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1.1  Hebrew Consonants - Otiyot

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The Hebrew Alphabet

Learning the Hebrew Consonants

To begin studying Hebrew, you must begin with its character set or script. Click on a letter below to begin studying how to pronounce, read, and write the letter (start with Aleph and proceed right-to-left through the entire alphabet):

The Hebrew Aleph-BetAlephBet / VetGimmelDaletHeyVavZayinChetTetSamekhAyinYodLamedMemNunKaf / Khaf
Pey / FeyTsadeQofReshSin / ShinTav

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Let's Sing It! (for kids)

Alphabet Flashcards (zipped PDF files)

Alphabet Practice Pages (PDF file)

Quick Flashcards (Side 1, Side 2)

Practice Grid Pages (blank grid)

Consonants Summary (Alternate)

IPod Hebrew Alphabet

Let's Sing It! (for kids)

Hebrew Homeschool: Unit One 

Some Encouragement for your Hebrew Studies

Signs and Wonders...

The Hebrew word for "letter" is ot (אוֹת), which can also mean "sign" or "wonder." Each letter of the Aleph-Bet, then, may contain signs that point to wonderful truths about life.

According to midrash, the LORD God Himself taught the alphabet (along with the numerical values, mathematical relationships, etc. for the letters) to Adam ha-rishon, who then transmitted this knowledge to his sons, and they passed this to their sons, and so on, until it was taught to Jacob at the School of Shem in Salem (later renamed Jerusalem). Jacob taught the secrets of the alphabet to Joseph, who used it to decipher dreams, etc.

The Jewish mystics go so far as to say that the entire cosmos was created from the 22 consonants of the Hebrew Aleph Bet, called otiyot yesod (אוֹתיּוֹת יְסוֹד) or "foundational letters." Through the otiyot yesod God formed substance out of chaos and brought forth existence from nonexistence. In other words, the entire universe is created and sustained by divine language (the Word of God). When the LORD spoke the universe into existence, His words still echo throughout all of creation, sustaining it and preserving it in being.
 

    Rabbi Oshaya taught: When a human king builds a palace, he does not build it with his skill alone; the king employs a builder. Moreover, the builder does not bring it out of his own imagination, but consults a blueprint - a plan and diagram - to know how to arrange the chambers, doors, and passageways of the palace. In the same way, God as both King and Builder consulted Torah and then created the world.
    - Midrash Genesis Rabbah 1:1
     

Yeshua the Mashiach is called devar Elohim (דְּבַר אֱלהִים), the Word of God, and the Aleph and Tav (אָלֶף וְתָו), Who upholds all of the created order by the word of His power. It is the Mashiach Yeshua alone Who is the true yesod (יְסוֹד) or foundation of life itself. Every holy utterance can be traced back to Him, and He is the Source and Origin of all that is good, lasting, and righteous. Indeed, Yeshua is called "the zohar of His glory" (הוּא זהַר כְּבוֹדוֹ), that is, the radiance of the glory of God Himself, who "upholds all things by the word of His power" (נוֹשֵׂא כל בִּדְבַר גְּבוּרָתוֹ) (see Heb. 1:3). Since He is the First and the Last, we can see that the otiyot will all reveal something about Him.

As various acrostics in Scripture reveal, the Hebrew letters and their order are of divine origin. The Hebrew language is unique in this regard, since you can learn something about God from the Hebrew letters themselves and their spiritual properties. For instance, some claim that the order of the letters within a word reveals spiritual properties. For example, if the letters appear in a word in ascending order (i.e., from Tav -> Aleph), the word connotes compassion (i.e., moving toward Aleph/God), whereas if they appear in a reversed or descending order (i.e. from Aleph -> Tav), the word connotes the idea of justice. An example of the former would be the Name "Yah" (יָהּ) and of the latter, the word "king" (מֶלֶךְ). Other words are formed in "triangular" patterns, combinations of these attributes, etc.

A Blessing for learning Hebrew

The following blessing may be recited thanking the LORD for teaching your hand to write the letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet:

Barukh ha'melamed et yadi le'sapper et ha'otiyot.

Blessed is the One who has taught my hand
to scribe the letters!

Hebrew Script Styles and STA"M

There are a variety of Hebrew script styles used today, though the Hebrew script used for sacred writing is called STA"M (an acronym for Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls), Tefillin (phylacteries), and Mezuzot). STA"M is written using Ketav Ashurit (Aramaic square script) according to a number of detailed rules of how each letter is to be formed.

There are three basic types of STA"M writing performed by STA"M certified Jewish soferim (scribes):

  1. Bet Yosef - Ketav Yosef is the style of Hebrew script used by Ashkenazi Jews. Its source derives from the Gemara and Rabbi Yosef Caro - author of the Bet Yosef and Shulchan Aruch:

    Ketav Yosef

    (This is the style used on this website when displaying the STA"M letters).


  2. Bet Ari - Ketav Ari is the Hebrew Script written in accordance to the tradition of Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1534-1572 (also known as the Arizal). In Europe most Chassidim use this script for their Sifrei Torah. Notice that it is identical to the ketav Yosef except for the letters Aleph, Vav, Chet, Tsade, Tsade Sofit, and Shin, which have slight modifications:

    The different letters required for Ketav Ari


  3. Sefardi - This style of Hebrew script is used by Sephardic Jews:

    Sephardi STAM


In each case of script style, however, there are many rules governing the formation of the letters (collectively known as soferut) so that there be no confusion between the letters written in the sacred writings.

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A new collection of Hebrew prints from Piece of History's Hebrew Typography series. Each print features a description of the ancient letter's origin and meaning. Made in Israel.

Use this distinct, modern representation of one of the oldest symbols to decorate the wall of your home or office.

Print Size: 50 x 70cm (19 x 27in.)

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