Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding your way around Twebrew School

New to Twebrew School? View our introductory video here.
To receive a copy of our corresponding textbook, the Reishith Binah, click here. If you're currently enrolled in one of our synagogue-based Hebrew Reading Crash Courses, you will receive a hard copy of the Reishith Binah directly from your instructor.

Below is a complete list of all the video lessons in order, as well as links to the "Treat" where you learn more about the letters discussed in each video.
***There are only Twebrew School videos corresponding to the lessons of the textbook that introduce a new Hebrew letter or vowel, not the review lessons. So don't be alarmed if you see certain lessons not included in the list above.***

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hebrew Name Matthew

(Are you looking for our Twebrew School Treats about the Hebrew alphabet or our Hebrew Instructional videos? Click here for a directory!)Click here to hear Ma’tit’ya’hoo pronounced

Matthew is another name whose popularity is based on Christianity but is actually the Greek form of a Hebrew name, Mattityahu. The name means “Gift of God.”

There is really only one famous Mattityahu in early Jewish tradition, and he is not in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, Mattityahu is the first hero in the story of Chanukah and the Maccabees. A High Priest, descended from the Hasmonean line, Mattityahu lived in the city of Modi’in with his five sons. Mattityahu started the rebellion against the Syrian-Greeks when he refused to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god and slew the Jew who volunteered to do so.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Hebrew Name John

(Are you looking for our Twebrew School Treats about the Hebrew alphabet or our Hebrew Instructional videos? Click here for a directory!)Click here to hear Yo’chah’nahn pronounced

The name John is actually the Greek rendition of the Hebrew name Yochanan (Johanan - a name that today many would assume is German). While the common name John gets its popularity from John the Baptist, Yochanan was actually a common name in early Jewish history. The name translates to “God is gracious.”

There are two different Yochanans mentioned in the biblical canon. The first is Yochanan ben Karea, who tried to warn Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, that he was going to be assassinated, After the assassination occurred and Babylonian troops appeared to express the emperors ire, Yochanan ben Korea helped lead the remaining inhabitants of Judea to safety in Egypt (Jeremiah 43:8-22).

The second appearance of this name is in the Book of Nechemia. Yochanan ben Yayada is listed as one of the priests who returned from Babylon with Zerubabbel.

There are, however, several important post-biblical Yochanans. While everyone remembers Judah Macabee, who led the rebellion, his oldest brother was the less well-known Yochanan Gaddi (note the Greek second name). His death at the hands of the sons of Jambri from Medeba (in Moab, now Jordan) is recorded in the first Book of Maccabees.

Within the same family, but several generations later, the name Yochanan reappears. Yochanan Girhan assumed the Hasmonean kingship in 134 B.C.E., and was known as John Hyrcanus I. By the time his descendant, John Hyrcanus II, became High Priest in 76 B.C.E., the Hebrew Yochanan appears to have fully transformed to the Greek John.

When Jewish life moved into the age of written oral tradition, Yochanan remained a popular name. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was the Jewish leader who lived through the destruction of the Temple. He remained loyal and devoted to the Jewish people, and when the Emperor Vespasian offered him three wishes, one of them was that Vespasian give the Jews the city of Yavneh, which was to become the new home of the Sanhedrin, and spare the sages from destruction.

Finally, in our list of famous Yochanans, was the fascinating, and incredibly handsome, Rabbi Yochanan ben Naf'cha, was a well-known student of Rabbi Judah the Prince (Yehuda Hanasi) Rabbi Judah the Prince (Yehuda Hanasi), the redactor of the Mishna. Among other things, Rabbi Yochanan ben Naf'cha is credited with editing the Jerusalem Talmud.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Assortment of Hebrew Girl Names

(Are you looking for our Twebrew School Treats about the Hebrew alphabet or our Hebrew Instructional videos? Click here for a directory!)

Click here to hear Kayla pronounced
Click here to hear Gahv’ree’ayl and Gahv’ree’ay’lah pronounced
Click here to hear Mee’cha’eyl pronounced
Click here to hear Ah’lee’yah pronounced
Click here to hear Ah’mahl’yah pronounced

In the 2011 list of favorite girl names compiled by the United States Social Security Administration, there are several names that have a connection to Hebrew (or Yiddish) but are not rooted in Jewish history. Here is a brief/explanation of some of these names:

Kayla, which ranks 49th on the list of names, has several possible origins. As a Jewish girls name, it is the Yiddish variation of the Hebrew Kelila, meaning a “crown of laurels.” It is also a feminine form of the masculine kalil (which means “complete,” and might be the source of Superman’s real name). It is interesting to note that Kayla is the name of one of the languages of the Beta Israel (Jews from Ethiopia).

Gabriela/Gabrielle and Makayla are both legitimate Hebrew names rooted in tradition. However, these names do not exist in the feminine form. Gabriela and Gabrielle are both derivatives of Gabriel, which means “God is my strength.” Gabriel is the name of one of the four archangels. Likewise, Makayla is a feminine version of Michael, another of the archangels. Michael means “Who is like God?”

A fairly new name on the world name scene is Aaliyah. This name may have gained popularity from the late pop singer, Aaliyah, who was not Jewish. The name means “ascent.” This same word is also the term for the act of going up to read the blessings of the Torah in synagogue, as well as the act of moving to Israel.

Amalia (and its derivative Mia) are both linked to the modern Hebrew name which means “Work of God.”

