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Aug 30, 2011

how to say "thunder" in Hebrew...


having trouble seeing the print?


רַעַם, לְהַרְעִים




Yesterday we discussed lightning and related words. That's the visual element in thunderstorm. Today we'll discuss the sound element - thunder.


The word for thunder itself is רַעַם (RAH-ahm). It appears in the Bible, notably in Psalm 104 (verse 7): מִן גַּעֲרָתְךָ יְנוּסוּן, מִן קוֹל רַעַמְךָ יֵחָפֵזוּן - from Your reprimand do they flee, from the sound of Your thunder do they hasten away (meen gheh-ah-rah-teh-KHAH yeh-noo-SOON, meen kohl rah-ahm-KHAH yeh-khah-peh-ZOON). This is the psalm traditionally recited on רֹאש חֹדֶש (rohsh KHOH-desh), the beginning of the Jewish month, as it gloriously portrays the creation of the world - and the rejuvenation that that creation inspires in the observing human being.


The Christian philospher Immanuel Kant once
said that it would be worth studying Hebrew
for ten years just to read Psalm 104.
The noun רעם is also taken as a verb stem, used in the word to thunder: לְהַרְעִים (leh-hahr-EEM). This word is not widely used in Modern Hebrew, though it appears many times in the Bible. It's an active-causative הפעיל (heef-EEL) verb.




Don't forget to tune in to my Israeli music hour, tomorrow (Wednesday) from noon to 1pm Israel time, when I introduce and translate some Israeli music so you can get into this passionate, courageous and audaciously fun culture.





Today's dose of Hebrew is sponsored by Yom Tov




I've seen his amazing art at Hechal Shlomo and even acquired a piece myself.

Check out Yom Tov's virtual gallery,
and visit his Kohelet exhibition in Jerusalem.
It's open 
throughout the summer.

Aug 29, 2011

how to say "news flash" in Hebrew...


having trouble seeing the print?

מִבְזָק


When I said this term meant news flash this morning to Adam on RustyMike Radio, he said, "I haven't heard that in a while." 


Indeed, the English version of Ynet (the Hebrew is ynet.co.il) renders מִבְזָקִים (meev-zah-KEEM) as updates instead of news flashes.


I guess I translated מִבְזָק (meev-ZAHK) as news flash because of the imagery that comes to mind when I say or hear the word.




The root of מבזק is ב.ז.ק (b.z.k), appearing only once in the Bible as lightning, in Ezekiel's spectacular Vision of the Chariot, יחזקאל א,י"ד (Ezekiel 1:14). Thus a news flash, in Modern Hebrew, is a מִבְזָק חַדָשׁוֹת. There, the word used is בָּזָק (bah-ZAHK).


The far more common word for lightning - both in the Bible and in Modern Hebrew - is phonetically very close to the one I mention above, בָּרָק (bah-RAHK). It could be that at the time and place of Ezekiel, the sounds corresponding to the ר (r) and ז (z) letters (at least one of the sounds corresponding to ז) were nearly identical. In the Arabic (one of Hebrew's sister-languages) alphabet anyway, the letters for ר and ז look almost identical: ز  and ر.



What about the phone company?
You may know that Israel's largest phone company is בֶּזֶק (BEH-zek), a word that appears in the Bible as the name of a city. Look at the word, and you'll find that all three letters from the root of מבזק are there.






What's the connection? I'm not sure. One theory I have is that the telephone once revolutionized communication so that a dialogue across town, or across oceans, would bounce back and forth like lightning. The phone, along with telecommunications in general, is really quite marvelous.



A Hebrew learning tool
I highly recommend:

Aug 28, 2011

how to say "preparedness" in Hebrew...


כּוֹנְנוּת



In spite of existential threat, life goes on in Israel. Of course, we prepare for whatever calamity may threaten us, including setting up an "iron dome" and an alarm system so that the residents of towns bombarded daily from Gaza have a safety plan.


Likewise, the people living on the eastern seaboard of the United States stand in preparedness.






The Hebrew expression preparedness or readiness is כּוֹנְנוּת (koh-neh-NOOT). For example, צָהָ"ל עוֹמֵד בּכוֹנְנוּת בִּפְנֵי כָּל אִיּוּם - the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) stands in preparedness in the face of any threat (TSAH-hahl oh-MED beh-khoh-neh-NOOT beef-NEH-ee kohl ee-YOOM).






