The Joys of Hebrew / Edition 1

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When do you say mazal tov? What is the English equivalent to the Talmudic expression Alya ve-kots ba ("a sheep's tail with a thorn in it")? What is a get, a golem, a kibbutz, a chalutz? What four plant species are waved during prayers on the harvest festival of Sukkot? You'll find answers to these questions and hundreds of others--all in clear English--in this remarkable collection of the best known, most loved Hebrew words and phrases in the English speaking world.
From Acharon to Zohar, this informative and often humorous dictionary features over six hundred Hebrew words and expressions arranged in alphabetical order (the Roman alphabet is used throughout, as well as Hebrew head words). The first such guide to Hebrew, this volume is more than a mere lexicon--it is a jubilant celebration of Hebrew itself, a treasure trove of Jewish wit, wisdom, culture, and tradition. Lewis Glinert provides a concise definition of each entry, and then illustrates the word's usage with generous passages from the Bible and the Talmud, the prayers and the sayings of famous rabbis, the razor's edge of Jewish humor, excerpts from the work of Elie Wiesel, Adin Steinsaltz, S.Y. Agnon, Martin Buber, Naomi Shemer and other contemporary writers, folklore from all over the Jewish world, and colorful slices of modern Israeli life. There are words directly related to the practice of religion, such as amida (a prayer said standing, under one's breath, essentially a cry for help--for wisdom, health, peace, prosperity, and so forth) as well as the names of all the Jewish holy days and religious customs; words from everyday Jewish experience, such peot (the long sidecurls customarily worn by the Chasidim); many words familiar from their use in Israel, such as rega (literally, "one moment," it is the Israeli equivalent of Mexico's maƱana) or miluim (army reserve service); and many traditional sayings, such as Tsarat rabim chatsi nechama ("A public woe is half a comfort"). In addition, Glinert provides at the back of the book an alphabetical list of familiar biblical names in English, Sephardi/Israeli Hebrew, and Ashkenazi Hebrew.
This celebration of Hebrew language and culture is a joy to read and to use. Everyone from Bible students to collectors of Judaica, from Woody Allen fans to people planning a journey to the Holy Land, will be delighted by this informative volume.

This informative and often humorous dictionary features over 600 Hebrew words and expressions arranged in alphabetical order. More than a mere lexicon, it is a jubilant celebration of Hebrew itself, a treasure trove of Jewish wit, wisdom, culture, and tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Glinert (Hebrew and Jewish studies, Univ. of London) has brought together a collection of more than 600 entries on ``the best known and most lovable Hebrew words and sayings.'' Although the style is light-hearted, the author knows his subject. The arrangement is alphabetical according to an excellent transliteration. Entries range from the familiar Bar Mitzvah and chutzpah to rachmanut (``compassion'') and tsarr gidul banim (``the stress of raising children''). Definitions are drawn from literature, folklore, and history and from everyday and esoteric sources. Glinert delights in sharing punchy anecdotes and humorous stories. Nor does he slight etymology. An introductory essay surveys the fate of Hebrew from its ancient beginnings to the present, a fate which parallels that of the Jewish people. A significant virtue of this book is the author's clear explanation of the difference between Hebrew and Yiddish. He relates the history and development of each language and notes their intersecting points. This title will be welcomed on its own merits for its easy readability and informative entries. One of the few on the subject available to readers of English, it makes no pretense of being comprehensive. Recommended for libraries without William Chomsky's classic Hebrew: The Eternal Language (Jewish Pubn. Society, 1975).-- Libby K. White, Schenectady Cty. P.L., N.Y.
A guide to some 600 Hebrew words and expressions in active use among English-speaking Jews--presented with pronunciations and defined with reference to sources ranging from Psalms through Chasidic one- liners to Israeli pop songs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195086683
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.33 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Lewis Glinert was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford and lectures at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies. He has also held appointments at the Israeli universities of Haifa and Bar-Ilan and a visiting associate professorship at the University of Chicago. The author of The Grammar of Modern Hebrew and editor of Hebrew in Ashkenaz: A Language in Exile, he has written and broadcast widely on the sociology and linguistics of Hebrew and Yiddish, including two BBC documentaries, "Tongue of Tongues" and "Golem".

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