I Have a Cold!

coldOne of many phrases, idioms you do not want to translate literally from English to Hebrew is:  I HAVE A COLD.

Cold (noun) = קוֹר

I have =  ישׁ לִי = (lit. there is to me)

you do not want to say:  יִשׁ לִי קוֹר as it doesn’t mean a thing to any Hebrew speaker.

cold (adj.)  קָר; קָרָה

You do not want to say: יִשׁ לי קָר – as this too is just gibberish.

If your body temperature is COLD then you’d say:  קָר לִי = it is cold for me.

Please do not translate literally and say: אֲנִי קָר ; as that means that you are a cold PERSON; a cold fish; lacking affection or warmth of feeling; unemotional.

So, how do we say: “I have a cold”?  a common viral infection typically causing running at the nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and other similar symptoms.

אֲנִי מְצוּנָן

אֲנִי מְצוּנֶנֶת

There is another word in Hebrew that expresses: cool; chilly which is: צוֹנֵן like; chilly water – מַים צוֹנְנִים

I hope you are not מְצוּנָנִים. (suffering from a cold).

For more such unique phrases and idioms check out my book: Hebrew, When to Say What?

Hebrew, When to Say What?

Long ago; Since Long ago מִזְּמַן

%d7%9e%d7%96%d7%9e%d7%9fHere is a very useful idiom.

You WOULD need to know how to form sentences in the past tense in order to use this idiom.

There are two ways of using it.

  1.  A negative sentence
  2.  An affirmative sentence

Examples of  negative sentences: 

מִזְּמַן לֹא רָאִיתִי אוֹתָךְ – I haven’t seen you for a long time. Or: It has been a long time (long ago) since I’ve seen you.

מִזְּמַן לֹא אָכַלְתִּי פִּיצָה – I haven’t eaten pizza for a long time (long ago). Or: It has been a long time since I have eaten pizza.

Examples of affirmative sentences:

I have read this book long ago.

Or: It has been a long time ago (long ago) since I’ve read this book.

.קָרָאתִי אֶת הַסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה מִזְּמַן     or:      .מִזְּמַן קָרָאתִי אֶת הַסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה

 I have learned this word long ago ( a long time ago).

Or: It has been long ago (a long time ago) since I’ve learned this word.

.לָמַדְתִּי אֶת הַמִּילָּה הַזֹּאת מִזְּמָן    or:   .מִזְּמָן לָמַדְתִּי אֶת הַמִּילָּה הַזֹּאת

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How to Learn a New Language

Man and woman talking together. Vector illustrationOne of the most difficult areas of learning a new language is listening to someone talking the language you are learning and not understanding what he/she is saying. They may say words you already know but for some reason, you can’t recognize them. Why? Because they talk very fast and you do not know when one word starts and when it ends.  Does this sound familiar to you?

When you learn a new language you say the words slowly when you construct sentences. You make spaces between each word exactly as you see it written. But when people speak, they do NOT make space between each word; the words are connected and to an ear that is not used to it, it sounds like one big mumble jumble. Example: You say: Iwanttogotothemovies. You do not say: I (space) want (space) to (space) go(space)  to (space)  the (space)  movies. Did You get my point?

When we learn a new language we have to accustom our ear to the way sentences actually are said. Here is what I suggest.

  • Have a book of the language you’re studying. (it IS very important to SEE the written words)
  • Read a sentence (understanding every word in it, of course).
  • Read it again over and over until there are no spaces between the words.
  • Now say the sentence over and over without looking at the page until there are no spaces between the words.

If you have access to audios of the language you are studying:

  • Have the book of the language you’re studying.
  • Read a sentence (understanding every word in it, of course).
  • Listen to that sentence in the audio.
  • Now say it over and over until there are no spaces between the words.
  • If needed: listen to the audio again and hear how the words are pronounced. Paying attention to the accented syllables.
  • Now, say the sentence again WITH the audio until you keep up with it.

