Volume 40 Number 05
                 Produced: Tue Jul  8 20:58:49 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Basilican mispronunciation
         [Martin D. Stern]
Does Bible really only prohibits Male Moabites
         [Russell J Hendel]
Where do words come from (2)
         [Mark Symons, Stan Tenen]
World Created in Hebrew
         [Russell J Hendel]


From: <MDSternM7@...> (Martin D. Stern)
Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 16:17:40 EDT
Subject: Basilican mispronunciation

    Further to Carl Singer's etymological inexactitude:
<< A final jeopardy answer recently dealt with Greek term for a church
    (don't recall exact wording) The question was (what is) Basilica It
    seems that Bais Elo-kha is close enough for guessing purposes. >>

    He uses the kinui (substitute word) Elo-kha as though the Divine
name was Eloha. In reality the patach under the final mappik hei
(sounded or aspirated hei) is a 'patach genuva' which always appears
under a final guttural letter (hei, chet or ayin) when the preceding
vowel is not a patach or kamats (i.e.  an 'a' sound formed at the back
of the mouth). It is inserted because of the difficulty in otherwise
moving the tongue back so as to articulate the guttural and is,
therefore, pronounced before it, as in gavoah, sameiach and zeroa'.  One
often hears this mispronunciation in hallel whose recital is probably
invalidated as a result!

    Incidentally, this would seem to be evidence that the kamats gadol
was pronounced as the Sephardim do as a long 'a' and not a short 'o' as
the Ashkenazim do. Further, words ending in a kamats are often made to
rhyme with ones ending in a patach in piyutim composed by Ashkenazim in
the Middle Ages which would seem to indicate that this was still its
pronunciation then.

    It would appear that there was a sound shift in Yiddish at some
point from a long 'a' to a short 'o' as is evidenced by comparing words
in Yiddish with their equivalents in Modern High German. That it is the
Yiddish that must have changed can be seen since the long 'a' sound is
found in the corresponding English word, English having separated from
German about a thousand years earlier than Yiddish.

    Probably this sound shift was transferred from the Jews' primary
spoken language, Yiddish, to their secondary one, Hebrew, mainly used
only in sc holarly discourse, a fairly common linguistic phenomenon.

Martin D. Stern
7, Hanover Gardens, Salford M7 4FQ, England
+44 (0) 161-740-2745
email <mdsternm7@...>


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2003 21:15:15 -0400
Subject: Does Bible really only prohibits Male Moabites

Batya (v40n2) raises the fascinating issue of (a) possible evolution of
convert laws and (b) what does Dt23-04:05 prohibit

My model of Jewish law is that the basic laws--(a) male Moabites could
NOT convert but (b) female Moabites could convert --was EQUALLY observed
by Moses and later generations (till today).

Batya raises an interesting question: Dont we learn the laws of
conversion from Ruth01 where Ruth insists that she will be with
Naomi--where you go I go--where you die I die etc.?

The answer is subtle: We do not DERIVE the laws of conversion from Ruth:
Rather we INFER THEIR PREEXISTENCE. In other words we know that there
were laws of conversion. Hence when we see a text such as Ruth 01 we
infer that these are the types of laws that must have existed. But it is
a mistake to think that the law did not exist and we derived it from

Next we examine Dt23-04:05. The text states
- A [male]moabite, HE shall not convert because THEY did not
- go out with food and water to you when you left Egypt.

The Talmud says it is the nature of men to offer food and water to
foreign nations not women so that the prohibition of non-conversion
applies to men not to women.

I would SUPPLEMENT the Talmudic explanation with a note of the contrast
of the SINGULAR and PLURAL. HE shall not convert because THEY did not go
out with food and water. Such a contrast of SINGULAR and PLURAL always
points to an emphasis...in this case we emphasize that only MALE
moabites cant convert (Since the singular is gender attached).

Such a derivation appears forced to a person who has not seen many
examples. The Great Malbim saw it as his task to provide such
lists--please see his commentary on Lv01-02 which has many such singular
plural anomalies. The Rashi website (url listed below) has some
supplemental lists and examples.

I definitely think this deserves a thread because I know many people who
think the way Batya does--I also know many people who do not think my
way of taking the Biblical texts and Talmud are "natural" (but then
these people must agree with Batya that the law is not intrinsic to the
BIble and evolved).

Looking forward to a (long) thread

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.RashiYomi.com/


From: Mark Symons <msymons@...>
Subject: RE: Where do words come from

Doesn't the phrase we recite before kriat shema in the morning "uvanu
bacharta mikol am velashon" - You chose us from all peoples and
languages - imply that other languages existed before Hebrew?

