Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew Bible’

Testimonials from My Hebrew Students

December 29, 2013

“You’re a terrific teacher, and our students are very, very fortunate to be learning with you. You are really helping them learn.  So thank you!” — Rabbi Andrew Vogel, Temple Sinai, Brookline, MA

“Natasha is a treasure.” – attendee at NewCAJE, August 1, 2010

“I have studied Hebrew with four other people over the past ten years, and none of them match Natasha. I am just thrilled with the progress I am making.” — S.B., college professor of sociology

“Your teaching style and enthusiasm have stayed with me over the years. Now I study by myself, but memories of your class echo in my head. When I started studying with you, I didn’t know the Hebrew alphabet; now I understand most of the Torah portion each week. Thank you for the inspiration.” — A.D., professor of medicine

“This Hebrew class is the highest point of my week.  I look forward to it for the other six days.”  J.L., engineer

“You are an enthusiastic and caring teacher.” — S.L., rabbinical student

People who study with you that I have met along the way over the years are deeply grateful to you for what they learn and how they learn from you. — Rabbi Alan Ullman

“Thanks to your class, I’m more mindful in services and I am actually able to read the real text.” — R.K.

“You made me think, darn you!” — attendee at NewCAJE, August 1, 2010

“I was dead tired and could hardly focus on anything. But learning Hebrew with you woke me up. You could make a dead person learn Hebrew.” — F.P., physician

“This is the first time I got past the place where I always used to get stuck.”– C.C., homemaker

“Wow! I just went to a bar mitzvah and when it was time for the Torah reading, I sat back to enjoy the musical chanting, not expecting to understand anything. I was just sitting there listening when suddenly words and even whole sentences started jumping out at me. I realized, it’s a story and I understand it. Whoa! This is a whole new level! Thank you for that.” — R.L.

“I think there is some magical way that you communicate a knowledge of Hebrew directly.” — P.S., college mathematics instructor

“These days, Hebrew seems to be everywhere.” — J.L.,

“This class is like a cool lemonade on a hot sticky day.” — L.W., general contractor

“Great class. Great group. Great teacher!” — J.H., college English professor

“I have enjoyed your classes very much, as you are an excellent teacher.” — T.B.

“I was able to start reading things I couldn’t read before. I can keep up in services much more than before.” — C.C., Homemaker

“This class is exactly what I need.” — S.G.

“I just love this!” — M.W., rabbinic pastor

“I wanted to let you know that I very much enjoyed the classes. You are a great teacher.” — N.F.

“Now that I know what it (Torah text) means literally, I feel more confident in doing my own interpretation.” — M.A.

“I am thoroughly enjoying the class.” — N.F.

“I like your teaching style — friendly but very professional and focused on task.” — E.F.

“This class is a blessing!” — L.W., general contractor

“Thanks to your class, I am more inclined to try to understand Hebrew words when I read them in the siddur (prayer book).” — A.T.

“You are extremely knowledgeable and you encourage students to try without judgment about outcome.” — M.B.

“I appreciate your supportive and helpful manner. You encourage us without making us feel “dumb” if we make mistakes. You answer questions but stay with your lesson plan. I look forward to coming

“You’re so validating!” — S.D.

“Thanks for introducing me to the miracles of Hebrew!” — L.W.

“This is a whole new world!” — M.W., rabbinic pastor

“I got chills during High Holy Day services! For the first time, I was reading and singing and following along the actual Hebrew.” — L.W., newspaper editor

“I REALLY appreciated all the Hebrew you’ve taught me at High Holiday services this year. I was thrilled that I could read well enough to keep up with prayers I didn’t know or forgot since last year. And, I especially enjoyed understanding so many words and phrases throughout the liturgy; I could actually piece together chunks of what I was reading! It really expanded, and in some cases changed, my understanding of the prayers.” — R.L.

“You are a great, amazing teacher!” — D.P.

“I have enjoyed your dedication, depth of knowledge, patience and encouragement. I would love to continue.” — M.B.

“It was really fantastic to understand a lot of the prayers during the high holiday services. It really adds an extra layer of meaning to my prayers.” — L.W., general contractor

” I will never forget your launching me in learning Biblical Hebrew.” — J.H., golfer

“In the last 30 years I tried to learn Hebrew many times and always dropped out. I have now been learning Hebrew with Natasha for 3 years and I am loving it, really learning it for the first time. The siddur and the Torah have come alive for me.” — S.D., yoga teacher

“I have to tell you that you are such an incredible teacher!!” — S.K.

