Hebrew For Dummies, 2nd Edition book cover

Hebrew For Dummies, 2nd Edition

By: Jill Suzanne Jacobs Published: 04-11-2022

As with any language, the quickest way to master Hebrew basics is to immerse yourself in its sounds and rhythms. The next best thing to six months in Haifa, Hebrew For Dummies, 2nd Edition lets you do just that! Whether you want to communicate with your Israeli cousins, understand Jewish prayers and sacred literature, impress your Jewish in-laws, or you're planning a trip to Israel, this book/audio package will help.

Articles From Hebrew For Dummies, 2nd Edition

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Hebrew For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-24-2022

The ancient language of Hebrew is still spoken today, and if you want to speak it, you need to know common greetings, basic questions, and the Hebrew alphabet. A Jewish blessing in Hebrew shows the language in action. If you’re attending a Shabbat dinner, familiarizing yourself with the common rituals of the special event is a great idea to help you thoroughly enjoy the night. The information below will help you understand what Shabbat is, common Jewish traditions, the Hebrew phrases and language to know, and what to expect from the night of festivities! Don't forget, in Hebrew, you read sentences in the opposite direction of English, from right to left.

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Going to Shabbat Dinner

Article / Updated 04-19-2017

If you’re attending a Shabbat dinner, familiarizing yourself with the common rituals of the special event is a great idea to help you thoroughly enjoy the night. The information below will help you understand what Shabbat is, common Jewish traditions, Hebrew phases and language to know, and what to expect from the night of festivities! What is Shabbat dinner? Shabbat is the weekly day of rest and is considered the holiest day on the calendar of the Kabbalist. This important day is observed weekly on Friday nights at sundown and lasts until Saturday sundown. The celebration begins in Jewish households in Israel and around the world during the Friday night dinner, Aruchat Shabbat is the focal point of the week and families often take extra measures to ensure the dinner and evening is special for family and friends. The table will often be decorated and set with a Mapah Levanah (mah-pah leh-vah-nah; white tablecloth) and their prettiest dishes. Atop the table sits the Kos L'Kiddush (kos leh-kee-doosh; Kiddush cup), which is held when the blessing over the Sabbath day is said. Before the meal, Jewish people sing a song to welcome Sabbath angels and follow it with Brachot (brah-choht; blessings) over the Yayin (yah-yeen; wine) and Lechem (leh-chehm bread). In some traditional households, people ritually wash their hands — this act is called Netilat Yadaim (neh-tee-laht yah-dye-eem) — before consuming bread. Traditionally Sabbath dinner foods include Of (ohf; chicken), Tzimis (tzi-mehs; a stew made with carrots), and sometimes Basar (bah-sahr; red meat). Eating Dag (dahg; fish) on Shabbat is also a traditional practice. One of the reasons for this custom is connected to the Gematria (geh-mah-tree-ah; numerology) of the fish. In Gematria, each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value. And the numerical values of the letters in the Hebrew word for fish total seven. And Shabbat is the seventh day of the week! On a typical Shulchan Aruch L'Shabbat (shool-chahn ah-rooch leh-shah-baht; a table set for Shabbat), you may also find: Kapit, Kapiot (kah-peet, kah-pee-oht; teaspoon, teaspoons) Kos, Kosot (kohs, kohs-oht; cup, cups) Kos L'Kiddush (kohs leh-kee-doosh; the Kiddush cup over which a special blessing for the Sabbath is recited) Mapah Levanah (mah-pah leh-vah-nah; white tablecloth) Mapit, Mapiot (mah-peet, mah-pee-oht; napkin, napkins) Mazleg, Mazlegot (mahz-lehg, mahz-lay-goht; fork, forks) Prachim (puh-rah-cheem; flowers) Sakin, Sakinim (sah-keen, sah-kee-neem; knife, knives) Tzalachat, Tzalachot (tzah-lah-chaht, tzah-lah-choht; dish, dishes) People often say HaShulchan Haya Amus Be'Ochel (hah-shool-chahn hah-yah ah-moos beh-oh-chehl; The table was loaded with food!) on Friday nights because of the sheer amount of food present.