Mark Symons
Melbourne, Australia

From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 03 Jul 2003 13:00:21 -0400
Subject: Re: Where do words come from

Mike Gerver's posting, excerpted and commented on below, is excellent.
As far as he goes, I agree with him completely.

Nevertheless, clearly I still haven't been able to make my point.

Everything with regard to the linguistic nature of the
normally-understood phonetic Hebrew and Canaanite Semitic language
groups is essentially correct -- or at least, I agree with it. <smile>

Nevertheless, none of this addresses the issue.

I'm claiming that my research and much supporting evidence indicates
that before Torah Hebrew was understood as an ordinary linguistic
phonetic language (based on Semitic roots) which may have occurred
during the Babylonian Exile, Torah Hebrew was not a spoken language, but
a formal language.

Let me repeat this.  Linguistically and phonetically, Hebrew is related
to the other ordinary languages, probably in a way similar to the way
that linguists now believe.  But this is the "clear-text" of Torah, not
the letter-text of Torah.  The "clear-text," which tells the stories,
and which is written in quasi-Semitic language, only came into existence
after historical events occurred.  It was brought into existence by
careful clustering of the letters into word-groupings, the addition of
final letters to indicate word-endings, and the addition of vowelization
(first unrecorded, and later, added by means of diacritical marks).
This is the source of the Bible stories, and it's written as best was
possible given the pre-existing letter-sequences, using the normal roots
and words of the Semitic language spoken at that time and place.

I'm talking about what makes Torah Hebrew different from other
languages.  All other analysis starts with the presumption that Torah
Hebrew was a phonetic, spoken language, before Moses received Torah.
I'm saying this starting presumption is in error, and that this error
leads to the truncation of the properties of Torah Hebrew that
distinguish it from Canaanite and Semitic languages.

Torah Hebrew does have a connection to the only other language system
that I'm aware of that may also have formal, rather than linguistic,
roots -- the Vedic/Sanskrit system.  I just don't know enough about this
to comment on it, other than to note that the traditionally claimed
source-geometry for the tones of the Vedic/Sanskrit letter system
appears to be isomorphic to the geometry gained by pairing the letters
at the beginning of B'reshit -- which is what generates the shapes of
the Hebrew letters.

So, regardless of the merits of the Indo-European language hypothesis,
at the pre-linguistic (or alinguistic) operational level, Sanskrit
letter tones and Hebrew letter shapes may be related within the same, or
a similar, formal system.

I'll interline a few comments, and snip the rest of Mike's posting.

At 05:30 AM 7/1/2003, Mike Gerver wrote:
>I think that the relationship between the Indo-European languages, and
>the relationship between Hebrew and other Semitic languages, has nothing
>to do one way or the other with acceptance or rejection of the Torah and

This is true as a public generalization, but it's not true among the 

Imagine the impact on non-Torah-believing scholars of a demonstration
that the Bible stories are not the original or deepest level of Torah,
and that underneath the stories (which we have all analyzed for
centuries) there is a deeper and more important formal language.  This
would not necessarily make people into believers, but it would certainly
make the intellectually honest scholars take note, and consider the

Later, when the scholars and leaders report to the public that Torah
Hebrew is more than just a normally-developed phonetic-linguistic
language, people will also take note.  This, then, leads to change.

>Whatever the nature of Hebrew is as "lashon kodesh," it was
>also, at the time of matan Torah and for thousands of years before, a
>language spoken by people, most of them not Jewish, living in and around
>what is now Israel. As such, Hebrew underwent changes in the way words
>were used and pronounced, like any other language, and as it clearly did
>after Matan Torah. The Hebrew used in Nevi'im and Ketuvim is not the
>same as the Hebrew used in the Torah, and the Hebrew of the Mishna and
>of the Rishonim and Acharonim is different still.

You are referring to the spoken, narrative, linguistic Hebrew language.
I agree with what you say, except to note that it's not what I'm
referring to.  Whatever the vernacular, and whatever name we give it,
vernacular is not formal language, like languages used for math, music,
dance, or computer programming.

>So I don't see why Stan, and Isaac Mozeson, object to the idea that
>Hebrew evolved from proto-Semitic (which no serious linguist claims was
>a "more cumbersome form"). It seems to me that it's just a matter of
>semantics. If you want to call proto-Semitic an earlier form of Hebrew,
>fine. You could also call proto-Afroasiatic, proto-Nostratic, and The
>Mother Tongue (the latter terms used by some historical linguists) still
>earlier forms of Hebrew, and say that Hebrew was the original language
>of mankind.

