Lesson 10: Final Review

Yayayayayayayay! 26 letters, 13 vowels, 5 final letters learned, and you now have the ability to read Hebrew. Before you can officially celebrate, we do need to learn some weird rules/exceptions. We have plenty of those in English…telephone (ph=f say what???) and there are a few in Hebrew too that you need to know about. So let’s go through these anomalies before doing a little Hebrew reading practice and moving on to learning Bar and Bat Mitzvah blessings.

Weird Exceptions to Hebrew Reading

1. This was briefly mentioned in Lesson 7, but sometimes you will see dots in the middle of letters like GIMEL, MEM, etc. If you have not been specifically taught what that dot represents such as the dot in BET is a bellybutton, the dot in KAF is a cough drop, etc. then TREAT THOSE DOTS AS SIMPLY DECORATION. In other words, ignore them. Just like you have been doing with the middle dot in the letter TAV. Dot or no dot, it is TAV either way, and the same thing goes for decorative dots you might find in letters on occasion.

2. The letter CHET (ח) with this AH vowel (חַ) at the end of the word makes the sound AHch not ChAH. You reverse pronunciation and say the vowel sound before the letter sound. This is the only letter/vowel combination where this occurs.

 (KAHch)  קחַ  

3. So…if you were to read these next examples you would pronounce the words as kAHL, chAHL, mEEkAHL, and hAHkAHL. And you would technically be right. However, if you see a KAF or CHAF with this AH vowel ( ָ    ) next to a LAMED, the vowel switches to an OH sound, and you pronounce the words as kOHL, chOL, mEEkOHL, and hAHkOHL. You will see this a lot because kol is a popular word in Hebrew meaning everything or all. 

 (HAHkOHL) הַכָּל 

  (MEEkOHL) מִכָּל 

 (ChOHL) כָל 

(KOHL) כָּל 

4. You have probably heard the word Adonai before. It means God. But what makes the “ai” sound in Adonai? That sounds like the “i” in English, and we know that a vowel like that doesn’t exist in Hebrew. This is what we know in English as a diphthong, a sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable.

אֲדֹנָי  

When ַ   (AH) and ָ   (AHare followed by the letter י (YUD) at the end of a word, say “i” as in eye.

צִווּי  

When the וּ (OOH) vowel is followed by the י (YUDat the end of a word, say “OOHee” as in gooey.

אוֹי  

When the וֹ (OHvowel is followed by the י (YUD) letter at the end of a word, say OY as in boy.

5. Each Hebrew letter has a vowel that corresponds to it except in a few very, very rare instances. It may be below the letter, over the letter, or next to it, but the vowel is there. Occasionally, you will find the letter ALEF just chillin without a corresponding vowel. If so, just skip over it like it doesn’t even exist because ALEF is silent and if there is no vowel associated with it, there is no sound. 

6. There are 3 different spellings of the word Adonai or God. You will simply have to memorize two of these spellings as there is no way to read them.

אֲדֹנָי  

יְיָ  

יְהוָה

7. There will be some exceptions to the STOP SIGN rule where the “STOP SIGN” is in the middle of a word but makes an EH sound. It is a challenging grammar situation, but if you continue on to learn Hebrew prayers with B’nai Mitzvah Academy, I will always circle the STOP SIGN if there is an exception.

8. If you see this symbol (ֽ   ) underneath a Hebrew word, it is not a vowel. It is an accent mark that tells you what letter to emphasize. The vertical line, called METEG, tells you to accent the VAV + AH and YUD syllable. It is similar to Spanish where you have an accent mark over a word like televisión which tells you to emphasize the letter “o.”

וַֽיְהִי 

Hebrew Reading Practice

Now test yourself. Read the largest word in each sentence of important Hebrew prayers. Did you get it right? Confirm that you have read the word properly and if not, read the explanation of how to read the word.

1.

 שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ

Pronounced: EHLOHhAYnOOH

1st syllable: ALEF is silent, EH vowel with five dots. 

2nd syllable: LAMED with OH vowel.

3rd syllable: HEY with an AY vowel and the YUD has no vowel so it is part of the AY vowel.

4th syllable: NUN with OOH vowel.

2.

וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם  בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ

Pronounced: BEHshEEvtEHchAH

1st syllable: BET and EH vowel because it’s under the first letter of the word.

2nd syllable: SHIN (dots on the right) and an EE vowel with a VET that is stopped by a STOP SIGN in the middle of the word. This STOP SIGN ends the syllable.

3rd syllable: TAV and an EH vowel since this vowel directly follows a stop sign we treat it as though it is the beginning of a new word even though it is just the start of a new syllable. 

4th syllable: FINAL CHAF with an AH vowel. The letter goes to the vowel line and has a vowel inside of it! 

3.

אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב

 

Pronounced: YEEtschAHk

1st syllable: YUD with an EE vowel and a TSADI with a STOP SIGN which ends the syllable. 

2nd syllable: CHET with an AH vowel and a KOOF to finish off the word. 

4.

וּמַצְמִיחַ יְשׂוּעָה

Pronounced: OOHmAHtsmEEAHch

1st syllable: OOH vowel.

2nd syllable: MEM with an AH vowel underneath and then a TSADI. The TSADI has a STOP SIGN underneath which ends the syllable. 

3rd syllable: MEM with an EE vowel underneath. The YUD doesn’t have a vowel attached, so it is part of the EE vowel. 

4th syllable: We have a CHET with an AH vowel. We learned in the exceptions section that in this instance, the vowel is read before the letter making the sound AHch.

5.

וְנָתַן לָנוּ אֶת תּוֹרָתוֹ

Pronounced: VEHnAHtAHn

1st syllable: VAV with an EH vowel since it is under the first letter of the word.

2nd syllable: NUN with an AH vowel.

3rd syllable: TAV with an AH vowel and the word ends with a FINAL NUN because the final letter goes all the way to the bottom of the vowel line.

6.

בְּפִי כָּל חַי תָּמִיד 

(3 words)

Pronounced: BEHfEE kOHL chAI

1st word has 2 syllables:

1st syllable: BET and EH vowel because it’s under the first letter of the word.

2nd syllable: FAY with an EE vowel under it. The YUD doesn’t have a vowel attached, so it is part of the EE vowel. 

2nd word: KAF with an AH vowel and a LAMED is an exception and is pronounced kOHL.

3rd word: CHET has an AH vowel with a YUD which creates a diphthong just like the word Adonai. That’s why the word is pronounced chAI which means life in Hebrew.