Posted on: June 21, 2011
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.”