LESSON 1 - B'RESHIT
#,r'a'h tea.w ~iy;m'V;h tea ~yihol/a a'r'B tyivaer.B
The vowel pointings above and below and inside the various Hebrew letters have a two fold purpose; to indicate the missing vowel sounds and to convey where the emphasis should be within a particular word.
The emphasis is not generally understood and as a result we have many poor Hebrew renderings into English. Shabbat is an example. The correct English rendering should be Shabat and the first letter of B'reshit shows why.
The first letter is Bet but pronounced Vet when the dot in the middle of the letter is missing. The dot is called "Dagesh Forte" and indicates that that particular letter should be stressed. The Dagesh Forte basically "doubles" the value of the letter so we have the more definite sound of 'B' and not 'V'.
Another problem area with transliteration into English is what looks like a colon below the letter 'B'. This is called "Sh'va" and it is a "Consonantal Pause", which technically, is either not sounded, or sounded as a very "short" form of the vowel "e", hence we have the single letter syllable "b" which is pronounced "buh" not "bee". Throughout the Tanakh Project we do not show the vowel "e" when Sh'va is indicated and when a Hebrew word is transliterated into English we indicate it with an apostrophe, hence: B'reshit.
It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that this word begins with "B" but Hebrew is a language that uses suffixes and prefixes to "modify" words. The root of this word is actually "RASh" which means "head" and the letter "B" is a prefix which means "in", "at", or "on". The vast majority of Hebrew words eminate from 3 letter root words.
Before we move on we need to stress that the prefix "B" means in, at or on, and NOT the traditional rendering of "in the". You might think that this is pedantic but we need to establish "exactly" what the Hebrew conveys and not be adding what we "think" it should say.
Within the Tanakh there are a number of instances of our second letter, "R" for "Resh", being confused for the similar looking letter, "D" for "Dalet", and again producing incorrect transliterations, and indeed incorrect translations. Below the "Resh" there are two dots, known as "Tsere Defective" or "Tsere Chaser", and these indicate that the vowel "e", as in "they", should be vocalised, which gives us the syllable "re" pronounced "ray".
The third letter is "A" for "Aleph", the first letter of the "aleph-bet", a most interesting letter, known as a "Glottal Stop", which means that the letter is not pronounced. This is the first of two letters that we will meet that are not pronounced, but we'll cover the second one in a later lesson. In many instances the "Aleph" is associated with a vowel pointing so that vowel pointing is sounded but here we have no vowel pointing so hence it is not sounded.
As an aside, it could be argued that the "Aleph" in this instance does not need to be there but Hebrew is an alpha-numeric language and it is critical that that letter is there and is counted. The first 28 characters make up the first seven words or first sentence of the Tanakh and that is not a coincidence.
Our next letter is "S" for "Shin" and it has a small dot at the top right hand corner which indicates that the letter should be vocalised as "sh". Below the "shin" is a single dot which is known as "Hireq Defective" the "short" form of the vowel "i" but immediately following this is the letter "Yod", a letter that can function as a consonant and also as a vowel. In this case the "Yod" is a "part-vowel", as it teams up with the "Hireq Defective", and in combination it is known as "Hireq Plene", and they are pronounced as a "long" "i" or as "ee" in the "i" in "ski".
Our final letter is "T" for "tav" and this is a clue that this word is "feminine" in gender. Hebrew nouns are either masculine or feminine, there is no neuter gender, which is why you will find no "it" in the Tanakh Project.
When we put it all together we have "b.re.sheet" - "B'reshit" - in beginning of.