“During services one Shabbat I glanced at a Biblical selection in Hebrew and was astonished to realize I could understand the whole paragraph, not just a phrase or a sentence. Very exciting!

“I feel grateful to you for the way that you approach teaching, and I feel like I can ask anything and not feel stupid! So, thank you, especially for that.” — S.K.

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your classes and how rewarding it is to be able to read the Torah in Hebrew!”

“Thank you for all the wonderful education.” — J.D.

“Many thanks. The classes were wonderful. Interesting, well prepared and taught. You are terrific.”

“Thanks so much for a fabulous class. I really enjoyed it and services really are nicer when I can follow along.”

“There’s something so special and interesting about Hebrew that it’s hard not to think about it regularly.”– S.M.

“I wish to thank you for the opportunity I had to study with you. You helped me move along my path!”

“This is such fun!” — M.W., rabbinic pastor

“I’ve been in many language classes and Natasha stands out as focussed, encouraging, knowledgeable, efficient, curious, and tolerant – way beyond the norm. Natasha is a terrific teacher!” — B.W., author

“Natasha’s classes are outstanding, and I will continue taking them as long as she offers them!” — I.K.

“For the first time in my life, I know where we are in the prayer book and where we’re going.” — S.B., college professor of sociology

“Thank you for your wonderful instruction.” — J.F.

“I’ve taken Hebrew classes for years and never enjoyed it, but this class is one I look forward to each week.”

“Thank you for all of your help in getting me to this point. I can (almost) understand most prayers that I read, and am finding translating Biblical passages (at least in the Torah portion!) easier each week.”

“My mother is so impressed with my ability to read Hebrew. Never too old to be happy if Mom’s impressed.” (from a 50+ – year-old student) — H.S.

I really enjoyed the classes and felt like I made enormous progress — I can actually follow along in services (and understand some of the words!). Thanks again for sharing your wisdom and joy.

“Natasha uses her creativity to integrate Jewish holidays, rituals, and current events with the requisite vocabulary and grammar. She always makes the content vivid and memorable.” — D.M.

“Natasha brings incredible enthusiasm to her teaching. She has motivated me … to make a real commitment to studying Hebrew.” — D.M.

How to Spell “Tu biShvat”

January 18, 2011

Although there are many different conventions for Hebrew transliteration in general — e.g., the various ways to spell Hanukkah — using apostrophes in “Tu biShvat” indicates a misunderstanding of sh’va na’ versus sh’va nah (“mobile” or “voiced” sh’va versus “resting” or “silent” sh’va). This is a matter of correct dikduk (Hebrew grammar), not convention.

I am on a mission to correct this in the English-speaking Jewish world because so many Jewish organizations get this wrong!  They mistakenly use apostrophes and frequently mistransliterate the holiday’s name as “Tu b’Shvat” or, even worse, with two apostrophes, as in “Tu b’Sh’vat.”  Another incorrect transliteration uses ‘e’ instead of apostrophes, resulting in “Tu b’Shevat,” “Tu beSh’vat,” and the like.  These are all wrong, for the same reason.

When you spell Tu biShvat in Hebrew, there’s no voiced sh’va anywhere.  This is because:

  1. Hebrew words can never have two sh’vas in a row at the beginning of a word.  In the middle, yes.  At the end, yes.  But at the beginning, no.
  2. In the situation where you have a word whose first vowel is a sh’va — such as Sh’vat (a Hebrew month), Y’rushalayim (“Jerusalem”), b’heimah (“beast,” “a large domesticated mammal, potentially kosher”), sh’mot (“names of”), etc. — and then you want to add a prefix whose vowel is also a sh’va, a couple of things happen:

a) The sh’va that was at the beginning of the original word changes from sh’va na’ to sh’va nahTherefore, the sh’va under the shin in “Sh’vat” changes from being voiced to being silent.
b) The sh’va that would have been under the prefix changes into a hirik. This phenomenon happens every time.
c) If the original word happened to start with a yud, such as in Y’rushalayim, not only do (a) and (b) occur, but also (c) the sh’va that was under the yud disappears altogether.

