Volume 38 Number 26
                 Produced: Thu Jan  9 23:28:42 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Morphing letters (2)
         [Robert Tolchin, Ira L. Jacobson]
Multiple meanings of several prepositions
         [Russell J Hendel]
         [Bernard Raab]
Transliteration of Q for kuf
         [A Seinfeld]
         [Stan Tenen]
Transliterations (3)
         [Michael Kahn, Ira L. Jacobson, Edward Ehrlich]


From: Robert Tolchin <tolchin@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2003 21:20:14 -0500
Subject: Re: Morphing letters

>From: Ira L. Jacobson
>At 22:06 04/01/03 -0500, Robert Tolchin stated:
>      But ain and alef are interchangeable in Yiddish, which
>      is a whole new subject..
>As I understand it, the `ayin and 'alef are used in Yiddish as
>replacements for the (segol) and (patah or qamatz), respectively. 
>They are thus not at all interchangeable.

I don't speak Yiddish, but my understanding was that Yiddish is based
primarily on German, not Hebrew, and that there is no segol, patach, or
kamatz in German. Maybe there is a rule like that for the minority of
Yiddish words that come from Hebrew, but is there such a rule for the
rest (majority) of the language?

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Jan 2003 07:15:21 +0200
Subject: Re: Morphing letters

At 21:20 05/01/03 -0500, Robert Tolchin stated:
<see above>

Yes, of course.  The reference, of course, is to the sounds of these

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2003 22:55:17 -0500
Subject: RE: Multiple meanings of several prepositions

There have been about 3 postings in the YESHIVISH thread which complains
about the tendency of YESHIVISH students to use BY for all prepositions
(eg I AM EATING BY SO & SO). (Tzadik v38n11 asked this; the example I
cited comes from Mike Kahn v38n16.

Steve White (v38n17) points out that such usages may be common in
secular languages

I would like to supplement Steves point by indicating that an
established principle of Biblical interpretation is that the common
connective words/letters like EL, AL, BETH, L, all interchange in
meaning. This is explicitly stated by the Radack on several occasions.

The Rashi-is-Simple email group is currently reviewing 1% of all
Biblical Rashis that deal with the preposition AYIN LAMED This
preposition can mean ON (usual meaning),WITH, BESIDES, AT THE TIME OF,
FOR, TO, NEAR(See the urls below). The RashiYomi grammar page
(http://www.Rashiyomi.com/grammar.htm) has a similar list of several
dozen Rashis on the half dozen meanings of EL (which can mean TO, ON,

Thus these Yeshivish students are simply echoing their knowledge of the

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.RashiYomi.com/h16n11.htm
http://www.RashiYOmi.com/h16n13.htm etc thru h16n19.htm


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Jan 2003 14:12:07 -0500
Subject: Re: Soloveitchik

Gil Student wrote:
>I believe that R. Hershel Schachter also makes a big deal out of the
>spelling of the name Soloveitchik, preferring the Yiddish version over
>the Hebrew.

Since Jews were required (by Napolean I believe) to adopt surnames, most 
relate to places, occupations, physical traits, etc. Does anyone have any 
clue as to the origin of "Soloveitchik"? It seems rather unique.


From: A Seinfeld <ASeinfeld@...>
Date: Sun,  5 Jan 2003 20:54:52 -0600
Subject: Re: Transliteration of Q for kuf

>Using the letter Q for a kuf (19th letter of alef-bet, but not a kaf,
>11th letter of the alef-bet) should not look too strange. Both letters
>derive from the same letter in the ancient semitic alphabet (Phoenician
>alphabet) which looked like a circle with a vertical line going through

This comment does not seem consistent with the Gamara (Sanhedrin 22b, I
think) that states that Hebrew predates all other alphabets.


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Jan 2003 21:05:06 -0500
Subject: Re: Transliterations?

Beyond transliteration, there is another level of meaning that needs to
be considered when assigning English letters to represent Hebrew

We have to remember that Torah roots have intrinsic meaning.  Creatures,
people, and places are named by their functions.

