We’re on a break…

Posted on 25. Jun, 2015 by in Uncategorized


…but we’ll be back! As you may have noticed, the Hebrew blog is currently on hiatus. In the meantime, we encourage you to look through the blog archives to keep the Hebrew vocabulary, grammar, and culture fresh in your mind.

If you or someone you know would be interested in contributing to the Hebrew blog, please contact us at TLsocial(at)transparent.com with “Hebrew Blogger” in the subject line.

Until we return, happy language learning!

Celebration – Shavuot

Posted on 03. Jun, 2014 by in Celebrations and Holidays, Cultural Awareness, Food, Judaism, Torah

When is Shavuot celebrated?

2014 Sunset, June 3 – nightfall, June 5

2015 Sunset, May 23 – nightfall, May 25

2016 Sunset, June 11 – nightfall, June 13

שָׁבוּעוֹת (Shavuot), known as the Feast of Weeks in English and as Πεντηκοστή (Pentecost) in Ancient Greek, is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan.

Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai. The holiday marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer, making the date directly linked to that of Passover. The word Shavuot means weeks, and the festival of Shavuot marks the completion of the seven-week counting period from Passover.

In the Torah

In the Bible, Shavuot is known under other names. The three main ones are:

FESTIVAL OF WEEKS (Hebrew: חג השבועות, Ḥag ha-Shavuot)

כב וְחַג שָׁבֻעֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה לְךָ, בִּכּוּרֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים; וְחַג, הָאָסִיף–תְּקוּפַת, הַשָּׁנָה.

“And you will celebrate your Festival of Weeks with the first ripe fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. – Exodus 34:22

FESTIVAL OF HARVEST (Hebrew: חג הקציר, Ḥag ha-Katsir)

טז וְחַג הַקָּצִיר בִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע בַּשָּׂדֶה; וְחַג הָאָסִף בְּצֵאת הַשָּׁנָה, בְּאָסְפְּךָ אֶת-מַעֲשֶׂיךָ מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה.

Also, you are to observe the Festival of Harvest of the first ripe fruits of your labors, of what you sow in the field; and the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the results of your labors. – Exodus 23:16

DAY OF THE FIRST (RIPE) FRUITS (Hebrew יום הבכורים, Yom ha-Bikkurim)

כו וּבְיוֹם הַבִּכּוּרִים, בְּהַקְרִיבְכֶם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה לַיהוָה–בְּשָׁבֻעֹתֵיכֶם: מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם, כָּל-מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ.

“‘On the day of the first ripe fruits, when you present a new grain offering to Jehovah, you should hold a holy convention in your feast of weeks. You must not do any hard work – Numbers 28:26.

In the Talmud

The Talmud refers to Shavuot as עצרת‎ (literally meaning “refraining” or “holding back”). This refers to the prohibition against hard work on this holiday and to the conclusion of the holiday and season of Passover. Because Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Greek Jews gave it the name “Pentecost” (πεντηκοστή, “fiftieth day”) (Do not confuse with the Christian observance of Pentecost).

Grain harvest

Shavuot is also connected to the season of the grain harvest in Israel. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. In ancient times, at the Temple in Jerusalem, an offering of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest was made on Shavuot.

Modern observances

Shavuot has no prescribed mitzvot (Torah commandments) other than traditional festival observances of meals and merriment; and the observances of special prayer services and no working. However, it is characterized by the following מִנְהָגִים (customs).

1. אקדמות – Akdamut, the reading of a liturgical poem during Shavuot morning synagogue services

2. חלב – Chalav (milk), the consumption of dairy products like milk and cheese

3. רות – Ruth, the reading of the Book of Ruth at morning services (outside Israel: on the second day)

4. ירק – Yerek, the decoration of homes and synagogues with greenery

5. תורה – Torah, engaging in all-night Torah study.


Akdamut (Aramaic: אקדמות) is a poem extolling the greatness of God, the Torah and Israel that is read publicly in the synagogue right before the morning reading of the Torah on the first day of Shavuot. The poem is written in a double acrostic pattern according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet. Sephardim do not read Akdamut, but before the evening service they sing a poem called Azharot which sets out the 613 Biblical commandments. The positive commandments are recited on the first day and the negative commandments on the second day. The liturgical poem of Yatziv Pitgam (Aramaic: יציב פתגם) is recited by some synagogues in the Diaspora on the second day of Shavuot.

Dairy foods


Dairy foods such as cheesecake, cheese blintzes, cheese kreplach, cheese sambusak, kelsonnes, atayef, kahee, a seven-layer cake called siete cielos (Spanish for seven heavens) are traditionally consumed on the Shavuot holiday. Yemenite Jews do not eat dairy foods on Shavuot. In keeping with the observance of other Yom Tovs, there is both a night meal and a day meal on Shavuot. Meat is usually served at night and dairy is served either for the day meal or for a morning kiddush.

