To learn Hebrew
If a person wants to learn Hebrew, it is helpful to know the origins of the language. Historically, the Israelites spoke Hebrew; their longest-surviving descendants were the Jewish people. It is the language that the ancient Hebrew bible is written in, the Tanakh, and the Mishnah, to name but a few.
To learn biblical Hebrew vocabulary
To learn biblical Hebrew vocabulary is one of the reasons why Bar Mitzvah boys, Bat Mitzvah girls, and people who are converting to Judaism need to learn the Hebrew alphabet pronunciation. Another reason is that it is the primary liturgical language of Judaism. Therefore, people who are undertaking these ceremonies need to learn how to read liturgical prayers.
However, a rewarding experience for a person learning the ancient biblical language, Hebrew, is to be able to read from the ancient Hebrew texts. For a person to be able to read from the original Hebrew text permits the reader to create a direct link to biblical stories. Reading Hebrew in its’ original form conveys the bible stories in a way that translations cannot do.
Indeed, with its poetic writing and reflective wisdom, the ancient Hebrew Bible becomes a source of insight and understanding for those who can read and comprehend it in the original biblical language. But, unfortunately, based on my personal and professional experience, many 12- or 13-year-old kids do not care about delving into the text. True to their maturity and development, they want to finish it quickly.
I have helped so many boys and girls prepare for their bar or bat mitzvah. I cannot recall one child who has begged for me to extend the lesson! As I mentioned before, true to their age and development, they are keen to finish the lesson as quickly as possible. When the lesson finishes, they can hop onto social media or go and play soccer with their friends!
However, reading Hebrew is paramount for the Bar Mitzvah boys and Bat Mitzvah girls to be able to participate in this important ancient ceremony. Therefore, when I teach them the material they need to learn, I ask them which Hebrew text is more frequently read, the Hebrew from the Torah or the Hebrew from the Siddur. As to be expected, the students always answer, “The Torah”. They are incorrect. The liturgical Hebrew from the Siddur is read three times a day. However, the Torah is only read three times a week, on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Whilst we focus on learning their Torah portion, I place a lot of emphasis on the prayers.
I always tell them that they can go anywhere in the world to a service in a synagogue, and the same prayers will be read every time, but their Torah portion is only read once a year. I have never had the opportunity to reread my Torah portion since my Bat Mitzvah in 1983, forty years since I last read it. However, I am often asked to read from the Siddur!
One of the first questions I ask my students how hard you think Hebrew is to learn. Immediately, everyone says that is very difficult. However, contrary to popular belief, Hebrew is quite an easy language to read. The trick is to learn the aleph bet and the vowels and learn how to break the Hebrew word into syllables. Once those two skills are mastered, it is easy to read!
These skills are taught in the online program, Easy Learn Hebrew. There are seven lessons; each lesson teaches the student approximately five letters and two vowels using mnemonics. It also teaches students how to break up the words into syllables, starting with the easy syllable breakups and then moving on to the more complex ones.
On a different note, entirely, here is a fun fact to know as part of your Hebrew learning journey; Hebrew is the only Canaanite language still spoken today. It is the only truly successful example of the revival of a dead language. Fun fact number two, only two Northwest Semitic languages are still spoken today, those being Hebrew and Aramaic. Whilst Jesus spoke Aramaic, he was very familiar with Hebrew from an academic’s perspective. According to Christian academics, Christians want to learn this ancient text as a segway into understanding the first bible, the Torah, in its’ original language, Hebrew. Being able to learn the Hebrew language allows Christians to have a proper understanding of God.
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