Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- how does it sound?

Now for a culture capsule. 
Shabbat always always always comes every seven days.  That means the first Shabbat as well as all the ones after it.  So there had to be six days – six and only six – days and not weeks or months – of creation before the first Shabbat.  That is why the Bible counts six days when things were created before Shabbat – which was also created.  If Shabbat occurred every seven months, I believe the Bible would have listed things as being created in the six months before that.  Remember, the Bible comes from the Jewish culture.
There are seven days of creation, the seventh being Shabbat which, like everything else, had to be created.
The chapter divisions were created by a Christian in the 1200s CE.  The Bible existed for centuries before that and the Jews divided it into books, which were divided into large sections for reading on Shabbat.  The large sections, the Parshot, were divided into 8 small sections called aliyot because of the accompanying ritual.
So the natural Jewish way of dividing Genesis has an aliyah that ends with chapter 2 verse 3, which is the last verse about the creation of Shabbat.  With verse 4, it starts a new aliyah.
To hear how the aliyah sounds, listen to the First Reading at this website.  Find the boldface word Bereshit at the top of the page and click the little speaker symbol on the right of it.
There is an English translation.  You can also listen to each verse individually.  When the audio ends, you have heard the first aliyah.
This website gives the sing-song chant used in synagogue services to read the Pentateuch.  The text in Hebrew will look different from the lessons on this blog; there are extra little symbols you haven’t seen before.  They are called trop and they record how to chant the words.
Now I’ll blow your mind.  When Jews read Pentateuch on Shabbat in synagogue, they do it from a scroll and the scroll doesn’t have these little symbols.  It doesn’t even have the vowel signs.  The person reading aloud has to memorize how to pronounce the words and how to chant them.  The audience listens carefully and may have a copy with all the symbols to refer to.  They are expected to shout out corrections when the reader goes wrong.  So synagogue readings can be noisy if the reader doesn’t know what he’s doing but if he does, the audience still sometimes chants along with him.
© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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