in the middle of the Torah carries one of the most important messages the Book of Books has to convey - in my opinion, the most important message that our age needs to internalize and act upon.

Bil'am has no idea that an angel of God is standing before him. He doesn't see what the donkey sees. Therefore, he has no compassion for his faithful servant and long-time friend, and proceeds to act on the anger that instinctively arises.

I think the message is clear: When we don't listen to others... when we don't consider their point of view... when our hearts are closed to their emotional overtones and we act on our anger... we are liable to hurt them, sometimes even destroy an otherwise wonderful relationship. This stuff can destroy the world.

On the other hand, when we do listen to others with our hearts... when we consider their point of view with our full attention... when we open our hearts and just be with them without judging them... we begin to see a whole new world...  

And the world begins to change for the better.

This is a big piece of my personal work... and when I do it, it pays dividends.

שבת שלום - Shabbat Shalom

how do you say "kind" and "type" in Hebrew?

מין, סוג

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This entry is delivered at the request of all-star Ulpan La-Inyan faithful, Ruti.

So there are (at least) two words for "type" or "kind" in Hebrew: מִין (meen) and סוּג (soog). What's the difference? When should one use which?

First of all, they're very close synonyms. The English equivalents to these words are also a pair of synonyms: type and kind. The first comes from a Greek/Latin root (via the Norman/French invasion to Britain in 1066), and the second is a genuine Germanic root.

The difference between the two now-English words? It's subtle, at best.

מין appears in Biblical Hebrew - this I know from the first chapter of Genesis. In that context, the word refers to a species.

I looked up סוג and confirmed my suspicion: the word doesn't appear in Biblical Hebrew at all! (if someone has seen it in the Bible, please challenge me) It probably comes from a different language - possibly Aramaic.

The two Hebrew words - מין and סוג - have very similar meanings. A distinction I can draw is that מין tends to refer to what we'd call in English a sort of something, whereas סוג is more descriptive.

For example, you might speak about three different types of shoes - שְׁלֹשָׁה סוּגֵי נַעֲלָיִים (shloh-SHAH soo-GHEI nah-ah-LAH-yeem). You wouldn't say three different sorts of shoes.

But you would say אֵיזֶה מִין אוֹכֶל זֶה? (EI-zeh meen OH-khel zeh) - what kind/sort of food is this? if what you mean is "I don't really like this food," or perhaps, "I like it a lot, and I'm curious as to what country it came from."

מין also has the meaning of gender or sex, whereas סוג doesn't have anything to do with those.

I hope this helped to clarify.

Jun 23, 2010

how do you say "transparent" in Hebrew?


Today I was on the phone with Adam Ross, Ulpan La-Inyan's Director of Marketing, when all of a sudden a quite powerful gust of wind came and slammed my office/bedroom door shut and shattering all the glass, yielding this:

The spots on the door are not stains; rather, they are specs of dust on my phone camera's lens, which I have not yet been successful in removing.

So now, my office/bedroom door is transparent or see-through. There goes my privacy.

The upshot is I've got a word for you all: שָׁקוּף (shah-KOOF) - transparent. (masculine)

הַדֶּלֶת שְׁקוּפָה (hah-DEH-let shkoo-FAH) - the door is transparent. (here transparent is feminine, since it refers to the door, a feminine object in Hebrew)

And transparency, as in, "Facebook has a policy of transparency"? שְׁקִיפוּת (shkee-FOOT).

Jun 22, 2010

how do you say "heat," "fever" and "warmth" in Hebrew?


Help us get the Hebrew word out there!
Forward this to a friend or two!

Yes, single Hebrew word above means all three of those things in English: heat, fever and warmth.

The word is חוֹם (hohm) - not to be confused with the color brown - חוּם (hoom).

Here are two Hebrew songs by two of my favorite Israeli musicians. Both have חוֹם in the chorus, but they are used to mean two different things.

Listen to the two songs, trying to identify which meaning of חום appears in each based on whatever context you can understand.
Can't see the videos?

חום יולי-אוגוסט מאת שלמה ארצי
Hom Yuli-August by Shlomo Artzi

מהרי נא מאת אהוד בנאי
Mahari Na - by Ehud Banai

Jun 20, 2010

how do you say "Father's Day" in Hebrew?

יום האב

I dedicate today's dose to my father, the man who taught me the language I now give over to you. Why? Because today (Sunday) is Father's Day, at least in the States (in case you forgot like I almost did :).

אַבָּא (AH-bah) is usually one of the first words uttered by an Israeli child. It means dad. The more proper word - the equivalent to the English father - is אָב (AHV).

So today is יוֹם הָאָב (yohm hah-AHV) - Father's Day.

לְכָל הָאָבוֹת (le-KHOHL hah-ah-VOHT) - to all the fathers (notice that the plural for אב has a feminine ending - that's often the case with nouns) - יוֹם הָאָב שָׂמֵח (yohm hah-AHV sah-MEH-akh) - Happy Father's Day!

