When traveling to another country, it’s always a good idea to know a few words in that country’s language. Just in case you decide to go to Israel, here are a few words to help your acclimation to Israel go a little smoother.

Shalom. This is the common greeting in Israel, like our word “hello” and “goodbye.” You would say “shalom” to the bus driver as you get on the bus as well as when you get off. (Note to self: The Arabic word for shalom is saleem which would have been helpful to know when I got into an elevator with several Muslim women, all dressed in full hajab.  I was dressed only in my beach towel and swimming suit, which by their standards meant I was a hussy. Being able to say saleem would have cut the deafening silence while the elevator went up one floor. (In my defense, my daughter was wearing my swimsuit cover.)

Back to shalom. I think Jesus probably said “shalom” a lot, especially when his young buck disciples wanted to play “Let’s be Elijah” and call down fire from heaven. As believers we know that Jesus is our Shalom.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne?and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaias 9:6-7)

Shabbat Shalom.  As Friday afternoon rolls around in Israel and the sun lowers in the sky, people say “Shabbat Shalom,” meaning “Sabbath peace.” I don’t know if Jesus said “Shabbat Shalom” but I do know that He said:  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30)

So since Jesus is our rest (shabbat) as well as our peace (shalom), a believer in Jesus might say “Shabbat Shalom in Yeshua.”  (You might not want to say this to an Orthodox Jew, however.  Beware of stones…)

Boker tov. This is what you say with a smile when you go to breakfast, even though you haven’t had your coffee yet and your Lunesta didn’t kick in. Good morning!

Aliyah. This is the term that refers to the process of returning to live as a citizen of the land of Israel. Gentiles need not apply, or for that matter, Jewish believers in Yeshua.

Kippah. Also known as yamakah, this is the small round hat that the religious Jewish men wear. They are usually black, but sometimes white. Kippahs come in all kinds of crazy colors and designs, including ones with your favorite sports team’s emblem on it. These are also known as “tourist traps.”

Toda.  In Bible study, Dr. Bramson often challenges us with the question “How do you know what meaning is intended by this Hebrew (or Greek) word?” The answer: by its context, which tends to be a fairly important concept unless you want to join a cult.

A few of us were swimming in the pool in Tiberius, and some children were playing with their beach ball. Soon the ball fell near me and I threw it back. “To-da,” they said. Just because God knows I am a slow learner, the beach ball landed in my area again.  Again, they said, “To-da!”  Not knowing the Hebrew word for “You’re welcome” I just smiled like an American tourist and kept swimming my laps. But I was thrilled to realize I had just learned my first Hebrew word by its context. (Notice that you, too, will have to determine the meaning of toda by its context…)

Tzitzit and tallit. In Numbers 15:38, the Lord commanded the Israelites to put fringes on the corners of their garments. ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments.’ Tzizit, meaning fringes, are now placed on the tallit, or prayer shawl, which is worn by men during prayer.

Tefillin. Tefillin are the cube-shaped black leather boxes, containing scriptural passages, attached to the head and arm and worn during the morning prayers. Historically, the wearing of the tefillin was not limited to morning prayers but worn at all times. Tefillin is usually translated in our English Bibles as “phylacteries.” In the gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus warn the people about the large tefillin that the teachers of the law were wearing:

Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries (tefillin) wide and the tassels (tzitzit) on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. (Matt 23:5-7)

Mezzuzah. A mezuzah is a small box that is placed on the right doorpost of Jewish homes (as well as city gates and hotel rooms). Inside the box, on the backside, is an opening where verses, usually the Shema, are rolled up and placed. This idea comes from Deuteronomy 6:9, where it reads, “You shall inscribe them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of your house and on your gates.” Mezzuzahs come in all kinds of colors, materials and sizes and most often have the letter shin on the front, which is the first letter of God’s name. Some Jews believe it provides special protection and have developed a custom of touching the mezuzah and then kissing their hand.

Shema (Sh’ma). Sh’ma Yisra’el Adonai Eloheinu  Adonai ehad!  These words are taken from Deut. 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9)

These words serve as the centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. “Observant Jews consider the Sh’ma to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Sh’ma as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.”(Wikipedia)

When the teachers of the law questioned Jesus about which commandment was the most important, He quoted the Sh’ma:

The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[Deut 6:4, 5] The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Lev. 19:18] There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)

Hasof. This word comes compliments of Eric Arthurton, our brilliant tech guy for DrWalterBramson.com. Eric taught himself Hebrew and taught me this word, hasof, which means “the end.” While this may be the hasof of this story, it could be a beginning for you to learn Hebrew.  After all, according to Yehuda, Hebrew is the heavenly language and we will all speak it in heaven! Why not start now?

Geneva Chinnock

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