The Book of Ruth (מְגִלַּת רוּת)

The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot because, according to tradition

  1. King David, Ruth’s descendant, was born and died on Shavuot.
  2. Shavuot is harvest time [Exodus 23:16], and the events of Book of Ruth occur at harvest time
  3. Ruth was a convert, and all Jews also entered the covenant on Shavuot, when the Torah was given
  4. The central theme of the book is loving-kindness, and the Torah is about loving-kindness
  5. Ruth was allowed to marry Boaz on the basis of the Oral Law’s interpretation of Deut. 23:4 (ד לֹא-יָבֹא עַמּוֹנִי וּמוֹאָבִי, בִּקְהַל יְהוָה: גַּם דּוֹר עֲשִׂירִי, לֹא-יָבֹא לָהֶם בִּקְהַל יְהוָה עַד-עוֹלָם. – No Am′mon·ite or Mo′ab·ite may come into the congregation of Jehovah) pointing to the unity of the Written and Oral Torahs.



According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. Greenery also figures in the story of the baby Moses being found among the bulrushes in a watertight cradle when he was three months old. For these reasons, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot.

All-night Torah study

The practice of staying up all night to study Torah is known as תקון ליל שבועות‎ (Tikkun Leil Shavuot). The custom of all-night Torah study goes back to 1533 when Rabbi Joseph Caro invited Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz and other Kabbalistic colleagues to hold Shavuot-night study vigils for which they prepared for three days in advance. Although Talmud, Mishnah, and Torah are at the top the list, any subject may be studied on Shavuot night. People may learn alone or with a study partner, or attend late-night lectures and study groups. Both men and women participate in this tradition.

In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of people finish off the nighttime study session by walking to the Western Wall before dawn and joining the sunrise minyan. This practice began in 1967 and since then, over 200,000 Jews came to pray at the site.

Tikkun Leil Shavuot

The Tikkun Leil Shavuot (חג שבועות ליל תיקון) consists of excerpts from the beginning and end of each of the 24 books of Tanakh (with the exceptions of the account of the days of creation, The Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Shema are all read in full) and the 63 books of Mishnah. This is followed by the reading of Sefer Yetzirah, the 613 commandments as enumerated by Maimonides, and excerpts from the Zohar, with opening and concluding prayers. The whole reading is divided into thirteen parts printed in a special book, and is widely used in Eastern Sephardic, some German and Hasidic communities. There are similar books for the vigils before the seventh day of Pesach and Hosha’ana Rabbah.Spanish and Portuguese Jews do not observe this custom.

Getting Around Israel: Riding the Rails

Posted on 29. Apr, 2014 by in Exploring Israel, Learning Hebrew, Phrases, Real World, Travel


When driving in Israel – either in the city or between cities, you may come upon heavy traffic quite often. Or you just don’t feel like driving or taking a bus between cities. Because of this, travel by train is a great way to get around Israel.

Israel Railways (רַכֶּבֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל, Rakevet Yisra’el) is the state-owned principal railway company responsible for all inter-city, commuter, and freight rail transport in Israel. The network is centered in Israel’s densely populated coastal plain with the head office located at the Tel Aviv Savidor Central Railway Station in Tel Aviv. Trains run from Nahariya in the north to Beer Sheva in the south and to Jerusalem in the West. You will find that Israeli trains run on the left hand tracks since the rail networks were constructed by British engineers.

If you decide to ride a train in Israel, be sure to purchase a return ticket – you’ll get a 10% discount if you do. As of this writing (April 2014) the trains are not wheelchair friendly. There have been complaints about the situation, but the trains are still unable to accommodate wheelchairs.

Where is the train station? – איפה תחנת הרכות?
What station is this? – איזו תחנה זאת?

Buying a ticket

One Way Ticket

כרטיס בכיוון אחד

Where can I buy a ticket? – איפה אפשר לקנות כרטיסים?
I’d like to go to… – אני רוצה לנסוע ל…
I’d like a … – אני רוצה …
one-way ticket – כרטיס בכיוון אחד.
return ticket – כרטיס הלוך ושוב.
two tickets – שני כרטיסים.
child’s fare – תעריף לילד
pensioner’s fare – תעריף קשיש
student’s fare – תעריף סטודנט

1st class – מחלקה ראשונה
2nd class – מחלקה שנייה

Information about the train

What time does the train…? – מתי … הרכבת?
leave – יוצאת
arrive – מגיעה
How long does the trip take? – מה משך הנסיעה?
Is it a direct route? – האם זו דרך ישירה?

What is the next station? – מהי התחנת הבאה?
Does this train stop at Netanya? – הרכבת עוצרת בנתניה?

The train has been what??

