The Joys of Hebrew

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Overview


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.
Zom Zoms
This dictionary includes approximately 600 of the "best-known, most loved Hebrew words and phrases in the English-speaking world." Arranged alphabetically, entries include both the Ashkenazi northern European and Sephardic Mediterranean/Mideastern spellings, a definition, and illustrations of use, which often include excerpts from the Bible, Talmud, Psalms, or sayings of famous rabbis or Jewish humorists and writers. Included are religious words e.g., "Kaddish": "A prayer customarily recited by mourners", words for Jewish holidays "Tu Bi-shvat": "New Year for Trees, a kind of Arbor Day", words from everyday Jewish life "tefilin": "small black leather boxes containing biblical verses on parchment", Israeli words "ozeret": "cleaning woman", and traditional Jewish sayings "chutzpah": "breathtaking cheek". The book begins with a popular history of the Hebrew language and concludes with an alphabetical list of approximately 60 familiar biblical names in English, with Sephardic/Israeli Hebrew and Ashkenazi Hebrew forms and pronunciations This is a unique resource. Unlike many Hebrew-English dictionaries, it lists words transliterated into the Roman alphabet, rather than in the Hebrew alphabet. This is quite appropriate for its intended audience: English-speaking people who have encountered a Hebrew term in print or speech, "those who feel a sentimental attachment to Jewish life," people planning a trip to Israel, or speakers planning speeches for Jewish audiences. It is not a dictionary in the purest sense of the word. For example, parts of speech are not given. Instead, it provides an entertaining and informative discourse about Hebrew terms, many of which do not have exact English translations and which must be described in a way that will project a specific nuance. Glinert is not afraid to insert his own opinions. For example, in the entry "ikvot meschicha" "the prelude to the messiah", he says: "I wonder how long we can avoid some madman blowing up the world." This informality, although at times seemingly irrelevant, often helps to convey a nuance better than might a strict definition. For example, the description of "mesirut nefesh" "self-sacrifice" indicates the seriousness of the phrase when it states that the "inmates of Bergen Belsen who contrived to retain their humanity represent "mesirut nefesh"." Conversely, the entry "meshuga" "crazy" captures the humorous rather than clinical connotation of the word This is not a scholarly resource, though Glinert is the author of "The Grammar of Modern Hebrew" and has at least two BBC documentaries on language to his credit. It will probably be appreciated as much in the circulating collection as in reference. This delightfully entertaining book is recommended for academic libraries; it will also be of value in public libraries serving diverse populations.
Booknews
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 (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195074246
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/19/1992
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1050L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.15 (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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