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!

Which Promises Belong to Christians?

Which Promises Belong to Christians?

Can Christians Claim Promises Made to Israel?
Can Christians Claim Promises Made to Israel?

I recently read a post regarding the promises in the Bible. It said that some of the promises were made only to the nation of Israel and some only to Christians.

I disagree.

Let’s start out by defining what a promise is. It the Tanach (Old Testament), the word translated “promise” is דָבַר (da-bar), which means “speak or promise.” It first appears as promise in Genesis.

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD
 by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD
 will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Genesis 18:19 (NIV, emphasis added)

This was a promise to an individual, specifically Abraham. God had promised a child through Sarah who would be called “the son of promise.” Now, if you look at the promise as one of the flesh, you don’t foolishly think that you will have a baby at 90 or 100.

But if you recognize that Scriptures in the Tanach are spiritual as well as temporal, you can see that the promised son, Isaac, was a type and a shadow of the Son of Promise who was yet to come, Jesus of Nazareth. That promise was made to the entire world.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 (NIV, emphasis added)

Isaac’s near-sacrifice was a type and shadow of the sacrifice Jesus would make for the whole world. Abraham believed God’s promise to make his offspring a blessing to all the families of the earth (Acts 3:25). He did not hesitate to do all God spoke (דבר) to him because he understood that God’s promises are yes and amen.

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”

2nd Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

Next, we have to look at whom the promises apply. The article I read divided them into those for Jews and those for Christians. The problem with seeing things that way is that it ignores the Book of Romans

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him.”

Romans 10:12 (ESV)

What are His riches but the promises made to His people?

The next chapter in Romans describes to us who His true church is.

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.”

Romans 11:17-18 (ESV)

Yes, I realize that salvation is the issue here and that Jews and Gentiles alike gain salvation in the same way. But what may not be so apparent is that Gentiles are grafted into the same tree that represents the nation of Israel. Jews who believe in Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) remain Jewish and all the promises relevant to them as Jews still remain. They do not leave Judaism behind and become Christians, as though it were a separate way. There is only one way, through Jesus. The law never was meant to save them—in fact, it could not—yet Jesus diligently kept God’s law.

“…since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the Law by this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we uphold the Law.”

Romans 3:30-31 (Berean Bible)

There is a great misunderstanding about what Jesus came to do. Most Christians think that the law has been done away with, but according to Jesus Himself, that is not true.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Matthew 5:17-18 (NKJV)
Zayin represents a man with a crown on his head
Zayin represents a man with a crown on his head

A “jot” is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alef-bet, called variously yud or yod. A “tittle” is the crown-like marking above some of the letters (particularly the letter “zayin,” which represents a man with a crown upon his head).

Jesus was saying that He was making the law “full.” The Jews kept the letter of the law but ignored the weightier matters. That is why He said the following.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22 (NKJV)

Therefore, the law and the prophets were not done away with; in fact, Jesus kept all the laws to the letter. He did not, however, put restrictions upon the people that came from the traditions of man instead of from God.

If a Jew becomes a believer in Christ, he does not cease being a Jew. When a Gentile becomes a believer in the Jewish Messiah, he does not become a Jew. Instead, both of them become something entirely new—followers of the living God.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Romans 8:16-17

To sum it all up, there is one Scripture in particular that states it all quite clearly.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, killing the hostility.”

Ephesians 2:11-16 (NKJV)

If we are separate from Jews who believe in Messiah yet retain the promises given to Israel, then the wall has not been torn down and the “one new man” does not exist.

There is no Christianity apart from Christ’s own faith and He is a Jew and heir to all the promises. When we are saved, we become heirs of all the promises because there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. If anyone can claim the promises of God, it is Yeshua Himself, and we in Him.