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Hebrew — The Holy Language

Hebrew — The Holy Language

LA-JEW — Hebrew (עִבְרִית, Ivrit) is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally,  it’s considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews & the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such as the Samaritans.

Modern Hebrew is spoken by most of the seven million people in Israel while Classical Hebrew has been used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world. The language is attested from the 10th century BCE to the late Second Temple period, after which the language developed into Mishnaic Hebrew. Modern Hebrew is one of the official languages of Israel, along with Arabic.
Ancient Hebrew is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans, while modern Hebrew or Arabic is their vernacular, though today about 700 Samaritans remain. As a foreign language it’s studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, archaeologists & linguists specializing in the Middle East & its civilizations, by theologians, and in Christian seminaries.
The core of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), and most of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, is written in Classical Hebrew, and much of its present form is specifically the dialect of Biblical Hebrew that scholars believe flourished around the 6th century BCE, around the time of the Babylonian exile. For this reason, Hebrew has been referred to by Jews as Leshon HaKodesh (לשון הקודש), “The Holy Language”, since ancient times.

Hebrew Alphabet

Hebrew script is used to write Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and other languages. Historically Hebrew was one of the scripts used to write Aramaic.

The script is written from right to left. The letters represent consonants. Long vowels can be represented by three of the letters (ALEF, VAV & YOD). Short vowels are generally not marked, but can be by using “points” (small diacritic marks). Liturgical texts also use “cantillation marks” (more small diacritic marks) to indicate stress and musical motif. Most Hebrew fonts do not support cantillation marks, those that do are noted in the samples below.

The Hebrew script (Modern Israeli pronunciation)


Useful links:

Wikipedia: Hebrew

Jewish Virtual Library

Academy of the Hebrew Language / האקדמיה ללשון העברית

Ancient Hebrew Research Center – includes lessons in Biblical Hebrew

Jewish Language Research Website

Hebrew lessons and other resources for learners

Modern Hebrew lessons and courses

Learn the Hebrew alphabet

Hebrew Aleph-Bet songs

Hebrew Grammar

Hebrew Language: Root Words

Other Hebrew language learning resources

Hebrew phrases


Hebrew dictionaries

Online Hebrew-English dictionaries

Online Hebrew-Arabic dictionary

Hebrew Electronic talking dictionaries

Hebrew language radio and TV

Online Hebrew radio


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