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Speaking of Favorite Hebrew Expressions

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Even outside Israel, Hebrew is an important part of Jewish life. Throughout history, the Jewish people have continued to hold onto the language of their native land. Today, although the majority of the world's Hebrew speakers live in Israel, about a million Hebrew speakers live outside of the state of Israel, most of them in North America. Even if they don't speak Hebrew fluently, most Jews know a Hebrew phrase or two. Here are ten Hebrew phrases you're likely to hear in Jewish communities both inside and outside of Israel. Mazal Tov (mah-zahl tohv; Literally: A good sign.) This phrase is used to mean congratulations. Guests shout it at Jewish weddings when the groom stomps on a glass, breaking it in memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and as a reminder that the world is still broken today. You can also say Mazal Tov to someone on other happy occasions — a birthday, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a new job, or an engagement. Here's something funny: In Israel, whenever someone accidentally breaks a glass or a dish in a restaurant, the entire restaurant shouts out Mazal Tov in unison. B'Karov Etzlech (buh-kah-rohv ehtz-lehch; Literally: Soon so shall it be by you.) (F) This expression is a good way to respond when someone wishes you a hearty Mazal Tov. Its most common use is by brides in response to their single women friends congratulating them on their wedding, but you can use it in any circumstance. If you want to say B'Karov Etzlech to a guy, you should say B'Karov Etzlecha (buh-kah-rohv ehtz-leh-chah). Titchadesh (teet-chah-dehsh; Literally: You shall be renewed.) (M) This is a nice thing to say to males when they make a new purchase, whether they've bought clothing, a new car, or a new house. If you're speaking to a girl or woman you should say Titchadshi (teet-chahd-shee). To a group of people, say Titchadshu (teet-chahd-shoo). B'Teavon (buh-tay-ah-vohn; Literally: With appetite.) B'Teavon is the Hebrew equivalent of bon appetit! A host may say this when presenting a dish, and a waiter or waitress may say it to customers in a restaurant. When you dine with someone, you can say this phrase to each other before digging in. B'Ezrat HaShem (beh-ehz-raht hah-shehm; Literally: With help of the Name.) In religiously observant circles, Jews often refer to the Holy One (God that is) as HaShem, which literally means the Name. Because God's name is so precious, you never even recite it in prayer, let alone in conversation. But sometimes, you do want to talk about God in the course of conversation, so religiously observant folks mention God by referring to HaShem. People often use this phrase when they speak about the future and want God's help. Yishar Koach (yih-shahr koh-ach; Literally: Straight power.) You can use this expression when you want to say, good for you, way to go, or more power to you when someone has accomplished something. People often use this phrase in the synagogue after someone has received an honor such as leading a portion of the prayer service or reading Torah. The proper response to this phrase is Baruch Teheyeh (bah-rooch teeh-hee-yeh) to a guy and Brucha Teeheyi (bh-roo-chah tee-hee-yee) to a girl or a woman. Both phrases mean you shall be blessed. Dash (dahsh) Dash is an acronym for Drishat Shalom (duh-ree-shaht shah-lohm), which literally means wishings or demands of peace. Dash is used to mean regards. You ask someone to send Dash just like you'd ask to someone to send your regards. For the full Hebrew phrase, use either of the following: Timsor Lo Dash Mimeni (teem-sohr loh dahsh mee-mehn-nee; Send him my regards.) Timseri La Dash Mimeni (teem-sah-ree lah dahsh mee-mehn-nee; Send her my regards.) You can also send warm regards with Dash Cham (dahsh chahm). Nu (nuuuuuuu) This phrase has no literal translation into English. After a friend has gone out on a hot date the night before, when your mother has an important interview, or when your child has a big test at school, you'll probably want to inquire about how everything went. So you say Nu? expectantly and wait for a reply. Kol HaKavod (kohl hah-kah-vohd; Literally: All of the respect.) You can use this little phrase when you want to say all right, way to go, or a job well done. You're picking up all kinds of new information with this focus on phrases, Kol HaKavod! L'Chaim (lecha'im; Literally: To life.) L'Chaim reveals a lot about the Jewish approach to life. The phrase is not to a good life, to a healthy life, or even to a long life. It is simply to life, recognizing that life is indeed good and precious and should always be celebrated and savored. L'Chaim!

