When you start delving into the Hebrew language, you start discovering things that you never saw before. It’s like opening a locked box from long ago and discovering secrets within. On my trip to Israel, I was reminded of this.
I took Beginning Hebrew three times. Part of it is that the semetic language seems to be so different from English, and part of it is not practicing on a regular basis. It’s like our faith. If we accept the Lord as our Savior, but then go about life without spending time with him in his word and in prayer, we forget all that we were taught. So it was for me with the Hebrew language. A few things stuck the first time, a few more the second, and by the third time? Well, I was ready for Intermediate Hebrew. Woohoo!
My synagogue doesn’t offer a class beyond Intermediate, so it will be up to me to take what I’ve learned and grow from there. Before heading to Israel, I purchased a workbook called Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way along with a siddur (the prayerbook). It consists of 21 lessons to learn Hebrew. The introduction says that it is a book for students who can read the Hebrew language, but don’t understand what they are reading. It also says that if you are having trouble reading, then a review of the alphabet and vowels before beginning. That would be me. But I’ve been practicing and getting better, hoping soon to delve into the lessons in the book.
Did you notice that I mentioned the letters and vowels separately? That’s because there aren’t any written vowels in the Hebrew language. The Masoretes added vowel points called ‘nikkud’ to help in the pronunciation. My rabbi said that when you start to read Hebrew, you tend to see the ‘vowels’ even when the nikkud aren’t there. I didn’t believe him at first, but the more I’ve been practicing, the more I am recognizing words and how to pronounce them without nikkud. My rabbi was right.
So today I want to share with you some things I was taught within the Hebrew language, things that blow my mind because of the depth of this wonderful language. Daniel Carmel, the worship boat owner, pointed out that Hebrew is the language that God’s people speak. It is the language of the bible. Tongue-in-cheek he said, “It is the language we will all be speaking in the kingdom, so we might as well learn and practice now.” I tend to agree.
In the Israel Museum there is an entire room dedicated to the development of the Hebrew language. It was interesting, but with the museum closing in an hour, I couldn’t do more than spend a cursory few minutes. But next time!
So what’s so interesting about the Hebrew language? How does it reveal secrets?
During my first go-round in Beginning Hebrew, the teacher brought us some interesting tidbits. Every letter in the Hebrew language has a meaning. Not only that, but it has a numeric value (there are no numbers in Hebrew, only consonental letters.)
The aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alephbet. It has the value of one. It means ox, or strong leader. It is used in the word abba. Bet, the second letter, means house or tent. So abba means leader of the house. Cool, right?
Now here’s another cool nugget. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emet. It is made up of aleph-mem-tav. We know aleph means leader, or strength, or one. Mem means water. Tav is the last letter of the alephbet, and its meaning is sign. It is also the seal in Ezekiel 9:4 that is placed on the heads of the faithful. The earlier version of this letter is a cross.
Some say this word, emet, is God’s signature on creation. The word is made up of three letters in the alephbet: the first, the middle, and the last. When you have all three, you have truth. But remove the aleph (the leader, God) and you have ‘met’ which means death. It is really cool when you think about the oneness of God. My teacher pointed out that the aleph represents God, the mem is water or the Spirit, and the tav, the cross (or seal) of God – representing the Son and what he did on the cross. Wow.
Another ‘wow’ for me is remembering Yeshua’s words in the Revelation to John. He said, “I am the aleph and the tav. The beginning and the end.” When we think about it, he is the strong leader/the one, and the sign/seal. Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in.
So now, I want to revisit something I touched on in a previous blog because it is really an important lesson to hang onto in our everyday lives. While I was in Israel, God moved in every area of our trip, even in the little things we needed or were concerned about. We walked in complete trust that he was in control.
Last night I had a conversation with my oldest son, and I started to worry that the enemy was coming in to destroy something I was sure God was orchestrating. This morning I woke thinking about two things:
1- our trip to Shiloh, and how the enemy tried to thwart that trip, but God prevailed.
2- this lesson about the words gulah and gaulah.
I knew I had to share this, because it is his word – literally – that gives us the encouragement we need. It is the revealed secrets found in his emet (his truth, his word), written on our hearts, that give us the assurance we need when the enemy comes in. It is with his word that we can go to him in confidence, knowing he is in control and turns all things – all things – to the good to accomplish his purpose in our lives and in the lives of our families.
So let’s visit the word golah and gaolah. Golah means exile. Gaolah means redemption. What is the difference between these two words in Hebrew? The aleph. The strong leader. God. When we are in exile, and allow God into the situation, we have redemption. By this do I mean that we are in control? Absolutely not. It is God who is in control. Yet many times we forget that. We forget that no matter the circumstances, He makes the difference between being in exile and being redeemed.
It was easy to remember this while touring the land of Israel. Though there were dangers from terrorists, we were on a journey that focused on God, absorbing God, talking day and night with God. Then returning home, life kicks in and things started to pull my attention away from God.
For instance, while between flights, my boss texted me on my personal phone to let me know there was a store not completed (as if I could do anything about it in another country.) But to be fair, maybe he thought I was home already. Then yesterday morning it was time to return to work. So I turned on my company computer to find two people resigned, two more were going away during a very busy weekend, and other ‘fun’ stuff. (For those who are not aware, I manage a staff of merchandisers who work in various stores stocking books and magazines, among other things.)
Then last night the conversation with my son, while not life threatening, caused me to doubt God was in control. Just like the frustration I felt when I knew Maria and I were supposed to go to Shiloh and it wasn’t happening.
To be without God in the equation, even in the little things like not enough staff at work, or plans you knew God intends to happen but seem to be going awry, is a form of exile. We are away from God and his perfect plan for us. But put God back in where he belongs – right in the midst of things (even the exile) – and the situation is redeemed.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly need to remember this – every day.