When you drill it this way you’ll hear yourself speaking like a native and then when you hear a native talk you’ll be able to understand what he/she says as your ability to spot where a word starts and where it ends increased after having followed the drill that I’m suggesting.

Have fun.

Hebrew Books and audios:

Hebrew, When to Say What?

hwtw-coverNeither dictionaries nor Internet translators can teach you what you will find in this book as these specific entries, require thorough and yet simple explanations with examples of how and when to use them.

Hebrew, When to Say What? How to Avoid Common Mistakes was born after having received repeated questions such as: “What’s the difference between this and that? When do I say ‘this word’ and when ‘that word’? Why this word and not the other?”This book answers these questions for the beginner and intermediate level and even for the advanced Hebrew students.

The book is as unique and valuable as a book can get! It is like a mini Hebrew thesaurus. It contains gems that will get you into the mindset, culture, nuances and flavor of Modern Hebrew and it will keep you out of the most common traps.

Hebrew, When to Say What? contains over a hundred English entries that cannot be translated word for word into Hebrew; two hundred Hebrew words, expressions, phrases, slang and idioms; illustrations and exercises.

This book gives you only the common usages of each entry and not ALL of them as it is intended for the beginner/intermediate level.

I made sure I use simple and basic vocabulary and syntax to not overburden or overwhelm you with new and unnecessary materials while the purpose is to give you just those words, phrases and idioms that are unique to Hebrew and that cannot be literally translated into English. Moreover, I wanted to make this book accessible to as many levels as possible.

For your convenience and to avoid reading words that you may not know, I translated every sentence and included the Hebrew vowels – n’koo-dote (nee-kood).

The Hebrew sentences are mainly in the present tense.

The entries are in alphabetical order.

Exercises were added to certain entries that called for it.

I have no doubt that you will love this book!

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Good morning; Good night; Good Year…

%d7%91%d7%a7%d7%a8-%d7%98%d7%95%d7%91  One of the ways to learn new words is by associations to words you already know such as the most common greeting: good morning – בּוֹקֶר טוֹב – boker tohv; good night – לַיְלָה טוֹב – lahy-la tohv; Happy New Year (lit: good year) – שָׁנָה טוֹבָה – sha-na toh-va.

You can see that just from the above phrases that the adjectives in Hebrew go AFTER the nouns. This is lesson #1.

Lesson #2 is that the word for ‘good’ has more than one form. Right! Adjectives have gender. tohv – טוֹב – masculine adjective; toh-va – טוֹבָה – feminine adjective.

Let’s learn a few words that derive from the word tohv – טוֹב:

  • adjective – tove lev -טוֹב לֵב- goodhearted; kindhearted
  • noun – toov – טוּב – goodness
  • noun – toov lev – טוּב לֵב – kindness
  • phrase – kole – toov – כָּל טוּב – all the best

Le-heet-ra-oht   v’kole toov!

לְהִתְרָאוֹת וְכָּל טוּב

See you and all the best!

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Kippur and chicken?

chicken-religion-yom-kippur-kapparotShalom, U’gmar kahteema tova!

Hello,  may you be inscribed in the Book of Life!

Let’s talk about this custom before  Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּפּוּר that is called:כַּפָּרוֹת Ka-pa-rote; atonement; forgiveness; expiation ( the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing)

During the days before Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּפּוּר, there is a folk custom that  involves whirling a chicken above one’s head while reciting a prayer. The folks belief is that an individual’s sins will be transferred to the chicken, thereby allowing them to begin the New Year with a clean slate.

