Why Learn How to Read and Write Cursive in Hebrew?

Why Learn How to Read and Write Cursive in Hebrew?

Occasionally, I’ll have a Hebrew student who insists that he (or she) doesn’t see the need to learn both block script and cursive script when studying Hebrew. When I hear that, I have one response.

“You don’t have to learn both ways, but if you don’t you are cheating yourself.”

Yes, it’s true that most printed materials in Israel are written in block script (and usually without vowel points, called nikkudot). However, private correspondence is usually written in cursive. Many labels are also written in cursive, so shopping might be a bit difficult if you only read block script. And then there’s graffiti…

You can buy this coffee mug from Israeli-t.com
You can buy this coffee mug from
Israeli-t.com

One of my students who didn’t want to learn cursive sent me a bit of graffiti she saw on a wall, and she had no idea what it said. So she asked me to translate for her. It literally means “the people of Israel are alive,” but is usually translated “Israel lives.”

The thing is, Hebrew doesn’t have upper-case and lower-case letters. It has only one alphabet and all the letters have the same “x-height.” It does have some ascenders and descenders, such as in the letters khaf sofit (ך) and lamed (ל), which go slightly above or below the baseline, but most of them fit neatly between a top line and a bottom line. (Actually, Hebrew “hangs” from the topline rather than sitting on a bottom line as English does.)

When we learned English in elementary school (or kindergarten), first we learned block print (I learned the stick-and-ball method) and we learned both upper-case and lower-upper-case letters. Call that 2 alphabets since there are two forms of each letter. Then, later on, we learned cursive, which also has two forms. So that’s a total of 4 alphabets we learned so we could read and write English.

Hebrew only has one set of forms for each of two scripts, block and cursive. Learning to read and write in Hebrew cursive should certainly be no more difficult than learning to read and write in both block and cursive scripts in English!

Hebrew WOW: תוֹם

Hebrew WOW: תוֹם

תוֹם – Seeing Through the Lens of Integrity

through the lens of integrity
Seeing through the lens of integrity

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Numbers 30:1-2

Today I asked my husband for a word to explore in Hebrew. His answer was, “integrity.” If I were to choose a word to sum up his character, integrity would fit the bill. So this one is for him.

According to Wikipedia, integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles.

Our Hebrew word is תוֹם. It is pronounced tome. In the Jewish mindset, integrity is linked to wholeness and perfection.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg posits the following: Imagine you’re successful, rich and famous. You’re on vacation with friends when suddenly terrorists burst into your room, hold a gun to your head and say: “Tell us where your friends are and we’ll release you safely. Otherwise we’ll kill you.”

What do you do?

In Jewish thought, there are three fundamental principles upon which the world stands. They are truth (emet in Hebrew), justice (tzedek) and peace (shalom).

The Talmud tells us: “The signature of the Holy one, blessed be He, is truth.” So together, the three great principles of Judaism come together to form integrity.

But what happens when we fail our integrity? We make a vow (or promise or commitment) to something or someone, but we don’t carry through. Real life interferes, and we fall short of what we had planned. God is very serious about vows, as the book of Numbers shows us.

Remember the story of the Isra’elites right after they’ve defeated Ai and destroyed the city? Some men from a neighboring tribe deceive Joshua and the elders by feigning having come from a foreign country and asking them to enter into a covenant so that the army of Isra’el won’t kill them. Of course, it turns out that although God had told Joshua not to make a covenant with the people who lived in the land, He nevertheless considers their vow made in His name to be valid. The “foreigners” end up as slaves to the Isra’elites (which for them is assuredly better than the death of their nation).

God expects total integrity in our walk. But He also knows our human frailty and forgives. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!