Even though it is now considered to be a lunatic idea by the linguistic
community, it's clear that this can only be true if letters have
intrinsic meaning.  This idea was roundly refuted by the scholars 150
years ago.  The reason it was refuted is that no-one could provide a
logical audit trail, or anything better than ad hoc opinions to support

But if we put aside the phonetic "literation" level, and go to the
_operational_ meaning level for each of the letters, we can find some
real -- non ad-hoc -- correspondences.  These correspondences are so
robust that they work to translate Hebrew and English words

Here is the list I use, and a short version of the _operational_ meaning
(NOT the phonetics) of each letter.

       All, absolute, mastery, ALooF, ALoFt, ALP
       ("House"/Hous-ing) BYTe, BIT, BoaT, BaT, BooT, BuT, with, within, 
breaking open
       CaMeL, relationship, action within limits
       Division, DiLuTe, DiLaTe, DeLeTe, what happens at a DeLTa
E He
       Connection (Same function: final-e in English, final-he in Hebrew); tHe
       Multiplication, WaVe, ViBration (unfurlment around a "pin" or "spine")
       Projection, action beyond limits, GaIN
H cHeT
       Encompassment, encircling, engulfing; fenced field, surface, HaT, HuT
J  TeT
       Completion; JuSTice

       Hand, pointer, personal will, point
       Palm, hold; CaP, CaPe, CooP, HooF
       Longing; to, for; abstraction/learning
       Source, WoMb, MoM, Mother, from, sea
       Prince, fish, internal connection; NooN
$  SaMeK (this one's ad hoc <smile>)
       Sustain, support, hug; SMoKe-ring, SMocK
       Wellspring, EYe, sight-line
P  Pe
       Mouth, engulF, swallow, Face
       Upright, JuST, "ZoDIac" -- as in "head in the stars"

       Skull, ape, aping, CoPy, CoPe
       ReaCH, RuSH, RaSH, RiSe, RuSe, Radiate, head
       SHINe, expreSSIoN, prong, tooth
T  ToV
       Sign, self-reference, self-pointing, TaB, SuB

U Kaf-Sofit (this one is arbitrary)
W Mem-Sofit ("W" is upside-down "M" -- this is ad-hoc)
       Sea, expanse
X  Nun-Sofit (this one is arbitrary)
       Going to the "Nth" degree; continuing endlessly
V Pe-Sofit (this one is quasi-phonetic)
Y Zadi-Sofit (this one is graphic)
       Upright, complete, beST, moST; "-eST" suffix.

The use of these equivalents enables simultaneous translation of the
operational meaning of equivalent Hebrew and English roots.

Most of the names of the letters are examples of this.  For example, we
spell Aleph "Aleph-Lamed-Pe".  In English, this is ALP. Both are "high

For example, we spell Bet, "Bet-Yud-Tov".  But this is also our English
word for a unit of information -- a "bit" or a "byte".  Bits and bytes
"house" information.

It's truly astonishing that most Hebrew, and most English words, spelled
with the same operationally equivalent consonants (regardless of
phonetics in many cases), have the same meaning.

This level of understanding of the letters and roots is now almost
entirely missing from our scholarship.  Nevertheless, it provides the
common link that demonstrates that there was one language at the Tower
of Babel.

Somewhat corroborative of this approach is the more traditionally
linguistically oriented work of Isaac Mozeson.  The method I'm using
here provides greater than 50% overlap of equivalent meanings with the
Hebrew-English word equivalents listed in Mozeson's "The WORD"
(Mozeson's work is also highly contested by the traditionalists).

Obviously, in most cases, the phonetic meaning of the word is important.
But at the deepest level, and because the Hebrew alphabet in particular
is truly sacred in a meaningful way, the operational non-phonetic value
of each letter and each root is more important.  We can't regain the
depth of knowledge of our sages, without regaining their command of the
operational level of our alphabet.

If you'd like to help me test this theory, please contribute simple
Torah-Hebrew and basic English root-words, and we'll subject them to
this operational analysis, and count the hits and misses.


PS For more details, go to the web pages listed at 
<www.meru.org/letteressays/letterindex.html>, and particularly:
<www.meru.org/Lettermaps/Wholematrix.html>  and

From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Jan 2003 17:17:44 -0500
Subject: Re: Transliterations

<StevenJ81@...> (Steven White) wrote:
>...In Israel, het and haf are at least as frequently transliterated >as "h" 
>as "ch." ...

