Wonder of Wonders

I didn't know even know my Aleph Bet, but by the end an eight-hour Hebrew language marathon, I was able to read.

BY: Alan Gelb


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But I never really became interested in Judaism until I moved up to my small town, where I was very much in the minority and so found myself suddenly unable to take my identity for granted.

Miraculously, less than a year ago, I got involved in the formation of a new shul, for which I am currently serving as a board member. I've been going to shul more Saturday mornings than not, and while I find it very involving, I have become acutely aware that I can't read a word of Hebrew. Make that a letter of Hebrew. Which is how I came to be at the marathon.

Once we all got our coffee and nosh, my fellow students and I took out our workbooks and began from the beginning...which, I soon learned, is aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And did you know that aleph is always silent? I never did, until that moment.

The volume at which such discoveries were hitting us bred a good deal of nervous energy in the room. It is not easy and, in fact, potentially embarrassing to be learning something entirely and radically new at our age. One is not quite so confident about the brain cells as one was, let's say, when one learned to drive 34 years earlier. And some of my fellow classmates did seem to be having a spot of difficulty absorbing the material.

But I was into it. I love being a student. I wanted to be the best in the class, so I paid careful attention, and before I knew it, I was ripping my way through the vowels and was leading the cheer each time as we mastered a new letter, starting at aleph and going on through

bet, gimmel, dalid, hay, vav,

and so forth.

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