Stumbling across the four magical words: Hebrew words reading them, and it took me right back to my childhood. I grew up surrounded by the impetus to learn Hebrew, to be just like my father. My father loved Hebrew; he could see the beauty in the language. So as I started growing up, encouragement was forthcoming for me to sit with him and embrace the phrase Hebrew words reading them.
He made sure that I knew the Hebrew alphabet from a young age, so it would be familiar to me when I started preparing for my Bat Mitzvah. Then, we would use flash cards to memorize the letter and vowels together. It was so much fun doing this with him. Then, once I started preparing for my Bat Mitzvah, we would sit together and have Hebrew lessons.
Hebrew words reading them – a memorable journey
I grew to love Hebrew as much as my father did. He taught me how verbs have two, three or four root letters and how we can build on the verbs by adding suffixes or prefixes. From there, a person can conjugate verbs into past, present, future, infinitive, and so on. So I learnt there are seven different types of verb conjugations!
He taught me about the masculine, feminine, singular, and plural verbs! It was great fun to learn it with my father. He took me on an extraordinary journey of learning about the Hebrew meaning of the siddur. It made a huge difference when I attended synagogue; I could understand the meanings of the prayers. I loved sitting there translating the Hebrew words into English!
Learning Hebrew in high school
I will never forget wanting to study Hebrew for my final two years in high school. Unfortunately, the high school I attended did not offer Hebrew as a subject. Thus we had to hire a private tutor to teach me the modern Hebrew component. My father volunteered to teach me to learn biblical Hebrew with and without vowels.
I found it relatively simple, as I had already had to learn biblical Hebrew, as it is called in Hebrew the Torah, for my Bat Mitzvah, so it was an easy transition. We simply picked up where we had left off four years earlier! We had Hebrew lessons once a week, he would set me homework (which I hated!), and I would have to make sure that I did my reading practice.
Focusing on reading correctly.
It was through sitting with him and learning Hebrew that I, too, became pedantic about Hebrew pronunciation! To this day, I can still pick up if a Hebrew word is being read correctly or incorrectly. I learnt so much with my father; if I am familiar with the text, I can pick up if a person is reading fluently or not, with my eyes closed (literally)!
Although my father has long since retired, I am still teaching Hebrew lessons; I emphasize the importance of reading correctly. I always tell my students, “The difference between a good Hebrew reader and an average Hebrew reader is ensuring the Hebrew pronunciation is correct!” Although stating the obvious, it brings my pupils back to endeavoring to read each word correctly.
If I am teaching a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah student, I would rather that they learn less Hebrew but read what they are capable of flawlessly. I always say to them rather have quality over quantity. It works, and often, once the pressure is lifted off them to do lots of reading, they end up learning a lot more than they thought they were capable of!