Thus, the proper pronunciation of our upcoming Hag ha-Ilanot (“Festival of the Trees”) is, divided into syllables, “TOO-BEESH-VAT.”  There’s no voiced sh’va, so there shouldn’t be any apostrophe in the transliteration.

Likewise, “in Jerusalem” is “BEE-ROO-SHA-LA-YEEM.”  Once again, the sh’va is no longer in the word once the prepositional prefix is added.

If you have contact with the English-speaking Jewish world in any way, please help me with this mission by politely correcting the transliteration wherever you come across it.  If anyone gives you any trouble, just send ’em to me.

Warning: Although Wikipedia gets it right, their detailed information is not for the faint of heart.  But if you love L’shon ha-Kodesh (“the language of the Holy”) as much as I do, you’ll have a field day.

Note: I have deliberately left actual Hebrew lettering out of this post to make it easy to copy and forward by email.  Please share!

Recommended Text Book for Biblical Hebrew

October 6, 2010

The First Hebrew Primer, Third Edition: The Adult Beginner’s Path to Biblical Hebrew, by Simon, Resnikoff, and Motzkin.  EKS Publishing.

This is the text book I’ve used most for teaching Biblical Hebrew to adults over the past thirteen years.  It’s useful to students ranging from rank beginners to advanced, whether you’re studying on your own, working one-on-one with a tutor, or participating in a group class.  NOTE: This is not a hard-core serious grammar such as one might study in a university context; rather, this text is aimed at adults studying Hebrew part-time, who have only a few hours per week to devote to it.

This book starts at the very beginning, with the Hebrew alphabet.  Eventually, over the course of 30 chapters, it provides the advanced student with instruction regarding five of the seven binyanim (Hebrew verb structures), all two and a half tenses of Hebrew verb conjugation, guided readings through the Book of Ruth, and lists of the most-used vocabulary in Biblical  Hebrew.

It’s not perfect, but then no Biblical-Hebrew text book is.  My students keep asking me to write one myself, based on the way I teach; maybe I’ll do that soon.  In the meantime, this is the existing text book I recommend most.

Ongoing Torah Study in Concord, MA

September 28, 2010

Ongoing Torah Study: Hebrew Roots
Delve deeper into Hebrew texts by examining the Divine, mystical three-letter “DNA” roots of Hebrew words.

When: Tuesday morning, October 5, 2010, 10:15 AM-12:15 PM

Where: Kerem Shalom
659 Elm St.
Concord, MA  01742

Tuition:
October 5: Free

Possible class on Tuesday mornings in 2011, 10:15 AM-12:15 PM
January 11, 18, 25
February 1, 8, 15
March 1, 8
Tuition ~ $150
Information:
Natasha Shabat –  learnhebrew@natashashabat.com
Registration:
Rosalie Gerut –  rosaliege@comcast.net
Kerem Shalom:
www.keremshalom.org

Tishrei 17: Quotes from Psalm 27

September 19, 2010
The Dead Sea Scrolls - Psalms Scroll

Image by onBeing via Flickr

The Book of Psalms is called T’hilim in Hebrew.

We recite Psalm 27 every day during the the first 50 days of the 60-day spiritual journey through the months of Elul and Tishrei.  Starting one month before Rosh haShanah and continuing daily through Sukkot and Simhat Torah, Jews around the world repeat the comforting words of the psalmist:

“Gd is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:2)

When you put it this way, our worries and problems suddenly seem smaller and less consequential, don’t you think?  I guess that’s the point.

There’s a beautiful waltz tune that was composed for the Hebrew lines of the following quote, whose meaning is already beautiful.  I’ve been teaching this one throughout the 60-day journey, every chance I get:

“One thing I asked of Gd, that shall I seek: That I dwell in the house of Gd all the days of my life; to behold the sweetness of Gd and to contemplate in His sanctuary.”  (Ps. 27:4)

One line of Psalm 27 that always startles is the tenth verse:

“Though my father and mother have forsaken me, Gd will gather me in.”  (Ps. 27:10)

Yep, that’s really what it says.  Maybe they really did forsake one.  Or maybe one simply grew up and moved away.

The final words of the psalm are comforting to many:

“Hope to Gd.  Strengthen yourself and be encouraged, and hope to Gd.”