Here is an excerpt from my book I Hate to Say Goodbye, telling about my  personal experience  with the custom of ka-pa-rote – כַּפָרוֹת

The following afternoon, I was perched on a high branch in Peach when I saw something strange occurring on our dirt road just between my house and Aryeh’s. Kids surrounded a big man with a long beard, dressed in a long black robe and a big black hat holding something white. I knew he was a very religious man. It was then we heard the scream of a chicken. Ah, that’s what the white “thing” was. Why a religious man was holding a chicken under his arm I didn’t know. As soon as I saw him circling the chicken around a kid’s head, I climbed down and darted over to the scene. “Now, look carefully,” he said, holding the chicken by its head and legs together, placing it above Aryeh’s head and with a solemn face intoned, “Kapparot, kapparot (penance, atonement),” he called out. “All the sins you have committed throughout the year will be taken away by this chicken.” And he continued to wave it in circles around Aryeh’s head three times. Some of the children were wide-eyed, others were whispering behind cupped hands and some snickered at the man’s strangeness. He then turned to me and flashed his piercing eyes right into my own. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up and a sudden chill froze my body. Does he know about my sin with Yoav?
“Did you say that the chicken is going to take away Aryeh’s sins?”
“Yes,” he said with a stern and assured voice “and the sins of anyone who allows me to circle this chicken above their head.”
That was the weirdest thing I had ever heard in my life. “How is it possible? Why would a poor chicken have to take the sins of others?” I asked, looking up at the black-bearded face. The stench from his armpit hit me in my face, as he raised the poor chicken above another kid’s head.
“This is kapparot. You’ve never seen it before?” the man asked raising his brows and sneering at me. “This is a Jewish custom, just before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year; when you have to atone––ask forgiveness for your sins.” I trusted him because he wore a big skullcap on his head. I was taught that people who wear a skullcap, a kippa, are men of God and men of God should be trusted.
So this chicken will take away my sins against Yoav, will erase those guilt feelings I have been carrying with me since I stole his precious chewing-gum wrappers, I thought. And this holy man, man of God promises me that it will happen, so I must believe him. I can lose nothing and…
Would you like to do kapparot?” he asked, leaning down toward me. I nodded; a little embarrassed to have a chicken circle above my head. I was glad Erez was not around to make fun of me. Once again he circled the frantic chicken over my head, feathers flying wildly about me. Suddenly, out of a deep pocket from his robe, he pulled a long knife with a razor sharp blade. This chicken that had been squawking and screeching all along began to crow hoarsely. The religious man put the chicken’s feet under his armpit and with an abrupt motion pulled the chicken’s head down exposing its neck.
“What are you doing?” I shouted.
“I have to slaughter it if you want the sins to be taken away from you.”
In one sharp motion he slashed the chicken’s neck. I screamed. The chicken flew from his arms, half its neck cut and blood spraying all over. It ran, though it had ceased to crow, crossed the dirt road to the basket-ball court, the religious man running after it, shouting “Kapparot, kapparot.” And we, the kids with bulging eyes and frozen bodies stood by the side of the road and were not sure whether to laugh or cry.
We watched as the chicken slowed down, then collapsed from the heavy weight of our sins…or so I thought. The holy man grabbed it by its legs and walked away not looking back.
At home I was looking deep in my heart checking to see if my guilt feelings had been erased, but I found them right there, at the same place unchanged; I couldn’t stop thinking about how I hurt Yoav. The chicken was a disappointment.
In my Moment of Deepness I realized that no one or no-thing could atone for your sin, but you.

more on I Hate to Say Goodbye

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Why Shofar?


The shofar isshofar-sounds a very unique symbol of Judaism. We start blowing it 40 days before Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּפּוּר. This was based on the belief that it was on the first of Elul אֶלוּל (the month preceding Rosh Hashanah) that Moses ascended Mount Sinai in order to receive the second set of Tablets of the Law and that he descended on Yom Kippur. The rabbis said that the forty day period from the first day of Elul אֶלוּל through the tenth day of Tishri תִּשְׁרֵי (Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּפּוּר) was to be a time of special spiritual preparation.

The shofar  שׁוֹפָר is traditionally blown each morning for the entire month of Elul אֶלוּל. The sound of the shofar שׁוֹפָר  is intended to awaken the listeners from their “slumbers” and alert them to the coming judgment.

