WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT READING HEBREW? 
   



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WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT READING HEBREW?

I remember the first word I ever read in first grade - (we're talking English here) - It was the word "Jane" - for Dick and Jane, of course.

I found that thrilling - that I could read a word!  Made a big impression on me.

Almost 40 years later, I learned to read Hebrew.  Same thrill! 

During the first lesson I took with National Jewish Outreach Program's Hebrew Crash Course (free! - 1-800-44-HEBREW or go to www.NJOP.org) we learned, by the end of that first class to read the word "Shalom."  I found that thrilling!  At last the "secret key" to the Jewish prayer service was being revealed to me after so many years! 

To this day I am thrilled that I can follow the service in Hebrew.  In fact, I still get lost - sometimes because they're going so fast or I get distracted - and sometimes because they jump all over the place - still - it's a challenge and a PRIVILEGE to me to be able to follow the service and actually READ THE WORDS!  And by the way, once you can read the word "shalom" in Hebrew, you can usually find your place - because "shalom" pops up often in the prayer service.

Now perhaps you already know how to read Hebrew - you already had a Bar/Bat Mitzvah - and you are NOT IMPRESSED.  Gee - sorry for you!  Because Hebrew is a wonderful language to know!

I remember going to a lecture years ago when the Soviet Union was still repressing Jews and the study of Hebrew was very much outlawed there.  The speaker was a young Jewish American woman who had been to the Soviet Union, working to help lift the hideous, harsh restrictions from Jews, and she was describing her experiences.  She had had the classic Jewish American  education and she remembered well how much she hated taking Hebrew and how she - and her classmates - had had contempt for their text books.  But while she was in the USSR she visited some Refuseniks - people who were in prison - for YEARS - (Soviet prisons are not country clubs!) - because of their committment to being Jewish and observing Jewish customs and laws and, of course, studying Hebrew.  One of the people whom she interviewed, she was astonished to find, was in prison because she had possessed a Hebrew Text Primer - THE VERY BOOK THIS YOUNG WOMAN HAD "HATED" AND HELD IN SUCH CONTEMPT WHILE GROWING UP!

How spoiled we are in this country!  How unbelievably SPOILED we are!  It's a fact - and it's disgusting.

Knowing how to read Hebrew allows you to PARTICIPATE AS A JEW in the Jewish religious service!   

My Aunt Ruth, age 78, has plenty of time - and inclination - to take all kinds of classes but she REFUSES to learn Hebrew.  Why?  Because she says she wants to EXPRESS HERSELF in her own language.  And so she argues with her Rabbi that more of the service should be in English, not Hebrew. 

But guess what? - Hebrew prayer is NOT ABOUT expressing yourself!  (That's such a very MODERN idea! - it's worthy - but anyone can express himself in his own language - to G-d anytime!  No one's stopping you!  There's no intermediary in Judaism between you and G-d.) 

Hebrew allows you to ENTER INTO JEWISH PRAYER MODE - using the ancient HOLY language of Hebrew - the language of our biblical matriarchs and patriarchs - the langugage of our Torah - along side OTHER JEWS - within the JEWISH CONGREGATION - within a Jewish context - all engaged in the same ancient words and chants and melodies and actions.  It's a communal experience that is enriched and elevated by the participation of everyone using the same ancient Hebrew words and prayers and incantations, melodies and rhythmns.  It's a very SPECIAL language. 

You can go to a Jewish prayer service anywhere in the world - where the general populace speaks some kind of language you never heard in all your life - but in that Jewish prayer service, the congregation is going to be praying primarily in HEBREW!  This is a wonderful, wonderful thing!  And perhaps it's another reason why Judaism has survived for so long - because of our universal language of prayer - HEBREW.

There is a lovely tale from the Talmud about how G-d created the Hebrew letters BEFORE G-d created the universe.  Because G-d needed the Hebrew letters in ORDER TO CREATE THE UNIVERSE!  (As it is written, God said "let there be light and there was light...")

Think of the prayer over wine - "Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, Borey Pree Hagofen."  It's a simple ancient prayer - but it loses it's special quality when translated into English - "Blessed art thou, Oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who created the fruit of the vine."  It pales in comparison!

In addition, there are mysterical aspects to Hebrew.  Each letter has a numerical value that is essential to the character of that letter.  And so it is that the number 18 is so special to Jews - because 18 is the numerical value of the letters in the word Chai - which means LIFE!  And in Judaism - LIFE is everything!  Judaism says, Choose Life - that you may LIVE (a full and worthy life!) 

Call 1-800-44-HEBREW - or go to NJOP.org - so you can get on the list for the Crash Course - for FREE! - and start to participate more fully in the services of your faith.   

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SHALOM! WELCOME! (HOME)  |  SPONSOR A KEHILLAH AD!  |  OUR MISSION - OUR PLAN  |  NON-DENOMINATIONAL?  |  THE DEVALUATION OF JUDAISM  |  SHOP KEHILLAH! BOUTIQUE  |  18 REASONS WHY IT'S GREAT TO BE JEWISH  |  18 WAYS TO DEEPEN YOUR JUDAISM  |  THE ONE JEWISH RITUAL FOR YOUR FAMILY...  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SHABBAT?  |  ADD A BIT OF SHABBAT TO YOUR LIFE - FRIDAY NIGHT  |  ADD A BIT OF SHABBAT TO YOUR LIFE - SATURDAY  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SYNAGOGUE?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT READING HEBREW?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT KEEPING KOSHER?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT JEWISH PRAYER?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ISRAEL?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT MARRYING JEWISH?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ORGANIZED RELIGION?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT "ANCIENT"...  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT PRESERVING JUDAISM?  |  NOT A BELIEVER?  |  THINGS YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING JEWISH  |  YOUR OBJECTIONS - THINGS YOU HATE!  |  ARE YOU A SINGLE PARENT?  |  ARE YOU CREATIVE?  |  ARE YOU "MIXED?"  |  SMALL PLEASURES...  |  GOOD STORIES  |  THE "WOMAN" ISSUE  |  OUR BOLD RADICAL PROPOSAL...  |  ADVERTISE TO EDUCATE!  |  OUR PRO-JUDAISM AD CAMPAIGN  |  KEHILLAH RADIO & TV  |  THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR JUDAISM...  |  JEW VS. JEW  |  PASSOVER - ONE THING YOU CAN DO...  |  Shrek on Judaism!  |  Mel Brooks - On Being a Jew  |  Kirk Douglas: Why Be Jewish?  |  Rabbi Harold Kushner  |  Joe McCain on The Jews & Israel  |  American Presidents and The Jews  |  KEHILLAH is dedicated to...  |  LINKS TO Jewish Organizations, Charities & Websites  |  CONVERSION TO JUDAISM  |  GILLIE'S RECIPES  |  JEWISH HUMOR  |  NY TIMES: BRING BACK SHABBAT! PERSONAL STORY...  |  DO YOU HAVE INSOMNIA?  |  Contact Information  |  YOUR FEEDBACK PLEASE!  |  TO HELP SUPPORT KEHILLAH

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