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Making Sense of Hebrew Syntax

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The syntax (the arrangement of words to make sentences), or Tachbir (tahch-beer), of a Hebrew sentence is quite different from English. Have a look at the basics of word order — what syntax looks like in English, and how Hebrew is different. Also discover how to say there is and there isn't, because if you can use this simple sentence construction, you can say a lot — just plug in the noun of your choice, and you'll be speaking Hebrew! Putting your sentences in order When you read or hear Modern Hebrew sentences, you may think they're oddly constructed compared to English or any other European language. In English, so much depends on word order. In Hebrew, on the other hand, less depends on word order. For example, in Hebrew you could say either of the following: Memshalah Chadashah Kamah (mehm-shah-lah chah-dah-shah kah-mah; Literally: government new arises) Kamah Memshalah Chadashah (kah-mah mehm-shah-lah chah-dah-shah; Literally: arises government new). Both of these phrases mean the same thing: A new government rises. The order of the words doesn't affect the meaning. Look at another example in English. "Mollie kissed Harry" isn't the same as "Harry kissed Mollie," is it? Certainly not to Mollie — or for that matter, to Harry. In Hebrew, sometimes a verb, especially one without an object, comes before its subject, not after it as in English. Under certain conditions, you can identify the direct object (person or thing acted upon, as opposed to person or thing doing the acting) because the word Et (eht) precedes the direct object. You know it was Mollie who did the kissing whether you say: Mollie Nishkah Et Fred (moh-lee neesh-kah eht fred; Literally: Mollie kissed Fred) Mollie Et Fred Nishkah (moh-lee eht fred neesh-kah; Literally: Mollie Fred kissed) Et Fred Nishkah Mollie (eht fred neesh-kah moh-lee; Fred [is] kissed [by] Mollie.) These sentences, despite their different word order, all mean essentially the same thing: Mollie kissed Fred. To say there is or there are, use the word Yesh(yehsh) before the noun you want to talk about.To say there isn't or there aren't, use the word Ayn(ayn) before the noun. For example: Yesh Bananot.(yehsh bah-nah-noht; There are bananas.) Ayn Bananot.(ayn bah-nah-noht;) There aren't any bananas.) Now, pick a noun, any noun, and put a Yesh or an Ayn in front of it. You'll be speaking Hebrew! Questioning When you make a question, you don't change the order of the words like in English. You can ask a question in a few different ways. The first is by simply taking a statement and putting a question mark in your voice (by raising your voice at the end of the sentence.) Thus, when asked with the proper intonation, this statement can be a question: Yesh Chalav BaMakrer? (yesh chah-lahv bah-mahk-rehr ?; there's milk in the refrigerator?) Another way to turn this statement into a question is by adding the word Nachon (nah-chohn; correct) to the end of the statement. In grammar-speak, this word is called a tag. For example: Yesh Chalav BaMakrer, Nachon? (yehsh chah-lahv bah-mahk-rehr, nah-chohn?; there's milk in the refrigerator, correct?) Yet another way to turn a statement into a question is to add the question word, Ha'im (hah-eem) in front of the sentence. For example: Ha'im Yesh Chalav BaMakrer? (hah-eem yehsh chah-lahv bah-mahk-rehr; is there milk in the refrigerator?) This last option is the most formal option, so you won't hear it often. While Hebrew differs from English in that you don'tneed to flip the order in a statement in order to make it a question, the word-order flexibility of Hebrew allows the speaker to stress a particular part of the sentence by putting it at the beginning. For example, if someone just said there are no strawberries in the fridge, you may ask: Bananot Yesh? (bah-nah-noht yesh; Literally: bananas there are?; but are there bananas?) Or, you may also ask: Bananot Ayn? bah-nah-noht ehn?; Literally: bananas there aren't?;aren't there bananas?)

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Greeting and Saying Good-bye in Hebrew