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hebrew Name Alexander

(Are you looking for our Twebrew School Treats about the Hebrew alphabet or our Hebrew Instructional videos? Click here for a directory!)
Click here to hear Ah’lec’sahn’dehr pronounced
This is certainly not the type of name one typically thinks of as a traditional Jewish name. It may surprise you to learn that the name originated as a way of honoring none other than Alexander the Great.

Alexander was in his mid-twenties when he brought his armies to Judea. He had already conquered the Balkans and Asia Minor. Since Alexander was moving into the territory from the north, he first encountered a small converted tribe known as the Samaritans (also referred to as the Cutheans). The Samaritans had accepted much but not all of the Torah; in particular, they rejected the oral law and the Temple worship in Jerusalem. They viewed themselves in competition with the Jews of Judea and therefore told Alexander that the Temple should be destroyed. (They wished that their holy site on Har Gerizim would thus be rendered the pre-eminent place of worship.) They further attempted to embitter Alexander against the Jews by emphasizing the Jews’ refusal to place a statue of Alexander in the Temple.

Upon hearing of the treacherous plans of the Samaritans, Simeon the Just (Shimon HaTzadik), who was the High Priest at that time, dressed himself in his priestly garments and went forth with some of Israel’s noblemen to serve as a welcoming party. At dawn, they came upon the army of Alexander.

The Talmud relates the encounter thus:
When the dawn rose he [Alexander] said to them [the Samaritans]: Who are these [people]?
They answered: The Jews who rebelled against you....
When he [Alexander] saw Simeon the Just, he descended from his carriage and bowed down before him.
They [the Samaritans] said to him: A great king like yourself should bow down before this Jew?
He [Alexander] answered: His image goes before me in all my battles and leads me to victory.
He [Alexander] said to them [the Jews]: What have you come for?
They [the Jews] said: Is it possible that star-worshipers should mislead you to destroy the House wherein prayers are said for you and your kingdom that it be never destroyed! (Yoma 69a).

Alexander proceeded to conquer Judea (as well as most of the “known world” of the time), but did not destroy Jerusalem or its Temple. The strife that would later develop between the Jews and the Greeks occurred long after Alexander had died.

To honor Alexander for his respect for Jewish life, many boys born that year were named Alexander. Thus did the name of the great pagan emperor become a Jewish name, along with its Yiddish version, Sender.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hebrew Name Naomi

(Are you looking for our Twebrew School Treats about the Hebrew alphabet or our Hebrew Instructional videos? Click here for a directory!)
Click here to hear Nah’aw’mee pronounced

Overshadowed by the story of her famous daughter-in-law Ruth, Naomi’s story is both poignant and important. She is introduced into the Biblical narrative as the wife of Elimelech, a man of great wealth in the city of Bethlehem (in the territory of Judah). They have two sons. When famine strikes, rather than see his wealth depleted in local relief efforts, Elimelech decides to close up his house in Judea and leave. Elimelech, family in tow, heads to a more prosperous locale: Moab, was a nation with a history of less-than-friendly relations with the Israelites and had recently been at war with the inhabitants of the Judean territory.

Their self-imposed exile lasted many years. Long enough, that both of Naomi’s sons took wives from among the Moabites. Long enough, that Elimelech died in exile, as did her two sons. Left a widow, with two widowed daughter-in-laws, Naomi decided to return home to Judea and, at this point in the story, one learns the significance of Naomi’s name.

When she decides to return home, Naomi cannot bear to be called by her own name, which comes from the word na’im, meaning “pleasant” or “agreeable.” When she and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, arrive in Bethlehem “all the city was astir concerning them, and the women said: 'Is this Naomi?' And she said to them: 'Call me not Naomi, call me Marah; for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and God has brought me back home empty; why call me Naomi, seeing that God has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?'” (Ruth 1:19-21).

Neither history nor the people of Bethlehem at that time accepted Naomi’s declared name change, but it was included in the biblical narrative because of what it showed about Naomi as a person.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Hebrew Name Nathan

(Are you looking for our Twebrew School Treats about the Hebrew alphabet or our Hebrew Instructional videos? Click here for a directory!)
Click here to hear Na’tahn pronounced

While “good old reliable Nathan” (from Guys and Dolls) might be a phrase that pops into a few heads when they hear this Biblical name, Nathan was actually an important prophet who lived in the time of King David.

When Nathan first appears in II Samuel, King David expresses his concern: “See now, I am living in a house of cedar [an elaborate palace] while the ark of God dwells with the curtain [in a makeshift Tabernacle]” (II Samuel 7:2). Nathan tells him to go with his heart. But, that night, God speaks to Nathan and tells him that King David is not destined to build the Temple. This honor will go to David's son who will succeed him.

Nathan’s more dramatic appearance occurs several chapters later. King David had sent a man named Uriah to the fatal front line against the Ammonites and married the wife that Uriah had divorced for the sake of war (Bathsheba). After Bathsheba gave birth to a son with David, Nathan appeared in the court and presented the King with a legal case of a rich man who stole the beloved sheep of a poor family. When King David declared that such a man deserved to die and must pay fourfold for this ewe, Nathan dramatically declared, “You are that man!” He then announced God’s rebuke and punishment (“The sword shall not cease from your house forever.”).

The child born to Batsheva died. However, she and King David later had four sons, one of whom was Solomon, and another who was named Nathan.

Nathan the Prophet remained faithful to King David even in the most difficult of times. It was Nathan who informed Bathsheba that Adoniah (David’s son with another wife, Haggit) was fermenting a rebellion. King David was old and unaware of his son’s machinations. Together, Nathan and Bathsheba ensured that King David’s decision that Solomon inherit the throne was implemented.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.