Reading Hebrew comes difficult to many, even if they went to Hebrew School as a child. For those who did not grow up with it spoken in their home, learning it at a later age can seem daunting. So why bother to learn to read the Holy Tongue as an adult? Especially since one can be a perfectly good jew without ever speaking or reading Hebrew. One can even be religious, observant and completely dedicated, yet not know an Alef from a Bet.
For children whose minds are like sponges, it’s of course much easier. But for adults, learning anything new is another story. So is it worth it? How many hundreds of hours would one have to spend to actually be reading in Hebrew?
I’m here to make the argument 1) why you should want to learn to read Hebrew & 2) that you absolutely CAN do it and in as little as 5 lessons, even if you have shpilkes! I’ve seen so many people at so many different stages in life learn it, that I’m confident that anyone can!
One of my greatest inspirations came from a woman in her late eighties, who never had the opportunity to learn Hebrew as a child, and decided she was up for the challenge. She came with her 2 sons in their fifties and made this class a family activity. Other than being born Jewish, that was actually her first real involvement in the Jewish community.
Just this past week I was studying with an attorney in his sixties, who shared with me that the reason he hasn’t gone to synagogue all the years was simply because he would be lost with the Hebrew. He, too, thought it would be too difficult to learn at his age and was happily proven otherwise.
For some it’s the desire to be able to pray in the Siddur. Others want to learn Torah in the original, since so much is lost in translation. For me though, it’s getting a glimpse at the tremendous powers hidden in each letter.
I believe that when you understand the shapes, numerical values and meaning of each letter, you remember them much better. When one realizes that the first letter – Alef, is from the word Aluf, which in Hebrew means chief and refers to the Chief of the world, who is the first to exist, the letter become alive. There are students that have come up to me telling me that they now dream Alef Bet!
Knowing how to read Hebrew will make you feel more at home in any synagogue, Torah class or visit to Israel. I encourage you to go to your local Chabad or synagogue and find out if they have Hebrew classes. Abraham, Moses & King David all read Hebrew. And now you can too!
You can of course join me for a fun 5 week Hebrew Reading Course for adults sprinkled with kabalistic insights, starting right after Rosh Hashanah. You can learn more or sign up at HebrewSchool.info or (305) 770-1919.
About the author
Rabbi Kievman is the ambassador of The Rebbe to Highland Lakes, FL. He’s cofounder of CHAP – an afterschool program for Jewish children in Public Schools, rabbi at The Family Shul & together with his wife directs Chabad Chayil. He can be reached at (305) 770-1919or rabbi@ChabadChayil.org