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Editing Failure of English-Hebrew Dictionary

December 20, 2011

I recently purchased the Oxford English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English Dictionary published by Kernerman – Lonnie Kahn. This is a hardcopy dictionary, just to be clear. It was edited by Ya’acov Levy. And it has a significant usability failing: that means you Mr. Editor Levy.

Hebrew is gender-based. Nouns have a gender and that’s important to writing and speaking. You need to know the gender of a word and it’s not always apparent by a look. Some words have “irregular” plurals that appear to be in the opposite gender.

So, if you look up a word in the English-Hebrew side of the dictionary, you would expect to see the gender along with the listing of the Hebrew words. But no. The English listing provides the part of speech for the English word and just the Hebrew words. No gender listing. To find that out, you have to flip the book over to its Hebrew side and search for the listing. Two steps.

There’s plenty of room on each line for the information, the gender and plural even (if irregular).

Fantastic Jewish-themed T-shirts

December 4, 2011

Shofar Blowers International 250The Jewnion Label is a fun online store filled with clever Jewish-centric paraphernalia. It’s back-ended by CafePress. The founders, Stacey and Joshua Abarbanel of Santa Monica, Calif., created emblems honoring a wide range of unsung heroes, including latke flippers and Jewish mothers. All of these designs can be put on the usual Cafe Press fare of shirts, sweats and mugs.

Each emblem highlights a guild or society with a motto. For example, the Purim Shpielers & Squelers Society’s is “Shake, Rattle and Role.” The names of the Purim story characters are wrapped around the main design. Really clever.

I purchased a t-shirt for the International Federation of Shofar Blowers, since I am BIJ’s Ba’al T’kiyah for the High Holy Days. The blasts of the shofar are translated into symbols of long dashes, short dashes and dots. This design is superb.

Last Year’s New Year Column for the BIJ Newsletter

September 13, 2011

Here is my column from last September’s BIJ Bulletin, entitled: Fresh Mitzvot For Your New Year. I referred to it in my current column, so here it is …

The High Holy Days are a time of deep reflection, heartfelt prayers and renewal. At the same time, they can bring opportunities for new blessings and fresh connections to our spiritual heritage, and perhaps, the creation of traditions for you and your family.

Many of the High Holiday symbols and customs are familiar: the round challah, which represents a crown (we refer to G*d as Melech, “king,” in a number of prayers in the liturgy ); and the dipping of apples and challah into honey on the first day of the new year  (adding the special blessing “to renew unto us a good and sweet year”).

Yet there are many other customs and observances for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that can enrich your spiritual connection to the season. Here are a few for your consideration:

Piling on the Shehecheyanu blessings. On holidays, we say shehecheyanu, the blessing for special occasions thanking G*d for “granting us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this time or occasion.” But is one blessing enough? No way! Our tradition points to creative ways to double up on shehecheyanus. Read more…

Hateful transliteration rules

July 14, 2011

I note that a number of my B. Mitzvah students have trouble with the “ch” sound of the “chet” and “khaf,” even those who attend a Jewish school with plenty of Hebrew. They make it more of a aspirated “h,” rather than a nice strong “ch” sound. And yes, I know about the pronunciation difference between the chet and khaf, the latter getting the IPA symbol that looks like an X. I encourage a stronger, more forward “ch” sound for both letters when chanting.

Perhaps this predilection for the “h” comes from longstanding Hebrew Academy transliteration rule for “chet” of using an “h” and a diacritic mark underneath, a line. This could be confusing to some people and sends the wrong visual cue. I understand it for library and academic purposes where we want to get some semblance of the actual Hebrew spelling from the English letters. But for saying the prayers?

Yes, the students should stick with the Hebrew, but sometimes eyes stray. It creates a visual ambiguity.

My eyes prefer the “ch” transliteration rather than the “kh” version. But either is better than the “h” Hebrew Academy version.

Teaching & Guided Meditation for Sacred Hebrew Chant & Drum Service, Shabbat Mishpatim 5771

March 6, 2011

This is the teaching and guided meditation that I offered in January at Congregation Beth Israel Judea’s Sacred Hebrew Chant & Drum Service for Shabbat Mishpatim, 24 Sh’vat 5771.

Here are some thoughts on uncertainty from the book Yearnings by Irwin Kula:

“The mystical text the Zohar tells us that G*d says to every human being every day “go forth,” begin the journey that is yours to make.

“What makes us enlightened is that we are not afraid to wander. Doubt is a prerequisite for any meaningful journey. When we can acknowledge the built-in anxiety rather than maintaining the illusion of certainty, we become humble — which in turn creates a new and more authentic confidence.

“What if we understood that all decisions, even the seeming sure things, are leaps into the unknown? What if we were galvanized, rather than paralyzed, by uncertainty?

Read more…

Gloomy Analysis for Two-State Solution

December 10, 2010

A recent analysis by Benny Morris on Tablet Magazine, titled Bleak House, is worth reading.  In the piece, Morris says that prospects for a Palestinian state have “rarely been more grim.”

First, is a fact that he says American and EU politicos won’t admit: that there’s no will for peace on the Palestinian side, even from the “moderates.”  He says this rejectionism is ignored by most Western observers.

… Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called “secular” and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs.

Read more…