Listen and repeat...

by Ami Steinberger Founder and Director, Ulpan La-Inyan
Enjoying Your Daily Dose of Hebrew? Consider making a donation!

how do you say "I believe" in Hebrew?


I think I've already done this word a while ago, but after a wonderful Shabbat that was wonderful as a result of certain acts of אמונה (see below for Hebrew explanation) on my part, I feel it's nice to reprise.

I believe that אֶמוּנָה (eh-moo-NAH) is important for a happy, healthy life. There are even studies that attest people with אמונה - faith - living longer than those without. 

To believe is לְהַאֲמִין (le-hah-ah-MEEN). I believe, stated by a male is אֲנִי מַאֲמִין (ah-NEE mah-ah-MEEN); stated by a female, it's אני מאמינָה (ah-NEE mah-ah-mee-NAH).

The root of the verb is א.מ.נ (a.m.n), the same root as the Hebrew word for Amen - אָמֵן (ah-MEN).

Here's Eyal Golan (and here are the lyrics) - listen for the word and repeat it.
(can't see the video?)

One of the things he sings about in the song is that the Jewish nation is a family, and that's our secret - many individuals. I get now that what he's probably referring to is accepting our other family members for exactly who they are at this moment as well as  accepting ourselves thus - all with an eye for their and our potential - and therefore loving them fully.

That takes אמונה.

Jun 17, 2010

today there was a big one - how do you say "demonstration" in Hebrew?


To my Level-5-ers - you've already had this lesson. Consider it review :).

The Hebrew word for demonstration - political or otherwise - is הַפְגָּנָה (hahf-gah-NAH). 

To demonstrate or to display is לְהַפְגִּין (le-hahf-GHEEN). For example, הוּא מַפְגִּין עִנְיָן בַּלִּמּוּדִים (hoo mahf-GHEEN een-YAHN bah-lee-moo-DEEM) - he displays interest in (his/the) studies.

Today there was a big הפגנה throughout Israel, and it was painted by the media as an incredible statement of racism made by the חָרֵדִי (hah-reh-DEE) - "Ultra Orthodox" - segment of the population.

I'm glad I allowed reason to take over my anger enough to ask the question, what's really going on here? I'm glad, because I discovered that the issue isn't racism or discrimination at all. More importantly, I (again) realize that there are always two sides to a story. Unfortunately, the media has tended to favor one side in this case, which has resulted in nothing less than hatred.

If you're interested in this issue, I invite you to read this article, sent to me by one of my Level-5-ers.

שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם לְכוּלָם (shah-BAHT shah-LOHM le-khoo-LAHM) - a Sabbath of peace to all.

how do you say "Palestinian Authority" in Hebrew?


The word for Authority, as in the Palestinian Authority, is רָשׁוּת (rah-SHOOT). The Palestinian Authority is הָרָשׁוּת הַפַלֶסְטִינִית (hah-fah-less-TEE-neet). I use an f instead of a p because Arabic speakers don't have the p sound - so that when they pronounce this Latin word, Palestine, you'll often hear either Falestine or Balestine.

The plural is רָשׁוּיוֹת (rah-shoo-YOHT), as in, אַל תָּגִידוּ לָרָשׁוּיוֹת (ahl tah-GHEE-doo lah-rah-shoo-YOHT) - don't tell the authorities!

Watch this spoof video (can't see it?) to hear the word in action. Listen and repeat.

Jun 16, 2010

how do you say "a date" in Hebrew?

דייט, וכו.

My Level 5 class at AACI Jerusalem is composed partly of some self-proclaimed yentes - people (usually ladies) who like to talk a lot.

So the word for date (as in a non-platonic meeting between two people) came up. My students were surprised that the word for date in Hebrew is none other than דֵּייט (date).

a דייט as featured in the hit Israeli TV series, סרוגים (Srugim)

The truth is, דייט is the colloquial way of saying it. A more "correct" way of saying it is פְּגִישָׁה (p-gee-SHAH), but that word is the generic term for meeting and therefore doesn't carry the same punch as דייט. So don't use it to mean date in the more exciting, romantic sense.

If you like dates or talking about them, you should know that our Level 3 curriculum follows a dramatic storyline that begins with a דייט. And while we're on the topic of Level 3, we've got a new session of friendly, state-of-the-art courses starting July 25.

And don't confuse דייט with דִּייֶטָה (dee-YEH-tah) - which means diet.

Jun 15, 2010

how do you say "enlightened" in Hebrew?


A couple of years ago I worked with a man named נָאוֹר (nah-OHR), who runs a non-profit organization in Tel Aviv. I thought about it, looked it up to confirm, and discovered that his name indeed means enlightened. The female version of the word/name is נְאוֹרָה (ne-oh-RAH). 

The word/name is actually a derivative of the נִפְעָל (neef-AHL) verb form. If you don't know what I mean by that, don't worry.

Why do I share this? Because tonight I went to the Jerusalem Light Festival - so I thought of featuring a word that is a derivative of אוֹר (ohr) - light.