כ.ו.נ (k.w.n), the root of כוננות, is the same as that of a list of words that may be familiar to you:
כֵּן - yes (ken)
נָכוֹן - correct (nah-KHOHN)
מוּכַן - ready (moo-KHAHN)
לְהִתְכּוֹנֵן - to get ready (leh-heet-koh-NEN)
מְכוֹנָה - machine (meh-khoh-NAH)
מְכוֹנִית - car, automobile (meh-khoh-NEET)
and more.


This ubiquitous root means establishment or firmness. Thus our word, כוננות, can be understood as standing firm or poised, well established in the wake of alarm.





Today's dose of Hebrew is sponsored by Yom Tov




I've seen his amazing art at Hechal Shlomo and even acquired a piece myself.

Check out Yom Tov's virtual gallery,
and visit his Kohelet exhibition in Jerusalem.
It's open 
throughout the summer.

Aug 26, 2011

how to say "bookbinding" in Hebrew...


כְּרִיכָה


In Egypt and Iran, the masses are demonstrating against Israel. At least one person in Tehran (the president), is vowing that the establishment of a Palestinian state will be the first step towards making the entire "Palestine" a Muslim state. As for the Jews inhabiting their native land... well, Ahmadinejad's purported solution is well known.






In Israel in the meantime, there are also demonstrations - as well as rockets falling on our southern towns fired by the peace-loving inhabitants of Gaza. But life certainly goes on. I just sent PDF files to the printer I work with in Tel Aviv, to print spiral-bound booklets for the Levels 1 and 2 classes starting on Sunday in Tel Aviv and Raanana (Level 3-ers, your booklets are coming soon).


Bookbinding, in Hebrew, is כְּרִיכָה (keh-ree-KHAH). The word is used to refer to act of binding a book, as well as the binding itself. To bind is לִכְרוֹך (leekh-ROHKH), an active-simple פעל (pah-AHL) verb.




Like another word I introduced this week, כריכה actually comes from ancient Aramaic. The root - כ.ר.כ (k.r.k) - appears once in the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Esther (the story of Mordecai, Esther, a king, and another despot in Persia who vowed to destroy the Jewish people... and failed) in the word תַּכְרִיך (tahkh-REEKH), meaning a robe. The root כ.ר.כ means enwraping or surrounding; in the case of a book binding, כ.ר.כ is what wraps the book together.

The root appears in later Mishnaic Hebrew in the form of כְּרַך (keh-RAHKH), meaning city. It appears in Modern Hebrew in another word related to binding, כֶּרֶך (KEH-rehkh), a book volume.





That's enough work for me for the week. Time for some basketball... and then for the most special day, שַׁבָּת - Sabbath (shah-BAHT).

To help you get in the mood, here's a great song whose Aramaic words written by the great Kabbalist, the Ari, are sung today by Nadav Bachar and countless others around the שבת table, the Jewish emblem of eternity.



שבת שלום, וסוף שבוע נעים לכולם!
Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace), and a pleasant weekend to all!



A Hebrew learning tool
I highly recommend:




Aug 25, 2011

how to say "to get in trouble" in Hebrew...


לְהִסְתַּבֵּךְ



We've still got spots in our
Late-summer conversational Hebrew courses
starting in Tel Aviv and Raanana
THIS SUNDAY, August 28 - check them out!



Suppose someone you know gets in trouble with the tax authorities... or with her mother in law for saying something about her cooking... or with his wife for saying something about her dress. We might say that such a person has become entangled or caught up in a mess.






In Hebrew, we use the word לְהִסְתַּבֵּך to mean to get caught up in problems (leh-hees-tah-BEHKH). You may recall this word's source from the עֲקֵדַת יִצְחָק - the Binding of Isaac (ah-keh-DAHT yeets-KHAHK), where Abraham substitutes the offering of his son with a ram that has been caught in the thicket - נֶאֱחַז בַּסְּבַך (neh-eh-KHAHZ bah-seh-VAHKH) - where סבך means thicket or entanglement.






