As we advance our study of the songs in the book of Psalms, we see an increasing interest and focus on the Hebrew language. A good example for that is the demand for more content in the Psalms Studied pages on this site. Many enjoy the journey of close reading over the verses, which many times brings forth the deeper meaning through the Hebrew and its unique roots, often with dual and triple meanings.
On this (one) page, I will try to enrich your knowledge about Hebrew: development of the language, sources, mind-set and more topics that I believe to be important and interesting, as well as the most frequently asked subjects.
I’m leaving the ‘comments’ feature available, so feel free to ask any question, write a suggestion or advance any further discussion you’re more interested about.
And finally, this page is ‘on construction’ and will be updated within time and according to demand, so be patient 🙂 Enjoy!
Modern and ancient Hebrew
On a natural course, languages evolve in time. Hebrew is unique in that sense. Since it was not used for a day-to-day business, it froze and stopped from evolving. If a normative Israeli born will meet a Jewish person from the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, the two will be able to have a conversation. Of course, there will be some inconvenience with a slightly different grammar, archaic terms and so on, but at the end of the day they could understand each other (as long as they won’t talk about electricity, ice cream and other technologies that were not exist yet..).
A person who is interested in learning Jewish scriptures, such as the Tanach (Jewish Bible), Mishna and Talmud (Jewish scriptures of the oral laws), Middle ages writings and so on, should start learning Biblical Hebrew to understand the depths and dualities that lies also in unique forms, special roots and grammar of the Hebrew language. Eventually it will also help with the Modern Hebrew.
If the reason to learn Hebrew is to only get the sense of the language and to carry a conversation in Israel, modern Hebrew is easier to master.
Who spoke Hebrew before the re-establishment of the state of Israel?
Historical evident show that Hebrew was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Israel, up until two-thousand years ago, when the majority of the people of Israel were sent to exile. Jewish tradition takes the start of Hebrew back to the first humans, Adam and Eve, whereas it was the only spoken language from the beginning of time until the destruction of the ‘Tower of Babel’.
As time passed the people shifted to speaking Aramaic in daily lives, as it was used by most of the residents of the middle east. At that time, Hebrew was mainly used for religious purposes. In a way, many preferred not to use Hebrew for profane talks, and by that stating that the language has more significance than a mere tool for communication.
It is interesting to see that such behavior does not come only from arrogance or superstitious, rather, it has a source in Jewish laws: also today, many observant Jews will not take with them any Hebrew books or any other Hebrew-written material into dirty places, such as restrooms, even when the writings’ content is secular.
When the kingdom of Israel was destroyed and Jews got dispersed in different countries, they gradually adopted the languages of their countries, but still kept using Hebrew for prayers and for reading and writing religious books (mixed with Aramaic). It was used not only on holidays, but in all prayers and Bible readings.
The first signs of revival of Hebrew as a modern language began in the early 19th century, when European Jewish intellectuals attempted to write science books and novels in a Biblical-like language. It didn’t have much influence initially, but in late 19th century a young Jew named Eliezer Ben-Yehuda discovered this, and was so strongly impressed, that he developed the language further by inventing new words, adapting new style and publishing modern-style newspapers with stories about world news, politics, science, inventions, and so on. He also helped establish schools, and by 1912 there was already a generation of young people for whom modern Hebrew was the native language, and they formed the nation that achieved full independence in 1948.
Here is a nice movie about Ben-Yehudah (it was prepared for kids, but…I like it):
Hebrew continues to advance and be developed, formally so by the academy of the Hebrew language in Israel, in which Ben-Yehuda acted as its first president. Some of the materials brought in our site is a result of the academy’s assistance – mainly in the practical Hebrew learning.
Historical background of the Hebrew
Multiple meaning of Hebrew words. Roots language
Accent and pronunciation
Melody, chanting of the book of Psalms
Translations of the Tanach (the Jewish Bible)
Translation of the Psalms
Hebrew used in the book of Psalms
Psalms and the Jewish prayer books
Learn to speak Hebrew
I hope in time to add here some tips and practical Hebrew teaching from my experience as a Hebrew teacher some research accomplished with The academy of Hebrew language.
Sanctity of the Hebrew language
Hebrew, a reviving language