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Hebrew offers you many choices of ways to say hello and good-bye. Here are a few things to say in greeting: Shalom. (shah-lohm; Hello; peace.) Mah Ha'Inyanim? (mah hah-in-yah-neem; How are things?) Mah Nishmah? (mah neesh-mah ; What's up?) Mah Shlomcha? (mah sh-lohm-chah; How are you? Literally: How is your welfare?) (Masculine) Mah Shlomech? (mah sh-loh-mehch; How are you? Literally: How is your welfare?) (Feminine) Mah Shlom'chem? (mah sh-lohm-chehm; How are you?) (Masculine Plural/ Feminine Plural) Ah, but parting is such sweet sorrow. When you have to hit the road, use one of these phrases to say good-bye: Shalom. (shah-lohm; Peace.) Kol Tuv. (kohl toov; Be well.) L'hitraot. (leh-hee-trah-oht; See you soon.) Greeting all day long In Hebrew, as in every other language, the time of day you greet a person often determines what you say. But Hebrew throws a bit of a twist into the standard mix. It also contains particular greetings that depend on whether you greet someone before or after the Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath starts when the sun begins to set on Friday night and ends about 25 hours later at sundown on Saturday night when the sun has completely set. In the morning, you can say Boker Tov (boh-kehr tohv; good morning). If someone greets you in this manner, you can say Boker Tov right back to him or her, or you can say Boker Or (boh-kehr ohr;morning light). In the afternoon, you can say Tzohora'im Tovim (tzoh-hoh-rye-eem toh-veem; good afternoon). In response, you can simply repeat the same words back. The pattern of simply repeating the greeting as a reply holds true for all the time-sensitive greetings. The morning greeting is the only exception because you can reply with either Boker Tov or Boker Or. So, in the evening, you can say Erev Tov (eh-rehv tohv; good evening) whether you're greeting someone or responding to another person's salutation. At night, you can say Lilah Tov (lye-lah tohv; good night). And, if someone is headed off to bed, you can wish him or her Chalomot Paz (cha-loh-moht pahz; golden dreams)! Got that? Good. Now on to the Sabbath-related greetings. All day Friday and during the Sabbath, greeting people with the words that wish them a peaceful Sabbath is customary: Shabbat Shalom (shah-baht shah-lohm; have peaceful Sabbath). When the sun sets on Saturday night (and you can see three stars in the sky), the Sabbath is over. On Saturday nights and even on Sundays, it's customary to greet people with a cheery Shavu'a Tov (shah-voo-ahtohv), wishing them a good week. The Book of Genesis describes each day as beginning in the evening: "There was evening; there was morning; a first day." Therefore, days and holidays on the Jewish calendar begin in the evening with the setting sun and last until the sun is completely set 25 hours later. The reason for 25 hours is just for safety. It should be exactly 24 hours, but rabbis added the extra hour so that we'll never start the Sabbath too late or end the Sabbath too early. Replying to a greeting Knowing how to say hello and good-bye is a great start. But, if you want to get past the initial hello, you need a few more phrases in your back pocket (like what to say when someone asks how you're doing). Who knows? These phrases could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Some responses to greetings are: Shlomi Tov. (sh-loh-mee tohv; My welfare is good.) Etzli B'seder Gamur. (ehtz-lee buh-seh-dehr gah-moohr; With me, things are completely okay.) B'seder. (beh-seh-dehr; Okay.) Mamash Tov. (mah-mahsh tohv; Really good.) Lo Kol-Kach Tov. (loh kohl-kahch tohv; Not so good.) See also: Common Greetings and Phrases in Hebrew Speaking of Favorite Hebrew Expressions How to Ask Questions in Hebrew

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Ad-dress-ing by the Jewish Calendar

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Of course, when you buy clothes, you want to dress for the season. Whether you are wearing Begadim Yomiyim (beh-gah-deem yoh-mee-eem; casual clothes), Levush Chagigi (lah-voosh chah-gee-gee; dressy clothes), or even your Bigdei Shabbat(beeg-day shah-baht; Sabbath clothes, the Hebrew equivalent of "Sunday Best"), or if you live in a climate with four seasons, you want to have handy all kinds of clothes for the different weather. Fall fashion Ah, fall — when the air is crisp and the leaves are colorful! On the Jewish calendar, fall is the time of the High Holidays, including Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur — the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement. Fall is a time for new beginnings. It's also a great time to get some new clothes. The following Hebrew words are a few fall items you may want to have on hand: Afudah (ah-foo-dah; vest) Me'il Katzar (meh-eel kah-tzar; jacket or short coat) Me'il-Geshem (meh-eel geh-shem; raincoat) The winter look Winter! What a magical time of year. If your home area receives snow, this time can be especially fun — and cold! Thus you need to bundle up. Following are some special items of winter clothing you may want to take out of storage when the temperatures start hovering around freezing: Kfafot (k-fah-foht; gloves) Kovah (koh-vah; hat) Magafayim (mah-gah-fye-eem; boots) Me'il (meh-eel; coat) Tza'if (tzah-eef; scarf) Spring attire Spring is wonderful! The days grow longer and warmer. Trees and flowers begin to bloom. And you can finally stop wearing those wool gloves and toss off that heavy coat in favor of a lighter jacket. You can now wear: Chultzah im Sharvulim K'tzarim (chool-tzah eem shahr-voo-leem keh-tzah-reem; short-sleeved shirt Mitria (mee-tree-yah; umbrella) Summer wear The dog days of summer! Long sunny days! Ice cream cones! And, of course, the clothes you can wear only on the hottest days of the year: Beged Yam (beh-gehdyahm; bathing suit) Michnahsayim K'tzarim (Mich-nah-sah-yeemKtzah-reem; shorts) Mishkafay-Shemesh (meesh-kah-fay Sheh-mesh; sunglasses) Sandalim (Sahn-dah-leem; sandals) When you put two nouns together to form one word, you have a dependent relationship or a compound noun. In Hebrew, you call this compound a Smichut (smee-choot). A good example in English is the word "fireplace." Basically, two words combine to make up one word. In Hebrew, when both nouns are singular, putting them together in Smichut (smee-choot) is easy. For example, the word for swimsuit in Hebrew is Beged Yam (beh-gehd yahm), which means "sea suit." Note: In Hebrew, the order is the opposite as it is in English. In the previous example, Beged means clothes or suit while Yam means sea. So literally that means "clothing of the sea." Furthermore, if the nouns have only one syllable, their pronunciation remains the same. The one exception is the word for room Cheder (cheh-dair). In Smichut, Cheder (smee-choot, cheh-dair) becomes Chadar (chah-dar). Hence, the Hebrew word for "dressing room" is Chadar Halbashah (chah-dar hahl-bah-shah). If the first word in the Smichut is masculine plural, the final mem drops off. For example, sunglasses is Mishkafei Shemesh (meesh-kah-fey sheh-mesh). One more tidbit: If you want to add the word the (Hah; hah) to a Smichut, put it in front of the second noun. For example: Beged HaYam (beh-gehd hah-yahm; the bathing suit) Chadar Ha'Halbashah (chah-dar hah-hahl-bah-shah; the dressing room) Mishkafei HaShemesh (meesh-kah-fey hah-sheh-mesh; the sunglasses)

