The Hebrew Letter AlefThe Hebrew alphabet (or "alef bet" as it is called) contains 22 letters. The Hebrew language is read from right to left as opposed to left to right for English, Spanish, and other Western languages. For example the chart below begin with alef, bet, gimel, and so on.

The information below is provided only for reference. If you would like training on the Hebrew language may I recommend John Parsons' Hebrew for Christians website at http://www.hebrew4christians.com . He has a very extensive set of training materials available online and offline as well.

 

Here are the letters:

AlefBetGimelDaletHeVavZayinHetTetYodKaf
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ
ך
LamedMemNunSamekhAyinPeTsadiQofReshShinTav
ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת

Source: Wikipedia, 02/26/2010, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_alphabet

 

Rather than actual vowels, Hebrew has vowel pointings called niqudot. These are "pointers" (or indicators) of where vowels should be pronounced. The most common form of  niqudot (below) was developed between 500 and 1000 CE.  Hebrew texts written prior to this period do not contain these vowel pointings.  They were simply understood by the reader from tradition and context.

The pronunciation of the vowels is shown in the "English example" column below. These pronunciations are very important for the proper pronunciation of the consonant names below.

NameSymbolIsraeli Hebrew
IPATransliterationEnglish
example
Hiriq 35px-4_Hiriq [i] i see
Zeire 35px-5_Zeire [ɛ] e men
Segol 35px-6_Segol [ɛ], ([ɛi] with
succeeding yod)
e, (ei with
succeeding yod)
men
Patach 35px-7_Patah [a] a father
Kamatz 35px-8_Qamaz [a], <car>(or [ɔ]) a, (or o)</car> father
Holam סׁ [ɔ] o cone
Shuruk 35px-Equal_Shuruk [u] u tube
Qubutz 35px-Backslash_Qubuz [u] u tube

Source: Wikipedia, 02/26/2010, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_alphabet

 

 

Consonant Pronunciation Guide

Alef א

The Hebrew letter alef is silent. Only the vowel pointings tell us what sound should be made in conjuction with this letter.

 

Bet ב

The Hebrew letter bet as shown above is pronounced like a V: vet, victor, vain.

Because it is pronounced like a V it is also sometimes called vet.

 

When the letter bet is modified with a dagesh kal (a dot in the middle of the letter) it has a different sound.

This is the same Hebrew letter bet but, because of the dagesh kal/dot, it is pronounced like a B: bet, bring, baby.

There are many Hebrew names in the Bible that are mis-recorded in our English translations as a result of early translators mistaking the bet with a dagesh kal and the bet without a dagesh kal.

For example: Abraham is actually Avraham and Rebecca is actually Rivkah.

Learn more about the dagesh kal at Hebrew for Christians.com

 

Gimel ג

The Hebrew letter gimel is pronounced like a G: get, go, gain.

 

Dalet ד

The Hebrew letter dalet is pronounced like a D: dog, dig, dark.

 

He ה

The Hebrew letter he is pronounced like an H: help, hark, heaven.

The name of the letter is pronounced heh (with a short E) rather than hee.

 

Vav ו

The Hebrew letter vav is pronounced like a V: vet, victor, vain.

The name of the letter is pronounced vahv.

 

Zayin ז

The Hebrew letter zayin is pronounced like a Z: zebra, zag, Zaccheus.

 

Het ח

The Hebrew letter het (sometimes shown as chet) is pronounced like the CH in Bach rather than cheese.

In technical jargon it is pronounced with a voiced glottal fricative rather than a voiceless postalveolar affricate.

This is one of the more difficult Hebrew letters to pronounce properly for some people.

 

Tet ט

The Hebrew letter tet is pronounced like a T: tag, time, tear.

 

Yod י

The Hebrew letter yod is pronounced like a Y: yes, yarn, yellow.

The name of the letter is pronounced yoad (like toad) rather than yahd (like Todd).

 

Kaf כ

The Hebrew letter kaf is pronounced like the CH in Bach rather than cheese.

Because it is pronounced like chaf it is also sometimes called chaf.

When the letter kaf is modified with a dagesh kal (a dot in the middle of the letter) it has a different sound.

This is the same Hebrew letter kaf but (because of the dagesh kal/dot) is pronounced like a K: king, khaki, kick.

 

Lamed ל

The Hebrew letter lamed is pronounced like an L: like light, letter.

 

Mem מ

The Hebrew letter mem is pronounced like an M: mike, matter, mother.

Some Hebrew letters have a different shape when they come at the end of a word. Mem is one of those letters. These "final form" letters are often labeled with the name sofit (pronounced like sew feet).

ם

This is the "final form" of the mem. It is pronounced the same way but is called mem sofit.

 

Nun נ

The Hebrew letter nun is pronounced like an N: net, nuclear, nanny.

The name of the letter is pronounced with an oo like spoon rather than an u like fun.

Some Hebrew letters have a different shape when they come at the end of a word. Nun is one of those letters.

ן

This is the "final form" of the nun. It is pronounced the same way but is called nun sofit.

 

Samekh ס

The Hebrew letter samekh is pronounced like an S: smile, soon, star.

 

Ayin ע

Like alef, the ayin is silent. Only the vowel pointings tell us what sound should be made in conjuction with this letter.

 

Pe פ

The Hebrew letter pe is pronounced like an F: finger, far, fox.

The name of the letter is pronounced with a long A (say rather than father): pay.

When the letter pe is modified with a dagesh kal (a dot in the middle of the letter) it has a different sound.

This is the same Hebrew letter pe but (because of the dagesh kal/dot) is pronounced like a P: pipe, papa, peddle.

 

Tsadi צ

The Hebrew letter tsadi is pronounced like the TS in nuts.

 

Qof ק

The Hebrew letter qof is pronounced like a Q.

The name of the letter is pronounced like the word cough.

 

Resh ר

The Hebrew letter resh is pronounced like an R.

 

Shin ש

The Hebrew letter shin is pronounced like an S.

The name of the letter is pronounced like the word sheen.

This letter can be pronounced two ways depending upon whether or not there is a dot present and where the dot is located:

If the dot is over the right arm of the shin then the letter is pronounced like SH: sheet, shine, shirt.

If the dot is over the left arm of the shin then the letter is pronounced like an S: sand, sew, sock.

 

Tav ת

The Hebrew letter tav is pronounced like a T.

In ancient Hebrew, a Tav without the dot was pronounced "th" (e.g., as in Sabbath). In the Ashkenazi [eastern European Jewry] tradition, Tav without the dot is pronounced "s" (as in "Shabbos"), but in modern Hebrew, Tav with or without the dagesh is pronounced simply as "t." 1

 

 

 

Footnotes

1. Tav, Hebrew for Christians, 2/28/2010, http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Tav/tav.html [back]

Torah Portion

שׁפטים (Shoftim)

 

 

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Yom Rivi'i, 4 Elul, 5778

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

 

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