Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes: A Tribal Language in a Global World

Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes: A Tribal Language in a Global World

by Jeremy Benstein


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Why does Hebrew matter?

In answering this question, Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes addresses the many ways engagement with Hebrew enriches Jewishness—culturally, religiously, ethnically.

Whether you know Hebrew or not, linguist and cultural anthropologist Jeremy Benstein takes us on a journey into the deeper significance of Hebrew in the life of Jews and Judaism. Since fluency is a distant goal for so many, Benstein shows us another approach: engaging with Hebrew by focusing on the three-letter Hebrew roots that are the building blocks of the language, seeing these “nuggets of knowledge” as a vehicle to enriching our connection to Judaism and its values.

For instance, tzedakah, usually translated as “charity,” actually relates to notions of justice (tzedek) and responsibility, not acts of generosity, thus encapsulating an entire economic world view. With many examples throughout the book, and in nineteen innovative "Wordshops," Benstein shows us both why and how to connect to Hebrew, this underappreciated treasure of ours.

Hebrew is both ancient and renewing, holy and daily, tribal and global. So more than just a book about a language, this is a book about the Jewish people and the challenges we face as seen through our shared language, Hebrew.

As Professor Gil Troy said, “Highly recommended for all, but especially for teachers ready to launch a grassroots revolution bringing Jews back to their language and culture.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780874419870
Publisher: Behrman House, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/05/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 482,807
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

Preface: The Linguistic Crossroads of History vii

Introduction xi

Hebrew-The Lackluster Miracle? xii

The Two Hebrews xiv

From Estrangement to Engagement xv

Roots as Jewish Building Blocks xvii

Digging Deeper: Hebrew and Jewish Identity xxii

A Look at What Lies Ahead xxiii

Part I Deep Hebrew

Chapter 1 Put Some Past in Your Future: Hebrew and the Contemporary Jewish Experience 2

Language and Life, Tongue and Text 3

H is for Hebrew … and Holiness 14

Hebrew, Hebrews, and Jews 18

How Hebrew Connects, and to What 22

Chapter 2 Hebrew as Opposed to What? The Jews Choose 33

Hebrew and Other Languages: When a Community is Multilingual 34

Talk Like an Egyptian … and a Babylonian … and … 38

Souvenirs of Babylon 40

Holy Aramaic 42

Arabic and the Sephardi Middle Ages 47

From Dispersal to Enlightenment 52

Linguistic Activism: Ben Yehuda's Crusade for Spoken Hebrew 57

Chapter 3 Wholly Hebrews: From Old to New and Back Again 71

Dual-Ling, or Hebrew, the Eternal Languages 72

As the Language Goes, So Go the People 92

Growing Pains 103

Holy Once Again? 110

Part II Roots and Fruits

Chapter 4 Getting to the Roots 118

Keys to Connectivity 119

How Roots Work, Why They Matter 123

Roots Inaction 127

Chapter 5 Creeds and Deeds: Key Hebrew Words for Jewish Life 136

God: Name, Names, and "The Name" 137

Prayer; Theme and Variations 141

Being Jewish, Jewish Being: Key Virtue-Words 146

Doing Jewish, Jewish Doing: Key Action-Words 149

Chapter 6 Hebrew Time: Sacred and Otherwise 160

Top of the Morning, Evening the Score 161

It's a Celebration 162

Chanukah: Our Big Fat Greek Holiday 164

Tu Bishvat: Woody Words 167

Purim: Dress, Drink, and be Merry 169

Passover: Everything is B'seder (Okay)-at the Seder 172

Yom Hashoah: Naming the Unnameable 173

Israeli Independence: From Z (Zikaron) to a (Atzma'ut) 175

Shabbat: The Most Non-Saturnine Day of the Week 177

Conclusion 180

Three "Bavels" 181

Then-and Now 184

Wor(l)ds Apart: The Global Loss of Diglossic Jewishness 186

Davka Hebrew 191

Appendix I Alef-Bet Chart 194

Appendix II Abbott and Costello Learn Hebrew 195

Notes 197

Further Reading 218

References 218

Acknowledgments 224

Index 225

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