Perhaps the Israeli transliteration is influenced by the Sfardic 
pronounciation of ches whisch sounds closer to hes.

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Jan 2003 18:41:25 +0200
Subject: Re: Transliterations

<StevenJ81@...> (Steven White) quoted me and then continued:
>In MJ 38:15, Ira Jacobson writes:
> > Precisely.  The siddur I was using had "H" for our "N", "Y" for our
> > "U" and "C" for our "S".
>Well, not quite.  The siddur you were using had letters that _resemble_
>H, y and c, but are actually Cyrillic (Russian alphabet) letters that
>correspond to n, u and s.

I hate to engage in nitpicking, but the letters that are identical to
the English letters h, y and c are present in Russian and have sounds
that are different from those that the identical letters have in
English.  In appearance, the English and Russian letter are identical
and not just similar.

>I might point out the following.  In the United States, chet and chaf
>are generally transliterated as "ch."  This transliteration is based on
>German usage.  (Note that while chet is supposed to be closer to the
>sound in the German "ich," while chaf is supposed to be closer to the
>sound in the German "ach," both sounds transliterate to "ch" in German.)
>The mainly Ashkenazi community in the US brought that scheme with it
>from Europe.

The historical development that you describe sounds reasonable.
Nevertheless, there are international conventions for transliteration,
based in part on the objective on unambiguous usage.  Thus, if k is used
to represent kaf, and q is used to represent qof, there can be no
confusion when one reads the transliterated version.

And if one uses a "ch" combination to represent both khof and het, the
result can be like the confusion that I saw in an even more extreme form
in Philadelphia many years ago.  A Conservative cantor wrote the
introduction to the Shabbat morning qiddush in Hebrew letters as "Al ken
berach . . . "  using a het.  The Hebrew Language Academy system of
transliteration avoids such nonsense.

I am still troubled by the habit of decent people to reject writing
conventions and to choose to spell in accordance with their own
perceptions, rather than to admit that the standards may have been
formulated with a sense of logic, and more importantly, they preserve a
degree of uniformity throughout the world.

Is it a typical Jewish trait to think that "I know better"?

>In Israel, het and haf are at least as frequently transliterated as "h" as 

No.  No.  No.  Het as h and khaf as kh.  (Or both as "ch" by those who
are innocent of conventions.)  Of course, some individualists break with
all conventions and use "x"; believe it or not.  Why?  Because their
sense of logic tells them that they know better, even if their usage is
counterintuitive and flies in the face of accepted conventions.  And if
they can point to justification in the alphabets of non-English
langauges, such as the Slavic "C" beimng pronounced like an English "tz"
or the Russian "x" being pronounced like a Hebrew het, then they find

>I'm guessing there are a couple of reasons that come together
>here.  First, regardless of how one lains or davens, Israeli _spoken_
>Ivrit tends to favor a more correctly pronounced het near the front of
>the mouth; that sound is fairly close to an aspirated "h" in English.

Depends on who's doing the pronouncing.  Yemenite, Yekke, Hungarian?

>Second, transliteration in Israel is more influenced by English than by
>German, because of the British mandate and because of the influence of
>North Americans after the creation of the State.

The influence of North Americans?  That's an interesting thought, but
hardly likely, in my experience.

>And Hebrew het/haf just doesn't sound like the same sound that starts 
>"church."  <g>

And neither does Israeli het sound like the Israeli khaf, which is the
whole point of the different transliteration for each.


From: Edward Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003 18:34:14 +0200
Subject: Transliterations

Caela Kaplowitz wrote:

>Using the letter Q for a kuf (19th letter of alef-bet, but not a kaf,
>11th letter of the alef-bet) should not look too strange. Both letters
>derive from the same letter in the ancient semitic alphabet (Phoenician
>alphabet) which looked like a circle with a vertical line going through

Caela is correct, but while the use of the letter Q for a kuf is
academically correct, it's not necessarily suitable for the general
English reading public.  When a fellow student spelled Turkey as Turqey,
my professor of Middle Eastern studies said that while such a spelling
is technically correct, it's just never done.

The signs near the Israeli town of Petah Tikvah that read "Petah Tiqwa"
may be read correctly by an expert in Oriental studies, but look plain
silly to the rest of us.

Ed Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Jerusalem, Israel


End of Volume 38 Issue 26