I'm not referring to this.

I don't believe that the story of the Tower of Babel, when understood to
be referring to linguistic phonetic languages, is true or can ever be
plausibly demonstrated to be true.

But as a formal language -- perhaps as simple as a gesture language --
Torah Hebrew is still fundamental to all language whatsoever.

This is because of the way our brain works.

Anthropologically, humans gestured before we spoke.

Little children can gesture meaningfully to their parents before they
can speak, and their brain uses the same neural map for both.

People who are blind from birth make the same gestures as I've found
match the letter-generating gestures for Torah Hebrew, even though
they've never seen anyone else gesture.

I believe that the story of the Tower of Babel is accurate, but with
regard to a formal gesture language, and not with regard to any spoken
phonetic narrative language.

>The evidence is also overwhelming for the affinity between Hebrew and
>other Semitic languages such as Aramaic and Arabic. The similarities of
>Hebrew and Aramaic grammar and vocabulary (in contrast to Biblical or
>Mishnaic Hebrew and English, say) are obvious to anyone who has studied
>Gemara. Or look in any Arabic dictionary-- about half the words have
>obvious cognates in Hebrew, with one-to-one correspondence in spelling,
>similar to what you would find comparing Spanish and French, or English
>and Dutch. And after all, if the Arabs are descended from Ishmael, as
>they say and as we say, why in the world wouldn't you expect them to
>speak a language that is closely related to Hebrew? Who cares whether
>someone calls the common ancestral language an earlier form of Hebrew,
>or proto-Western Semitic?

Again, I agree with Mike completely.  However, this is simply not what
I'm referring to.  It doesn't matter what we call the locally-spoken
language, even if it was spoken by Torah-loving Jews.  I'm still saying
that this is not the same as the formal, operational, gesture-alphabet
used to write Torah.  All of the stories function as clear texts on top
of the formal operational text.

No linguist and no linguistic theory has _ever_ examined this
possibility with modern tools.

The last time this idea was given attention was over 150 years ago, and
it was roundly refuted because no one could provide a plausible example.

I'm coming along 150 years later with modern tools, and now it appears
there are more than plausible -- in fact, compelling -- demonstrations
that Torah Hebrew, unlike all other languages (except perhaps the
Sanskrit/Vedic system) was initially an operational language, and not a
phonetic language.  To my knowledge, no one today is taking this idea
seriously enough to actually investigate it.  If Mike or anyone else has
recent references to this line of thought, I'd very much like to see

If it were proven/demonstrated that Torah Hebrew was a formal
operational language based on gestures before the letters were clustered
to form words and sentences, that alone would set Torah apart from all
other records of the ancient world.


I've [snipped] Mike's references which appeared in his posting.  They're 
certainly worth looking at.

One more time, for clarity:

I hold by our sages, who teach that those who believe that the Bible
stories (sans Sod) are all of Torah, are mistaking the garment for the
living being inside.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that they have no
place in the world to come, as our sages do, without also pointing out
that this is a spiritual statement with regard to the necessity of using
the letters for the mental exercises needed for transcendent experience,
and not a reference to any particular person's acceptability in
shemayim.  Understood as stories, Torah can only be a matter of belief
or disbelief. But understood as a formal language with deep meaning
intended for mental exercise, Torah can be demonstrated to be what it
claims to be, and where it claims to be from -- min hashemayim.  This is
never going to be possible if Torah is no more than the Bible stories.

[For quotes supporting the above, please contact Stan. Mod]

Be well.

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2003 21:18:24 -0400
Subject: World Created in Hebrew

Just a small note on WHERE DO WORDS COME FROM. I think the Talmudic

Here is a very simple example: English has no gender to words, but
Hebrew does (nouns and verbs). Thus Hebrew hints that we should be
concious when speaking of any gender overtones. (Similar laws exist
today--you are obviously responsible for gender overtones of your
statements--my point however is that the language does not hint at

Here is a another example: The two common words for husband denote two
concepts of marriage: Ownership (Baal) and man-woman team (Ishi).

In each of these examples the language mirrored a conception of
reality. Thus I interpret the statement that the world is created in
Hebrew to mean that the Hebrew words portray the concepts of the world
as we should see it

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.RashiYomi.com/


End of Volume 40 Issue 5