Hebrew Language Blog

Hebrew Grammar and Vocabulary for Summer Vacation Posted by on Jul 20, 2020 in Grammar

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The Israeli school year lasts ten months, from September first to the end of June. Last month, more than two millions Israeli students held graduation ceremonies, received certificates, and went on their summer vacation.

Israeli students enjoy short vacations during the year. Summer break is their longest vacation, lasting two months from July through August. It is called הַחֹופֶשׁ הַגָּדוֹל, and literally means the big vacation. Students of all ages wait eagerly for the end of school year, looking forward to the big vacation that separates one school year from another. Two months of shining sun and clear sky, without classes and school chores, just before the fresh start at the next grade.

In Hebrew, nouns are made definite by adding the prefix ה. This prefix is called ה’ הַיְּדׅיעָה (hey hayedia) and functions like the definite article the in English. The word חֹופֶשׁ (holiday, vacation) indicates any holiday, while the word הַחֹופֶשׁ (the holiday) refers to a specific one. For example:

חֹופֶשׁ הוּא הַזְּמַן הָאִידֵאָלִי לׅמְנוּחָה.

A vacation is the ideal time for a rest.

נַצֵּל אֶת הַחֹופֶשׁ לׅמְנוּחָה.

You should used the vacation for a rest.

In Hebrew, when a combination of a noun and its modifying adjective is made definite, the hey haydia definite article prefix will precede both the noun and the adjective. Note the difference between the two in the next sentences:

רַבִּים חוֺלְמׅים עַל חֹופֶשׁ גָּדוֹל.

Many dream of a big vacation.

רַבִּים מְחַכִּים לַחֹופֶשׁ הֶגָּדוֹל.

Many wait for the big vacation.

Students draw special table months before the summer, counting down the days left for the dreamy two-months vacation. The Hebrew phrase for such a table made for crossing out the days is טַבְלַת יֵאוּשׁ (tav-lat ye-ush). טַבְלַת יֵאוּשׁ is a construct state consisting of two nouns: טַבְלָה (table), and יֵאוּשׁ (despair). טַבְלַת יֵאוּשׁ is used to estimate the remaining time till the end of a period one wishes to end. It is used as a tool to inspire hope and to alleviate the enduring despair, hence its name: טַבְלַת יֵאוּשׁ, literally means table of despair. The first noun of this construct state – טַבְלָה –is conjugated to טַבְלַת. As many other nouns that end with ה. The word מְכוֹנָה (machine), for example, is conjugated, too, in the construct state מְכוֹנַת כְּבִיסָה (washing machine). The word עוּגָה (cake), for example, is conjugated, as well, in the construct state עוּגַת גְּבִינָה (cheesecake).

A famous Israeli song describes the magic of the big vacation. הַכֹּל הַכֹּל אֲנִי יָכוֺל כִּי זֶה הַחֹופֶשׁ הַגָּדוֺל (I can do everything, because it’s the big vacation), as the chorus goes. כִּי is a short one-syllable conjunction meaning because. כִּי connects between two clauses of a sentence and it is used to explain the first clause. It explains the reason of the situation, action, or a feeling that appears before the conjunction. For example: הַתּׅינוֺק בּוֺכֶה כִּי הוּא רָעֵב (the baby is crying, because he is hungry).

Watch this sweet video clip of the song (lyrics attached):

The song elaborates just a few things to do during the big vacation : לַעֲמֹל (to work), לִנְסוֹעַ לַכְּפָר (visit the countryside), לׅשְׁכַּב עַל הַגַּב (to lie down). Although, most vacation plans don’t include employment, many Israeli students do spend the big vacation working, using the two months break to earn money. But they rarely use the verb לַעֲמֹל to describe their jobs. The verb לַעֲמֹל is derived from the noun עָמָל, meaning labor, hard work, travail. The Hebrew dictionary defines לַעֲמֹל as: לַעֲבוֹד עֲבוֹדָה קָשָׁה. While the second verb – לַעֲבוֹד – is more common, לַעֲמֹל is considered a flowery word, used in books and songs.

What are your plans for the summer? Use Hebrew to write it down, and feel free to share it with me in the comments.

Text vocabulary

Vacation = חֹופֶשׁ (ho-fesh)

Big = גָּדוֹל (ga-dol)

Summer break = הַחֹופֶשׁ הַגָּדוֹל (a-ho-fesh a-ga-dol)

Rest = מְנוּחָה (me-nu-ha)

Time = זְמַן (ze-man)

To dream = לַחְלוֹם (lah-lom)

To wait = לְחַכּוֹת (le-ha-kot)

To work = לַעֲבוֹד (la-a-vod)

To labor = לַעֲמֹל (la-a-mol)

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