The Shofar שׁוֹפָר is a kind of instrument that sends those cries across the vast distance. Maybe longing for something that was better before… But now, we are awakened and made aware that the world around us could be a better world; a world without crimes, pain and suffering; a world of love, respect, trust and tolerance for one another.

The root of the word Shofar שׁוֹפָר is: Sh.f.r = שׁ.פ.ר which means  ‘to improve’, ‘to get better’. The blowing of the shofar is to remind us to continually improve ourselves and our environment.

Here are  Hebrew verbs derived from שׁ.פ.ר you can add to your vocabulary:

לְשַׁפֵּר – to improve (transitive verb) l’sha-per.

Example: אֲנִי רוֹצֶה לְשַׁפֵּר אֶת הָעִבְרִית שֶׁלִי.        (Ah-nee roh-tzeh l’sha-per et ha-Eev-reet she-lee)         I want to improve my Hebrew.

לְהִשְׁתַּפֵּר – to imporve onself; to be improved (intransitive verb) l’heesh-ta-per.

Examples:  הִיא רוֹצָה לְהִשְׁתַּפֵּר.  (Hee roh-tzah l’heesh-ta-per.)   She wants to improve herself. OR: הֵם רוֹצִים לְהִשְׁתַפֵּר בְּעִבְרִית. (Hem roh-tzeem l’heesh-ta-per b’Eev-reet) They want to improve themselves in Hebrew.


שִׁפּוּר – improvement, shee-poor. Example:  יֵשׁ שִׁפּוּר גָּדוֹל בַּהִתְנַהֲגוּת שֶׁלוֹ .  (Yesh shee-poor ga-dole ba-heet-na-ha-goot sheh-lo)  There is great improvement in his behavior.

I wish you all to improve לְשַׁפֵּר (l’sha-per) whatever you wish to be improved לְהִשְׁתַּפֵּר (l’heesh-ta-per)  and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Leheet-ra-ot   לְהִתְרָאוֹת  – see you!

Ruti Yudovich   ‘רוּתִי יוּדוֹבִיץ

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L’sha-na toh-va – Tishrei תִּשְׁרֵי

%d7%a9%d7%a0%d7%94-%d7%98%d7%95%d7%91%d7%94 For those of you who celebrate Rosh Ha-shana, I  would first like to wish you Shana tova filled with happiness, joy, health, love and peace. Shana m’leh-aht o-sher, seem-kha, b’ree-oot, ah-ha-va v’shalom. שנה מלאת אושר, שמחה, בריאות, אהבה ושלום.

Rosh = head – ראש

ha-sha-na = the year – השנה.

You may have heard people greeting one another with: L’shana tova – לשנה טובה = for a good year – which doesn’t really make sense, does it? It is not a full sentence and it is being used, as far as I know, only in the USA. Let me clarify the origin of this incomplete thought. The traditional blessing for Rosh HaShana is: l’sha-na to-va tee-ka-te-voo v’te-kha-teh-moo = לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו. (more precisely it is used between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) = You shall be inscribed (in the Book of Life) and sealed FOR a good year. Literally: For a good year you shall be inscribed and sealed. Since it is a tongue twister to say the full wish, people in Israel just say: Shana Tova and elsewhere you would hear: L’shana tova.

Rosh HaShana is a celebration of the new Jewish year which start with the 1st of the month of Tishrei – תשרי – The origin of the word Tishrei is: surru that in Akkadian means: beginning.

So, I wish you all a wonderful תשרי.

Ruti Yudovich

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Yahweh- meaning of God’s name

Most of us have seen this word relating to God’s name. It is frowned upon religious Jews and others to read God’s name as one would read any other word (including the vowels) because it is considered too sacred for Man to utter it.

In my many years of teaching Biblical and Modern Hebrew I had to deal with many questions my students dared to ask. And boy! They did dare because I encouraged them to do so. 🙂

One day, after being asked well-seated questions, I looked again at the spelling of God’s name and experienced a moment of epiphany.

