a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

I Can Read Hebrew!!

Posted on: June 21, 2011

More accurately, I can read that.  With trouble.  Even though I know what it says.  Kind of.  I can also read three other words that are really easy and in every prayer book:  “Siddur, Baruch and Atah.”

I think, given the fact that today was my first Hebrew lesson, I did it over the phone (I’m sick), and it’s my first stab at actually reading Hebrew I’m in a good place.  I’m up to about a dozen words and it was only my first lesson.

Of course, I sound like a kindergartener.  I feel my mother’s pain when she had taught me how to read.  CAR. “C-C-A-R-R.  CAR!”  Except with Hebrew it’s a little bit different.  Trying to wrap my 31year old brain recognition of Germanic symbols vs Hebrew letters is quite difficult.  I felt 5 again when I actually made a word that sounded like a word.

I speak really poor French and even worse Italian.  The great thing about learning a romance language is that, for the most part, you have a fairly accurate idea of what sound the letters will make.  It takes a while to learn that a double L doesn’t make a Y sound in Italian like in Spanish but you can make do.  With Hebrew, there is no point of reference.  Besides kind of knowing the Greek Alphabet from my sorority days Hebrew might as well be Swahili.  Except for the fact that every Friday and Saturday (and every day three times a day for Traditional Jews) I will need to read Hebrew.

So here we are.  I have a meeting with my conversion rabbi next week and I’m learning to read Hebrew.  It feels really amazing to be able to say that I’m something new.  It’s different from learning French in high school and college.  There were dreams, of course, of running away to France or Montreal (my favorite Canadian City) to fully immerse myself in all things French.  The food, the culture, the art, the music, the romance.  They were just dreams.  I never ran off to France and when I spent time in Montreal my French left much to be desired.  My small knowledge of language is helpful, to be sure.  When I was in Costa Rica last year I got by with terrible French and Italian blended with bad English and Spanish from the Costa Ricans. 

There is something about Hebrew.  Something about making the characters into sounds into letters this morning that caused a stir.  I can never become French or Italian or Spanish-as much as I love the language.  I will, however, become a Jewish person.  It’s the connection to the Jewish people through text and language that stirred in me.  I will be Jewish and this will be my language.  It was a very Ruth moment.  I literally heard her telling Naomi, “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God.”

7 Responses to "I Can Read Hebrew!!"

I love the Hebrew language, no doubt about that. More than Latin, which is what I need to start learning for starting my master’s degree o.O I’m going to learn both in time; maybe I’ll even get some Russian in there!

It is a beautiful language to hear, and hopefully it will sound beautiful coming out of my mouth! It better, darn it! Once I get over this 5-year-old hump it should, right?

Russian would be awesome. My partner’s building and neighborhood is Russian and Ukranian. Her neighbors are so sweet but we can’t communicate with them. A lot of gestures and smiles.

Wow! Congrats. I have been thinking that I might want to take up learning Hebrew too after profusely saying I would never- after trying, and failing. For me another reason for not wanting to learn was the fact I had to learn a completely new alphabet – which seemed impossible. I’m already learning my 3rd language so the Hebrew learning won’t start anytime soon for me. I actually wanted to learn Yiddish over Hebrew but meh I was like 12 when I made that sea idiom. What sorority were you in???

Damn this autocorrect. Sea idiom was supposed to be “decision “

You should definitely learn Hebrew! It’s fun! 🙂

I have just come across your blog and already like it! Good luck with learning Hebrew.

Thanks so much for stopping by Ilana-Davita!

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