Here's a picture from last year's Festival:

Jun 14, 2010

...and my radio show - Israeli music explained

תכנית רדיו

Tune into RustyMike Radio at 3pm Israel time (8am EST) on Monday to hear me presenting Israeli music with brief explanations (usually key words or basic content).

I do this every week.

If you've got requests for songs, let me know (you can just reply to this email).

how do you say "a funny" in Hebrew?


To laugh, in Modern Hebrew, is לִצְחוֹק (leets-KHOHK). It's the same word used for making fun. In that case, the appropriate preposition following לצחוק would be על (ahl) - on. For example, זֶה לֹא יָפֶה לִצְחוֹק עַל אֲנָשִׁים (zeh loh yah-FEH leets-KHOHK ahl ah-nah-SHEEM) - it's not nice to make fun of people.

That's the thing - prepositions don't translate well from one language to another. If you've seen the movie Borat (recommended for about 15% of the readership), perhaps you recall the main character saying something to the effect of "I make a laugh on him" (meaning, "I made fun of him"). Why does he use the word on? Why not use about? Well, that's because Sacha Baron Cohen - the film's Jewish creator and main actor - is translating from Hebrew... as opposed to Kazakh. 

Another famous (to some) movie character that has a rather peculiar usage of לצחוק, at least in English, is Splinter, the giant, wise rat in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the live-action film, Splinter says "I made a funny" - which is akin to the Hebrew, צָחַקְתִּי (tsah-KHAHK-tee) - I made a joke.

The fact that Hebrew's usage has proliferated so among diverse cultures represented in Hollywood lends further proof that Hebrew is actually the mother of all tongues (okay, this argument isn't that compelling...).

Jun 13, 2010

how to do you say "to reinvent" in Hebrew?

להמציא מחדש

To "re" do something in Hebrew is לְ--- מֵחָדָש (le.... meh-hah-DAHSH).

To reinvent the wheel is לְהַמְצִיא מֵחָדָש אֶת הַגַּלְגַל (le-hahm-TSEE meh-hah-DAHSH et hah-gahl-GAHL).

It's not recommended. It takes too much time. 

Jun 10, 2010

how do you say "to get better" in Hebrew?


This one's for my friend Rachel in Baltimore, an amazing young woman whom I pray receives a complete, speedy recovery.

Perhaps you know the Hebrew word for healthy - בָּרִיא (bah-REE).

It's traditional among Jews to wish someone who is not well, a complete recovery - רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה (re-foo-AH shleh-MAH). In Modern Hebrew, there's a word for to get better (from illness): לְהַבְרִיא (le-hahv-REE). 

Jun 9, 2010

how do you say "integrity" in Hebrew?


Perhaps you know the Hebrew word for straight - יָשָׁר (yah-SHAHR).

The word for integrity, or straightness, is יוֹשֶׁר (YOH-shehr).

If someone does something with integrity, it's בְּיוֹשֶׁר (be-YOH-shehr). For example, הוּא מִתְנַהֵג בְּיוֹשֶׁר עִם הַלָּקוֹחוֹת שֶׁלּו (hoo meet-nah-HEG be-YOH-shehr eem ha-lah-koh-KHOHT sheh-LO) - he behaves (acts) with integrity with his clients.

The Torah outlines through calls-to-action how to live a life of יושר, among other qualities.

Ktzat Ivrit Expansion Project

הַרְחָבָה (hahr-khah-VAH) - expansion

There are now several hundred people receiving this daily email, many of whom have contacted me telling me they're enjoying it.

I would like to triple this number over the next month - so that three times the amount of people are learning Hebrew (for free!!!), and three times as many people are exposed to the Ulpan La-Inyan program - which, I intend, will make learning Hebrew easier and more accessible to everyone who wishes to do so.

My request to you

If you're enjoying your daily dose of Hebrew and would like to share it with others, I invite you to forward this email to three of your friends, family, colleagues, etc, whom you think would enjoy it too, asking them to hit the link below:

Thank you.

Ami Steinberger
Founder and CEO, Ulpan La-Inyan

how do you say "humid" in Hebrew?

לח, לחות

Tonight I celebrated my grandmother's birthday with her, and my aunt and uncle in Tel Aviv.

I was refreshed by the change in humidity from arid Jerusalem to a warmer, more damp air quality. Most people I know prefer the dryer weather. But I am reminded of a wonderful year I spent in Raanana as a teenager. During that year I learned virtually nothing in the classroom (because I was too busy hopping the fence of the school, hanging out, etc.) but I did internalize some of the most important messages about Israel and the Jewish people that shaped how (and where) I lead my life today.

at Park Raanana

So here's how to say humid: לַח (lahkh) - kind of like Loch Ness. Humidity is לָחוּת (lah-KHOOT). For example, אֲנִי אוֹהֵב אֶת הַלָּחוּת (ah-NEE oh-HEHV et hah-lah-KHOOT) - I like (the) humidity.