In this article I’m not going to deal with the religious aspect and the question such as:  what is God? Is there a God? Who is God? Where is God? etc. I would leave this sensitive subject to your own personal belief, knowingness and understanding.

But I will give you my explanation to the meaning of  His name (well, at least one of the explanations):

Let’s take a look at the word/name:


In this name you will see three tenses of the verb ‘BE’.

The root of the verb ‘BE’ is:  ה.י.ה

הָיָה –  He was

יִהְיֶה – He will be

הֹוֶה – He is *

Hence: God’s name means:  He was; He is; He will be =  He is Present, He is Past and He is Future at the same time = He is Eternal; Everlasting; Immortal; Timeless; Infinite.

*The word for Present Tense in Hebrew is: זְמָן הֹוֶה. The word הֹוֶה means: ‘is’ but it is not used as a verb except from (at least to my knowledge) in the song relating to God.

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12 Hebrew Basics You Must Know


Being a Hebrew teacher for over 4 decades I ran across repeated questions about my beloved language. In this article, I will be giving you the basics of the basics.

  1. Hebrew does not have: ‘a’, an; ‘am’, ‘are’, ‘is’ or ‘it’.
  2. Sounds such as: ‘ch’ as in Charlie; ‘g’ – as in George; ‘g’ – as in corsage; ‘th’ as in Theo, do NOT exist in Hebrew. Yet we do have the sound ‘kh’ (ch) as in the composer’s name: Bach. And we do have the sound: ‘tz’ or ‘ts’ as in the word: pizza.
  3. The accent of the words is usually at the last or second to last syllable.
  4. Nothing is neuter in Hebrew, i.e., a word is either male or female.
  5. Nouns, adjectives, and verbs have gender
  6. There are 4 main tenses. Present, Past, Future, Imperative. I wrote I’ve written, I was writing, I had written = one tense in Hebrew which is the Past Tense.  I am writing, I write = One tense in Hebrew which is Present Tense. I will write, I will be writing = one tense in Hebrew which is Future Tense. Write! = Imperative Tense (Command).
  7. Subjunctive tense does exist in Hebrew (but is not considered a main tense): expressing an action in the mind but not a fact. Expressing wishes, doubts, possibilities; etc. examples: I would buy it if I had the money. If I had a job like this I would have been happier. Had I known I would not have sent her the letter. I doubt he would make that mistake twice. The subjunctive tense is usually taught to more advanced students but you should know that there IS such a tense of expressing one’s thought, wishes, hopes, doubts, possibilities and there are special rules as to how to construct them in Hebrew. Here is an example of how one sentence is expressed differently:  a) I doubt he would make that mistake twice (subjunctive) b) He won’t (will not) make that mistake twice (future) c) Do not make that mistake twice (imperative/command). He made that mistake twice (past).
  8. A sentence will never end with a preposition: Do you know where he’s going to?                         ?אתה יודע לאן הוא הולך
  9. Adjectives go AFTER the noun. Good morning = morning good = בֹּקֶר טוֹב
  10. Prepositions are combined with Pronouns in one word: To you; at him; after me = לְךָ, בּוֹ, אֲחַרַי etc.
  11. When asking a question, in English you switch the location of the verb i.e., You are hungry – Are you hungry? She will be here soon – Will she be here soon? The way you ask questions in Hebrew is the same way you construct a statement. The only difference is that when you ask a question you have to go up in pitch when saying the last word. Yes, there IS a question word in Hebrew that you can put in the beginning of any question asked but it is quite formal – הֲאִם.
  12. These rules apply to ANY language. Remember that one word can have more than just one definition. And one word in your language can have several in another language. Examples: One word in Hebrew = two words in English – לְהַזְמִין = to order AND to invite. Another example: The word ‘here’ in English has three different words in Hebrew:  פֹּה; הִנֵּה; הֵנָה.

I hope this article was beneficial to you. If you have any question, feel free to write back.

Stay tuned for an upcoming book: Hebrew, When to Say What