Sunday, June 1, 2008

Learning Hebrew

In recent weeks, the children have been learning about the Hebrew language. They began with one word: כּי-טוב

Transliterated this is ki-tov. Written as one word with a maqqep (hyphen), it really is two: the preposition כּי, and the adjective טוֹב.

We have examined two places in the Bible where this phrase occurs. In Genesis 1, it occurs 6 times and is translated into the phrase 'that it was good'.
וירא אלהים את-האור כּי-טוב And God saw the light, that it was good.
We read the words va-yira - he saw. And Elohim, God, and the special word 'et' and the word ha`or, the light.

It all sounds and looks so different from English words in the Latin alphabet. But the children all remembered this word easily so we can say ki-tov - it was good.

In Psalm 34, this word occurs in verse 8, the invitation to taste and see that the LORD is good.
טעמו וראו כּי-טוב יהוה. O taste and see that the LORD is good.
Taste - ta-'amu, and see ure'u, that is good ki-tov the LORD. It's a little hard to recognize the similarity in the words for seeing but God sees (yira) - and (u) you see (re-u). In English, we recognize that 'see' and 'saw' are not very similar either. We see something else here too - there are two different words, as in English, that are used of the one LORD God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4) - the word אלהים Elohim in Genesis 1:4 and the special name יהוה that you can see in the letters above in Psalm 34. Someone reading in Hebrew does not normally say this name out loud.
The special name of the LORD God is not spoken. Hebrew readers substitute ha-shem (the name) or adonai (the Lord) instead of speaking the name. In the Jewish tradition, the name is spoken once a year by the High Priest at the feast of Atonement.
The children and adults were able to identify the letters in כּי-טוב in this alef-bet page. We talked a little about spelling our own names also.

Our plan is to introduce each letter in turn, perhaps like the Sesame Street, the program is brought to you by the letter alef א. I expect by the end of next year, judging from the speed of absorption already observed, that the children will be able to read a psalm.

For more about the alef-bet listen to this video, not exactly the style of music around St Barnabas - but definitely an effective rock.

For a work in progress that shows each letter and a little about it, see this image of an alef-bet book largely from the text of the psalms.

1 comment:

Bob MacDonald said...

The blocks are becoming famous - see here