“I have actually seen people contemplate their navels.”
John Heilpern

Conference of the Birds



Though it was my first mother-tongue, for most of my life I hated hebrew. It is a difficult language and, like many other things, most of its vibrance was systemically destroyed by my teachers. I encountered difficulties in both language studies and bible studies (a “not–quite-religious-semi-historic-and-yet” discipline that is part of the core curiculum in the Israeli education system). I also had a parcitularly hard time with Hebrew because a good chunck of my formative years were spent away from Israel and so I had a lot of catching up to do when we returned. That was also when I picked up English as my second, though primary, mother tongue (as is apparent in this very blog).

A few weeks ago I visited Israel. I first heard a word of Hebrew from a stranger when I sat down at the airport and the first thought that came to my mind was “nope, I didn’t miss this at all”. That thought only intensified the closer I came to Israel and the more Hebrew I heard. However, during my visit I began to distinguish between Hebrew and the “People” who are associated with it. The “People” I have a hard time relating to (at best). The language, however, I have learned to appreciate and cherish.

This appreciation is relatively new – probably the last 2 or 3 years. It is a gift I was given by my Israeli Yoga teacher Ziva Kinrot. She has rare insight into both Yoga and Hebrew & Judaism and is able to draw inspiring cross-references between them. In my first years with Ziva this often annoyed me however at one point (I can’t say quite when – I can speculate but that feels like potentially an entire post) I began to appreciate her insights. I have learned to see deeper relationships and meanings – such as are not available in any other language I know of … except maybe Sanskrit … of which I simply know too little. Like Sanskrit, I believe Hebrew holds keys to spiritual insight and growth.

Now that I live far from the Land and the People associated with the Hebrew language it has begun to shimmer for me. So much so that I have decided to write about it and even open a new category for it (I haven’t opened a new category in quite some time) where I intend to share small and personal insights as they appear in my life.

I am not an academic, what follows is simply my basic understanding and perspective of Hebrew and just enough to support what will follow in the coming posts.

A few things to know about Hebrew:

  • Most words have root-words (usually three letters)  which can branch out into diverse variations, uses and meanings … yet the root is always there and always meaningful. Root words can connect and illuminate seemingly very different words.
  • There are cases where changing the orders of the letters (usually just three) of a root word creates a new root word which can further illuminate seemingly very different words.
  • There is a mathematical representation of hebrew words that can be used to give a word a numerical value.  I don’t know enough about this however I do know that there are very interesting and illuminating cross-references to be made between words that share numeric values.

There is, in my mind, a complex system of patterns (kind of like an elaborate mathematics) that describes how root-words evolve into a working language. Some of it is intuitive and fairly easy to pick up once you get used to the language however some of it is too complicated even for people born into the language. My impression was that not only are their many inter-related patterns but there were also many exception to every pattern.

I would not be surprised to learn that both the patterns and the exceptions are reflections of even deeper, spiritual relationships and insights that the language has to offer. I however have not yet had the opportunity to be amongst teachers who had access to and could share this knowledge with me. I am not sure such an opportunity will present itself in this lifetime.

I have however been given an opportunity to softly reflect and revisit this precious language and this I gratefully embrace. It is particularly interesting to reflect on the language in my new life with Andreea. Though Andreea speaks fluent hebrew it isn’t her mother tongue. Here in Romania we speak to each other in Hebrew and then we reach out and connect to other people, I in English and she in Romanian. It is enchanting time and again for us to be able to communicate so easily, richly and precisely within ourselves in Hebrew and then totogether encounter and overcome difficulties in communicating our thoughts to others who do not share our access to Hebrew.

This post and all those that may follow are respectfully dedicated to my teacher. Inspiration is hers. Mistakes are mine.

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