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Jan 31, 2013

one of the Hebrew words for "a sound"

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There's something special about sound:

This one's for Rabbi Simcha Frischling, founder and director of The Call of the Shofar.

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Jan 30, 2013

how to say "future"

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In a smart branding move, Yair Lapid named his resoundingly popular political party יֵשׁ עָתִיד - Atid rhymes with Lapid, thus linking the idea of hope for a bright future with the winning man himself.

The word עָתִיד, in Modern Hebrew, refers to the noun, future, as in:

מָתַישֶׁהוּ בָּעֲתִיד אָטוּס לְאֵירוֹפָּה.
Sometime in the future I'll fly to Europe.

In its Biblical usage, עתיד is an adjective meaning ready for or destined. Perhaps the best-known example is in the Book of Esther:

...וְלִהְיוֹת הַיְּהוּדִים עֲתִידִים לַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לְהִנָּקֵם מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם... (אֶסְתֵּר ח':י"ג)
...and for the Jews to be ready for this day, to take revenge on their enemies... (Esther 8:13)

עתיד is used in Modern Hebrew as an adjective as well:

נְמַל חֵיפָה עֲתִיד לִהְיוֹת הַנָּמֵל הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בְּגָדְלוֹ בַּמִּזְרַח הַתִּיכוֹן.
The Port of Haifa is destined to be third-largest port in the Middle East.

Stretch your Hebrew skills by offering another example of עתיד as an adjective in our Facebook Group.

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Jan 29, 2013

what the word "Haredi" means

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"Ultra-Orthodox" is the English term that describes a large group of Jews, whose religious practice tends to be very strict and whose dress remains very conservative, reminiscent of Eastern Europe before modernity.

Many English speakers are familiar with another term that describes this group - Haredim. This is the English spelling of the Hebrew word, חֲרֵדִים.

What does חרדים mean?

The word first appears in the Biblical book of Isaiah:

שִׁמְעוּ דְּבַר ה', הַחֲרֵדִים אֶל דְּבָרוֹ... (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ ס"ו:ה')
Hear the word of G-d, (you) who tremble at His word... (Isaiah 66:5)

Another example:

הַאִם הַמִּפְלָגוֹת הַחֲרֵדִיּוֹת יִצְטָרְפוּ לַקּוֹאָלִיצְיָה הַחֲדָשָׁה?
Will the Haredi parties join to the new coalition?

לַחֲרוֹד, an active-simple פָּעַל verb, means to tremble or to quake. The root is ח.ר.ד (kh.r.d) So by calling themselves חרדים, the Ultra-Orthodox are stating that they tremble before the word of G-d.

So it turns out that in dress, religious devotion and name as well, this Jewish group parallels the American Quakers. Their theologies share similarities as well, but also considerable differences.

A Haredi man is an אִישׁ חֲרֵדִי, while a Haredi woman is an אִשָּׁה חֲרֵדִית.

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Jan 28, 2013

where the word "Jew" comes from

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Jerusalem . Tel Aviv

The word Jew is a household term, just as Christian and Muslim are.

But where does the word Jew come from?

The Hebrew version is יְהוּדִי 
for a male and יְהוּדִיָּה for a female. These are the Hebrew terms that refer someone of the Jewish faith, who holds the Torah as the most sacred of books.

But if you'd read the Torah - in Hebrew or in English, you've probably noticed that the words יהודי and יהודייה are strikingly... absent. How could that be?

The answer has more to do with geography than with religion.

יהודי and יהודייה come from the name יְהוּדָה - one of the sons of Jacob, but also the piece of land named after that son. In English, we call that piece of land Judea.

Twelve Israelite tribes inhabited Ancient Israel, until the Assyrians came and exiled the majority. The major remaining tribe, יהודה, continued to reign until the Babylonians came and exiled them as well. 

The people from the land of יהודה (today a large chunk of Modern Israel, including Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and the southern part of the "West Bank") were taken to Babel. Many migrated from there to ancient Persia, where the Purim story takes place and presents us with the first person referred to as a יהודי - a Jew:

אִישׁ יְהוּדִי הָיָה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה וּשְׁמוֹ מָרְדֳכַי בֶּן יָאִיר בֶּן שִׁמְעִי בֶּן קִישׁ אִישׁ יְמִינִי. אֲשֶׁר הָגְלָה מִירוּשָׁלַיִם... (אסתר ב':ה'-ו')
A Jewish man (a man from Judea) was in Shushan the capital, and his name was Mordecai the son of Yair the son of Shim'i the son of Kish, a man from Yemin (the more specific land of Benjamin); who was exiled from Jerusalem... (Esther 2:5-6)

So what was once an ethnicity - יהודי or יהודייה referring to a person from the land of Judea - gradually came to refer to a religion, as the Jewish people wandered from place to place, their religious practice uniting them... as well as their hope to one day return to אֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה
- the Land of Judea and the rest of Israel.

