Friday, December 4, 2009

Letter Twins Tav/Sav



The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is also one of the five letters that changes its sound depending on whether it has a dagesh (dot) in the middle or not - but that change of sound is highly dependant on the community of origin. Most Sephardim do not make any distinction between the two letters. Ashkenazim, however, will pronounce the letter with the dagesh as a “t” and without a dagesh as an “s.” Jews from Yemen pronounce the one without the dot as a “th.”

More than any other letter in the Hebrew alphabet, these differences in pronunciation of the tav distinguish Jewish communities from one another. Most interesting of all, however, is that the common English translation of certain nouns may also demonstrate that the Yemenite pronunciation is the most historically accurate. Two examples:

Shin-Bet-Tav: Ashkenazim say Shabbos, Sephardim say Shabbat and Yemenites say Shabbath. The English rendition of the word is Sabbath.

Reish-Vav-Tav: Ashkenazim say Roos, Sephardim say Root and Yemenites say Ruth. The English rendition of the word is Ruth.

Tav is the first letter of the word tamim, which means complete or whole. Mastering the complete Hebrew alphabet from aleph through tav, completes the first step in opening the majestic and mystical doors to the Hebrew language and to Hebrew texts.

The letter tav has the numeric value of 400.

Bibliographical acknowledgment: The Wisdom In The Hebrew Alphabet: The Sacred Letters as a Guide to Jewish Deed and Thought. By Rabbi Michael L. Munk. Mesorah Publications, 1983.

The Final Treat
This completes the Twebrew School Treats. We hope that you enjoyed learning a little more about the Hebrew language and that you will continue your Twebrew School studies through the online instructional video component of Twebrew School (Introductory video, the video archive). All Twebrew School Treats are available on this website.

Thank you for joining us on this unique online exploration of the Hebrew alphabet. Please take a moment and share your thoughts and comments about Twebrew School.

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