The Story of Hebrew

Princeton University Press
2
Free sample

A unique history of the Hebrew language from biblical times to the modern Jewish state

This book explores the extraordinary hold that Hebrew has had on Jews and Christians, who have invested it with a symbolic power far beyond that of any other language in history. Preserved by the Jews across two millennia, Hebrew endured long after it ceased to be a mother tongue, resulting in one of the most intense textual cultures ever known. It was a bridge to Greek and Arab science. It unlocked the biblical sources for Jerome and the Reformation. Kabbalists and humanists sought philosophical truth in it, and Colonial Americans used it to shape their own Israelite political identity. Today, it is the first language of millions of Israelis.

The Story of Hebrew takes readers from the opening verses of Genesis—which seemingly describe the creation of Hebrew itself—to the reincarnation of Hebrew as the everyday language of the Jewish state. Lewis Glinert explains the uses and meanings of Hebrew in ancient Israel and its role as a medium for wisdom and prayer. He describes the early rabbis' preservation of Hebrew following the Babylonian exile, the challenges posed by Arabic, and the prolific use of Hebrew in Diaspora art, spirituality, and science. Glinert looks at the conflicted relationship Christians had with Hebrew from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation, the language's fatal rivalry with Yiddish, the dreamers and schemers that made modern Hebrew a reality, and how a lost pre-Holocaust textual ethos is being renewed today by Orthodox Jews.

A major work of scholarship, The Story of Hebrew is an unforgettable account of what one language has meant to those possessing it.

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About the author

Lewis Glinert is Professor of Hebrew Studies at Dartmouth College, where he is also affiliated with the Program in Linguistics. His books include The Grammar of Modern Hebrew and The Joys of Hebrew.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 30, 2017
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9781400884780
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / General
Religion / Christian Life / General
Religion / History
Religion / Judaism / History
Religion / Judaism / Rituals & Practice
Social Science / Jewish Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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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 mañana) 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.
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