The train has been… – הרכבת …
delayed – מאחרת
cancelled – בותלה
How long will it be delayed? – בכמה זמן תאחר הרכבת?

Here below is a map of the rail system through Israel. Click on it and it will open in a new window so you can take a better look at it, or print it out. While you’re looking at it, can you figure out the following routes?

1. You’re at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. You want to go to Haifa and surprize your friend with a visit. How would you get there? What stations are on the way?

2. You’re at the be-er Sheva Center station and you need to go to Herzliyya. What route would you need to take? Where would you transfer to the train to Herzliyya?

Rail Lines

Images of the one way ticket and railway map are copyright by Israel Railways. Used by Permission.

Today’s Israel: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF)

Posted on 29. Apr, 2014 by in Cultural Awareness, Exploring Israel, Learning Hebrew, Phrases, Today's Israel, Vocabulary


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF; Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל – Arabic: جيش الدفاع الإسرائيلي‎) were founded following the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the army, air force, and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; Rav Aluf Benny Gantz has served as Chief of Staff since 2011.

The IDF differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways. These differences include the mandatory conscription of women, and the institution’s structure emphasizes close relations between the army, navy, and air force. Since its founding, the IDF has been one of the country’s influencing the country’s economy, culture and political scene. But it doesn’t stop there, the IDF was also awarded the Israel Prize for its contribution to education.

Serving in the IDF


National military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, although Arab (but not Druze) citizens are exempted if they so please, and other exceptions may be made on religious, physical or psychological grounds. The Tal law, which exempts ultra-orthodox Jews from service, has been the subject of several court cases as well as considerable legislative controversy.

Men serve three years in the IDF, while women serve two. The IDF women who volunteer for several combat positions often serve for three years, due to the longer period of training. Women in other positions, such as programmers, who also require lengthy training time, may also serve three years. Women in most combat positions are also required to serve in the reserve for several years after they leave regular service.

Permanent service is designed for soldiers who choose to continue serving in the army after their regular service, for a short or long period, and in many cases making the military their career. Permanent service usually begins immediately after the mandatory Regular service period, but there are also soldiers who get released from military at the end of the mandatory Regular service period and who get recruited back to the military as Permanent service soldiers in a later period.

Vocabulary and Phrases

he served – שרת

military services – צָבָא

branch of service – חַיִל

draft notice – צַו גִּיּוּס

soldier (masc) – חַיָּל

soldier (fem) – חַיָּלֶת

I’ve been serving in the army a year already – אני משרת בצבא כור שנה.

In which branch are you serving? – באיזה חיל אתה משרת?

She’s waiting for her draft notice – היא מחכה לצו גיוס.

He’s a soldier – הוא חייל

She’s a soldier – היא חייל

He’s serving in the navy – הוא משרת בחיל הים

He’s serving in the army – הוא משרת בחיל היבשה

IDF Homepage: http://www.idf.il/english

Exploring Israel – Acre

Posted on 25. Apr, 2014 by in Exploring Israel, Food, tourism, Travel


The city of Acre (עכו) in Hebrew and عكّا in Arabic) lies in northern Israel on the Bay of Acre. This city possesses a long history dating back to the time of the Pharaoh Thutmose III (1504-1450 BCE) where Israelite, Greek, Roman, Arab and Ottoman cultures put their mark in the city. Even Napoleon Bonaparte tried to lay his hands on Acre and conquer it – but failed and retreated in humiliation. In the Bahá’í Faith, Akko is considered a holy city and is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The fascinating history that has passed through the streets of the city, the buildings that adorn the city, the places of worship built there are just a small part of the wonder and intrigue this city offers. There is a huge mosque and a Christian monastery, an inn and Turkish baths, halls built by the Knights Templar, and many more archeological findings. Of course there are the museums, a row of hotels near the beaches, a marina, restaurants and a fishing port.

Having fun in Acre


Every year Acre has festivals that attract visitors from around the world. Between the ancient alleyways a lively open market hums with activity, especially on weekends. Oh, while you’re there, you will have to try the hummus at the restaurant “Humus Said Akko” (it has a rating of 4-1/2 out of 5 stars). The hummus and food there is excellent and there is a line to wait – it’s that good! You can ask just about anyone in the city for directions, and they’ll point you in the right direction.

I mentioned a fishing port in the second paragraph above. And there you’ll find some excellent fish restaurants that serve the best of the previous night’s catches. Try Savida Food Bar at Turkish Bazaar 13. They have seafood that is very delicious and fresh caught just a few hours ago.

Not far away from the city is the beautiful and well kept Bahai Garden, build by members of the Bahai religion. It is so relaxing to go through the paths and capturing the beauty of the flower beds.

So next time you’re touring Israel, why not take a look at what Acre has to offer you? It’s not that far from Haifa, and there’s a bus or train arriving a few times daily from Tel Aviv and other nearby cities.