Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Hebrew grammar with English and 'German' translation (in Hebrew letters) from 1904

In truth, Ari should have written this post. But, instead I did.

This book, תורת שפת עבר: ללמד בני ישראל דרכי לשון הקודש ומשפטיה, published in New York in 1904, was written by Simon Hertz, the father of Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz (1872-1846). He lived from 1846 to 1913 (see) having emigrated to the United States from Slovakia in 1884 (see). According to Meirovich's book on the Hertz Pentateuch, he was a musmach of R. Esriel Hildesheimer in Eisenstadt (where the latter resided prior to being run out of town by zealots the establishment of the Rabbinerseminar in Berlin).

The book is aimed at children, and so illustrates each lesson with a little poem (in English and Yiddish German*), beginning with this one:

Letters of the "Holy Tongue"
Are Twenty-Two by name;
Every Hebrew while yet young,
Should strive to know the same.

It contains other ditties like

Paragogic of no benefit
Unless a better sound to obtain,
Why in the Scriptures they did admit,
אהוי"ן 'tis hard to explain.

and this classic:

שוא as a vowel you must not count,
No power of vowels does it possess;
Its existence is paramount,
To a display of vowel-lessness.

There are a few interesting features of this Hebrew grammar (in English with Yiddish on facing pages). For one thing, although the author calls the Yiddish language 'Jewish-German' in English, he calls it אשכנז in Hebrew. For another, in Solomon Schechter's הסכמה (see below) rather than Yiddish or Jewish-German, it is called 'German.'* Make of that what you will.

Also interesting is the list of patrons who donated $10, $5 and $3 towards publication of the book (funds total less than $300).


  1. your post is nice and i really like this.

  2. Very interesting.German translation is nice. It is good to know that translation is an the of recomposing a work in another language without losing its original meaning and content.Thus, through this we were able to share to other people with different language the culture the literature takes place.



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