How did a word that means “leaning” become the way to describe the act of becoming a rabbi?
Holy or not, Hebrew has always been an evolving language.
We asked our team of rabbis to weigh in.
We Jews are obsessed with history. From ancient to modern times, from the Flood to the Exodus to the destruction of the Temples and the exiles, from the Middle Ages to the Inquisition and the pogroms to the Holocaust to the establishment of the State of Israel, we recall and retell our history.
When my friend Heidi Gleit asked last summer for volunteers to teach a weekly Hebrew reading-and-writing evening class to Eritrean and Darfurian asylum seekers in the Israeli town of Lod, I agreed immediately.
Gender in Hebrew—as in Spanish, Hindi, French and other languages—is intimately woven into word construction. “Hebrew goes a lot further,” says Erez Levon, a professor of sociolinguistics at Queen Mary University of London who focuses on questions of gender and sexuality. He explains that the language is particularly restrictive because gender is conveyed through masculine or feminine verb, adjective and adverb endings and almost every other part of speech.
In What We Talk About When We Talk About Hebrew, Naomi Sokoloff and Nancy Berg, both professors of Hebrew and comparative literature, successfully present a number of lenses through which the wondrous revival of the Hebrew language—and its current decline on American college campuses—can be viewed.
Bibi was just trying to be cool. When congratulating Israeli contestant Netta Barzilai for her Eurovision song, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent her a tweet. It worked in Hebrew. “Netta, Kapara alayich” he wrote.