1. Am Anfang schuf Gott den Himmel und die Erde.
2. Und die Erde war wüst und leer, und Finsternis (war) über der Tiefe; und der Geist Gottes schwebte über den Wassern.
(Buch Mose I, 1 - 2 Genesis)
("Tohuwabohu" eigentl. "wüst und leer"; jetzt: "Wirrwar")
The Hebrew Alefbet
num. value char. name ancient pron. modern pron. Yiddish 1
alef glottal stop gl. stop; a shtumer alef 1 - - - pasekh alef: a 1 - - - komets alef: o 2 bet b b - 2 vet w v beys: b 3 gimel g g g (without dot) 4 dalet d d d (without dot) 5 he h h; -a hey: h 6 vav w v; u; o vov: u 7 zayin z z z 8 khet x x - 9 tet t t tes: t 10 yod j y; i, -ey yud: y; i 20 kaf k k - 20 khaf x x x (2nd is final) 30 lamed l l l 40 mem m m m (2nd is final) 50 nun n n n (2nd is final) 60 'samekh s s s 70 'ayin s e 80 pe p p - (2nd is final) 80 pe f f - (2nd is final) 80 fe f f f (2nd is final) 90 tsadi s ts ts (2nd is final) 100 kof q k k 200 resh r r; R reysh: R; r 300 shin sh sh sh (without dot) 300 sin s s - 400 tav th t - - - - - tsvey vovn: v - vav u u melupn vov: u - - - - pasekh tsvey yudn: -ay - - - - tsvey yudn: -ey - - - - vov yud: -oy
Hebrew, like many other archaic languages - first of all the semitic ones - initially just had the consonants fixed in writing. In much later times, religious scholars invented a system of vocalization in order to preserve the ancient phonetical standard - and, at the same time, not alter the holy texts scripts:
As you might see from the Genesis text example above, this system is much too complicated for giving a thorough explanation here. So, only some brief notes on "punctuation":
- dagesh: a dot inserted in bet, gimel, dalet, khaf, pe and tav in order to harden v to b ... kh to k etc., to double lamed, mem etc., to indicate that he is audible as a final, and to differentiate the shin (see above),
- rafe: e.g. to soften pe to fe (see above),
- kames: indicates the vowels o and a (e.g. under komets alef),
- patakh: indicates the vowel a (e.g. under pasekh alef),
- patakh: under final khet it gives the preceding vowel a (like in ruakh - see sample text),
- khirek: one dot under a consonant to add an i (two dots to add an e, above to add an o etc. etc.)
- shwah (emptiness): two vertical dots under a consonant to indicate that there's no vowel to follow,
and still a whole bunch of more complicated indicators like meteg, and all sorts of "emperor"-, "king"-, "duke"- and "count"-accents...
As might not have escaped your notice, numbers are given also by Hebrew letters: the values 500 to 900 are expressed by the finals kaf, mem etc., the thousands by alef, bet etc. with a dot top right, the numbers in between by compounds like yod alef for "eleven" etc. (except for yod he and yod vav - 15 and 16 - because god's real name bearing these consonants, and given as tet vav and tet zayin instead).
According to this, in Yiddish e.g. a "lamed-vov-nik" is one of the (unknown) "thirty six saints", the garantee for the world keep on spinning round.
Yiddish, a Germanic language, has lots of Hebrew-Aramaic loan words, which are pronounced the Yiddish way. Yet - motivated by a deep respect toward the language of the Book - the Hebrew spelling is not altered in writing! This means that the complete set of Hebrew characters listed above is also used in Yiddish writing. That's what makes things a bit difficult with Yiddish for non-yeshiva educated people (except speakers of modern Ivrit, many of them anyhow not caring a lot for mame loshn, the warm and humble way of speaking among people).
Considering this respectful attitude, it seems quite natural that part of Jewish orthodoxy regards the Holy Language's profanization to modern Ivrit (along with establishing the state of Israel) as a sin. Isn't it that in reality yidishkayt is a state of mind, and "eybik yerushalayim" first of all (only?) rooted in the pious hearts' longing for it?