להסתבך is a reflexive-intensive התפעל verb. Other similar words are the active-intensive לְסַבֵּך - to complicate (leh-sah-BEHKH) and its passive form, מְסֻבַּך - complicated (meh-soo-BAHKH).





Today's dose of Hebrew is sponsored by Yom Tov




I've seen his amazing art at Hechal Shlomo and even acquired a piece myself.

Check out Yom Tov's virtual gallery,
and visit his Kohelet exhibition in Jerusalem.
It's open 
throughout the summer.

Aug 24, 2011

how to say "it turns out" in Hebrew...


מִסְתַּבֵּר



Late-summer conversational Hebrew courses
starting in Tel Aviv and Raanana
THIS SUNDAY, August 28 - check them out!



Suppose one summer afternoon you get all dressed up for a wedding, make your way to the bus station, board a coach poised for a drive of an hour and a half, and arrive at the hall, only to discover that the wedding is next Monday. You check the invitation when you get home and it turns out that you hadn't looked at it carefully enough.


This was me - about two years ago.


I think this is the wedding hall!




To say it turns out in Hebrew, you'd use the word מִסְתַּבֵּר (mees-tah-BEHR). For instance, מִסְתַּבֵּר שֶׁהַחֲתֻּנָה הִיא רַק בַּשָּׁבוּעַ הַבָּא - turns out that the wedding is only next week (mees-tah-BEHR sheh-hah-khah-too-NAH hee rahk bah-shah-VOO-ah hah-BAH).


I just did a check to see how the word's root, ס.ב.ר (s.b.r) is used in Biblical Hebrew, וּמסתבר (oo-mees-tah-BEHR) that it doesn't even appear in the Bible. Rather, ס.ב.ר is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew root for thinking, ח.ש.ב (kh.sh.b).






ס.ב.ר entered the Hebrew language early on, showing up in Ethics of the Fathers, 4:15 as סֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת - a pleasant facial expression or intent (SEH-vehr pah-NEEM yah-FOHT). It entered the Yeshiva world as סְבָרָה - reasoning (seh-vah-RAH), and finally Modern Hebrew usage en masse in the active-causative הפעיל (heef-EEL) verb, לְהַסְבִּיר - to explain (leh-hahs-BEER).





A Hebrew learning tool
I highly recommend:



Aug 23, 2011

how to say "anonymous" in Hebrew...


אָנוֹנִימִי, אַלְמוֹנִי





Late-summer conversational Hebrew courses
starting in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Raanana
THIS SUNDAY, August 28 - check them out!



This one's for my friend Benjy, who challenged me to introduce words that he might not yet know.


The more commonly-used translation of anonymous is also the one borrowed from another language (English, which in turn formed the word from Greek) - אָנוֹנִימִי (ah-noh-NEE-mee).





But as a participant in the (enormously successful) effort to revitalize the ancient Hebrew language in modern-day use, the Israeli media prefers to use words originating in ancient Jewish literature - the Bible and the Talmud, among others - when saying something that could otherwise be expressed using foreign words. 



Thus you're likely to find in the media the word אַלְמוֹנִי (ahl-moh-NEE) used to express anonymous, such as in the title of this article: סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה נֶעֱזָב בַּכֹּתֶל עַל יְדֵי אִישׁ אַלְמוֹנִי - a Torah scroll was left at the Wailing Wall by an anonymous man (SEH-fehr toh-RAH neh-eh-ZAHV bah-KOH-tel al yeh-DEH-ee eesh ahl-moh-NEE).


So what is the source in ancient Jewish literature? 






It's in the Bible - more specifically, Ruth 4:1 (in Hebrew and in English), where an anonymous relative of Boaz, פְּלוֹנִי אַלְמוֹנִי (ploh-NEE ahl-moh-NEE) refuses to marry Ruth... so instead Boaz marries her, and together they engender a line of descendants leading to King David. 


And as for פלוני אלמוני? Well, he fades into anonymity.







Today's dose of Hebrew is sponsored by Yom Tov




I've seen his amazing art at Hechal Shlomo and even acquired a piece myself.

Check out Yom Tov's virtual gallery,
and visit his Kohelet exhibition in Jerusalem.
It's open 
throughout the summer.