The Hebrew Alphabet in 30 days

An Internet Companion For The BookWorkbook

By Jim Becka

Class Overview

This course takes you through the Hebrew Alphabet in short daily segments. Set aside 15 minutes each day to: 1) read the material from the web site; 2) watch each lesson video; 3) complete the workbook writing assignment; and 4) take the short quiz. Most words found in the lessons come from the first chapter of Psalms. As a Hebrew student, it was one of the first prayers I learned. Get an overview of the vocabulary by visiting my site reciting Psalms 1 in Hebrew. Psalms 1

Much of the information in these lessons relies on information from "Contemporary Hebrew" by Menahem Mansoor, the textbook popular when both authors lived in Israel in the 1970's.

Ancient vs Modern Hebrew

Like all Western languages, Hebrew is evolving. But, in spite of these changes, Ancient Hebrew texts are intelligible to modern Hebrew speakers. Hebrew has remained in existance through daily Hebrew prayers and worship.

Biblical Hebrew is divided into into (at least) three distinct historical periods. Most modern Hebrw speakers have developed a "tolerance" for the differences, though a few have become very rigid proponents of one style. Some have gone as far as basing a new religion or cult on a specific syle of Hebrew pronunciation

Planes and telephones did not exist in the Second Temple Period. Hebrew words for these inventions were created in the 20th Century. New words are being created for everyday usage..

Hebrew in 30 Days

The Hebrew Alphabet

There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  Each letter represents a consonant, though two letters are often used as vowels. In the early years of Hebrew, there were no written vowels. Hebrew is read from right to left. There are no capital letters in Hebrew.  Printed Hebrew is called square script, whereas everyday Hebrew in Israel takes the cursive form.


Hebrew Facts

Hebrew belongs to a family of closely allied languages known as Semitic languages. They are spread throughout western Asia and northern Africa. The word Semitic is derived from Shem, one of Noah's sons..

There are gutteral or laryngeal sounds found in Hebrew that are not found in modern English. They may be mimicked by clearing the throat.

Hebrew is written from right to left and does not distinguish between upper and lower case letters. Cursive Hebrew is popular in Israel for everyday correspondence.

Hebrew originated from Phoenician script and later developed into what was called Paleo-Hebrew script. Artifacts of Paleo-Hebrew have been dated to the 16th Century BCE (BC). Aramaic script influenced Hebrew around the fifth and fourth centuries BCE (BC) and Hebrew became known as square script (i.e., It developed a square appearance), and was also called Classical Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew.

Though a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Paleo-Hebrew, Aramaic (the language used in everyday life by Jews during the Second Temple period), and Greek, most were written in Classical (Biblical) Hebrew.

The Hebrew letter Hey added to the beginning of a word adds the aricle "the" to the word (e.g., the house). The Hebrew letter Vav added to the beginning of a word adds "and" (e.g., and house. The Hebrew letter Bet added to the beginning of a word adds "in" to the word (e.g., in house).

Vowels marks (Nikkud) were added to help Jews pronounce words around 600 CE (AD). They are not found in most Hebrew newspapers or road signs.

The Hebrew alphabet is also called the "alefbet", after its first two letters.

Hebrew letters have numerical vales. They are used in the Tanakh and Torah.

The major difference between the Hebrew and Christian Bible is the order of the books. Daniel is placed in the "Writings" section of the Tanakh (Old Testament).

A dagesh is a dot placed inside the letters. It changes the pronunciations of a few.

In every Hebrew word, there is a syllable that is stressed. In most, but not all, the emphasis falls on the last syllable.

Hebrew words have a masculine and feminine gender.

Author Information

Jim "Yaacov" Becka

is an instructional designer and author of a popular workbook for teacher certification. He is managing editor of the Messianic Judaism Network and has degrees from Lamar University, the University of Texas, and University of Houston.

Iris Graf

is a master Hebrew teacher with a B.A. in language from Hebrew University. She lived in Israel for six years.

Great Isaiah Schroll (Jerusalem)

The Shrine of the Book is in the Israel Museum in the Givat Ram neighborhood of Jerusalem. The entire Isaiah scroll is on display. It is written in Classic (Biblical) Hebrew, like most of the texts found in the caves of the Qumran Community, near the Dead Sea.

Isaiah 1:1

Also known as the Great Isaiah Scroll, it is one of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls that were first recovered by Bedoin shepherds in 1947. Other than a few damaged portions, it is the oldest complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. It is written on 17 sheets of parchment.

Great Isaiah Scroll

First couple of chapters of the Great Isaiah Scroll, Jerusalem.