יהודי is also part of the name of one of the major political parties that will likely be joining the now-forming Israeli government:

הַבַּיִת הַיְּהוּדִי - literally, The Jewish Home

Whether the party is referring to the religion or the geographic region - or both - I'll leave to you to decide.

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Jan 27, 2013

how to say "a trap"

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Today a horrible tragedy was reported from Brazil, where hundreds of people were trapped inside a nightclub as it burned down.

The Biblical-Hebrew root ל.כ.ד (l.k.d) means enclosure or trapping. Some of the words it produces, in use today, are:

מַלְכֹּדֶת  - a trap

לִלְכּוֹד - to trap, to enclose - an active-simple פָּעַל verb

לְהִלָּכֵד - to be trapped, to be enclosed - ללכוד's passive נִפְעַל opposite

So that in Hebrew, we would say:

הֵם נִלְכְּדוּ בַּבִּנְיָן וְנִסְפּוּ.
They were trapped in the building and perished.

Today's tragedy in Brazil brings to mind incidents that took place between 1939 and 1945, commemorated today, January 27, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The difference between the nightclub in Brazil and the villages of Europe is that the nightclub inferno was an accident, while the travesties of the Holocaust were perpetrated with malicious intent.

On a bit of a lighter note, ל.כ.ד is also the root of the Israeli political party that won the most seats last week, הַלִּכּוּד (well, more precisely, הליכוד-בֵּיתֵנו - literally, The Unification, Our Home).

But what does trapping or enclosure have to do with Netanyahu's party? הליכוד means, literally, the unification. When something is enclosed, all its contents are, by definition, unified or consolidated.

ליכוד is an abstract noun deriving from the active-intensive פִּעֵל verb, לְלַכֵּד - to unify or consolidate. ללכד is a synonym of לְאַחֵד , also to unify.

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Jan 24, 2013

how to say "power"

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כֹּחַ, עָצְמָה
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Jerusalem . Tel Aviv

The Torah portion to be read this Shabbat by Jews around the world depicts a great demonstration of power.

Watch this video to learn some Hebrew terms about the concept of power.

This week's video!

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Jan 23, 2013

how to say "to prioritize"

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Today I learned a new Hebrew word, in conversation with Daniel from AACI - the word for to prioritize - לְתַעֲדֵף. The word is new for me, since although I was raised in a Hebrew-speaking home, I did not grow up in Israel, and I'm still picking up words that a native would know.

I'm familiar with other words of the same root - ע.ד.פ (a.d.p) - and thus of the same core concept of preference

עָדִיף - preferable

עֹדֶף - change (money), or that which goes beyond

the active-causative הִפְעִיל verb, לְהַעֲדִיף - to prefer

הַעֲדָפָה - preference

עֲדִיפוּת - preference/priority

and the term סֵדֶר עֲדִיפֻיּוֹת - priority list (literally, order of priorities)

A Modern-Hebrew speaker took the word להעדיף - to prefer - added a ת to the root to indicate not just preferring but setting up preferences, and plugged this new root - ת.ע.ד.פ (t.a.d.p) into the active-intensive פִּעֵל form, producing לתעדף - to prioritize. The word caught on.

Here's a example of לתעדף in action:

בִּנְיָמִין נְתַנְיָהוּ יִצְטָרֵךְ לְתַעֲדֵף אֶת הַמְּשִׂימוֹת שֶׁלּוֹ הֵיטֵב בַּשָּׁבוּעוֹת הַקְּרוֹבִים, עַל מְנַת לְהָקִים מֶמְשָׁלָה.

Benjamin Netanyahu will need to prioritize his tasks well in the coming weeks, in order to establish a government.

Because of my familiarity with the root and the related words, when Daniel at AACI used the word לתעדף, I was able to understand its meaning without blinking.

Two morals of the story that will help you build your Hebrew vocabulary:

1. Pay close attention to Hebrew roots and try to make logical connections between them.

2. Immerse yourself as much as possible - swim through the Hebrew language (by interacting with native speakers, reading the paper, listening to music, etc), picking up whatever bits and pieces of vocabulary you can and trying to make sense of them based on your existing knowledge.

I hope Your Daily Dose of Hebrew (Ktzat Ivrit) is already helping you do so (pass it on!)

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