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The Hebrew Alphabet

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Hebrew alphabet is comprised of 24 letters and a point system that denotes vowel sounds because the alphabet itself has no vowels. The following table lists the letters and their sounds followed by the points and which vowel sound each represents.

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How to Ask Questions in Hebrew

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

To master Hebrew — or any language — you need to be able to ask questions. The following table lists the common question words and a few common questions that can come in useful if you’re in a Hebrew-speaking community: Question Hebrew (pronunciation) Question Hebrew (pronunciation) Who Mi (mee) How Eich (ech) What Mah (mah) How much does it cost? Kamah Zeh Oleh? (kah-mah zeh oh-leh) When Matai (mah-tye) Where are the restrooms? Eifo HaSherutim? (ay-foh hah-sheh-roo-teem) Where Eifo (ay-foh) What's the time? Mah HaSha’ah? (mah hah-shah-ah) Why Lamah (lah-mah) What happened? Mah Karah? (mah kah-rah)

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A Basic Blessing in Hebrew

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You can use this great all-purpose Jewish blessing in Hebrew any time you experience something new (such as eating the first fruit of the season), or experience something wonderful — a wedding, a new job, a new contract, or whatever). Hebrew: Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam, Sh’hecheyanu, V’Kiyemanu, V’Higianu LaZman HaZeh. Pronunciation: bah-rooch ah-tah ah-doh-noye eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lehch hah-oh-lahm, sheh-cheh-hee-yah-noo veh-kee-yah-mah-noo veh-hee-gee-ah-noo lahz-mahn hah-zeh. Translation: Praised are You, the Eternal One our God, Ruler of the Cosmos, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.

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Common Greetings and Phrases in Hebrew

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Being able to greet people in Hebrew and say simple phrases helps you feel comfortable in the language and leads to conversations through which you can further expand your Hebrew proficiency. The following table offers basic words and phrases used when meeting and greeting people: Word/Phrase Hebrew (pronunciation) Word/Phrase Hebrew (pronunciation) Word/Phrase Hebrew (pronunciation) good morning Boker Tov (boh-kehr tohv) hello, good-bye, peace Shalom (shah-lohm) What’s your name? (MS) Eich Korim Lecha? (eich koh-reem leh-chah) good afternoon) Tzohorayim Tovim (tzoh-hoh-rah-yeem toh-veem) please and you’re welcome Bevakasha (beh-vah-kah-shah) What’s your name? (FS) Eich Korim Lach? (eich koh-reem lach) good night Lilah Tov (lye-lah tohv) excuse me Slicha (slee-chah) How are you? (MS) Mah Shlomcha? (mah shlohm-chah) good Sabbath Shabbat Shalom (shah-baht shah-lohm) thanks Todah (toh-dah) How are you? (FS) Mah Shlomech?(mah shloh-mech) a good week Shavua Tov (shah-voo-ah tohv) see you soon Lehitraot (leh-heet-rah-oht)

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