Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah begins tonight at sundown; hope you’ve got your shofar ready!

The contrast between the typical Western new year celebration and Rosh Hashanah is striking.  Perhaps the attitude of worship and introspection is better suited to Mormons?  It’s also a great day to celebrate the creation of the world, as we transition into Fall.  In any event, maybe keep this in mind tonight during Family Home Evening:

Barukh atah Adonai, Elohaynu, melekh ha-olam
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe

she-hecheeyanu v’keey’manu v’heegeeyanu la-z’man ha-zeh (Amein)
who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season (Amen)


  1. Shanah tovah!

  2. Naomi Frandsen says:

    I’m glad BCC observes Jewish New Year. I’m actually going to an honest-to-goodness Jewish dinner tonight at the family of a friend of mine, and I fully intend to use those phrases to my advantage. I have to admit, I was a little chagrined to observe that Rosh Hashana was not given more air time on my local NPR station. What happened to the Jewish-controlled liberal media?

  3. Steve Evans says:

    great stuff, Naomi! I’ve never celebrated the holidays, although Sumer wants to do a Seder sometime. I think these are wonderful traditions, and can infuse our commonplace holidays with new meaning if we’re open to them.

    About the liberal media — I know, I know!

  4. I’m on a Kabbalah mailing list because I find much of their lessons insightful.

    They believe that the first day of Rosh Hashanah is the actual day on which Adam and Eve were created, and that this holiday is a celebration of rebirth for the year to come. “Every year, the Creator allows you to return to that embryonic state for 48 hours and create a blueprint for the coming year.” Before Rosh Hashanah you examine your life to repent, forgive others, and decide what you want for the new year—and then you give what you hope to receive (kinda like karma).

    What a great way to begin to “get some fresh air for the year”!!

    Past weekly emails that discuss on Rosh Hashanah, if anyone’s interested:



  5. And let’s not forget the ties between Rosh Hashanah and the Book of Mormon! See, e.g., Lenet Hadley Read, “The Golden Plates and the Feast of Trumpets,” Ensign, Jan. 2000, 25

  6. Steve, where did you get that translation? It’s not as sharp as I would have expected. I sure hope it’s not the JPS or the NASB (my two faves!). I would have rendered the term ‘olam as “eternal” instead of “universe.” As far as I know, there really is no term in the OT for “universe,” excepting one chooses to go with ha-shamayim which is generally rendered “the heavens.” The word “universe” puts too much modern meaning into a Hebrew term that just doesn’t carry the same semantic weight, IMHHO (In My Honest Hebrew Opinion).

    Oh and maybe someone out there (Ronan or John C.?) could help me with this one: Why in the world did JS give his transliteration of ‘olam as “gnolaum” in Abr. 3:18? Phonetically, I’m fine with the “au” part (I’ll bet there were no standardized transliteration rules in the 1830s), but I don’t get the “gn” part. It doesn’t make sense phonetically or otherwise. The only NW Semitic connection I can think of is the Ugaritic letter “gayin,” but I don’t believe the Ugaritic cognate for the Hebrew ‘olam even contains the letter gayin as far as I remember… Anybody have anything on this strange transliteration?

  7. My best friend is a Jewish LDS convert. We have a traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner with his family each year, and this year we invited an additional family where the dad is a Jewish convert to Mormonism (he just replaced me in our bishopric)

    I’ve been preparing since Friday. Chicken soup with matzo balls, a nice brisket of beef, pomegranates, apples with honey for dipping. The kids all marched around the living room pretending they had shofars.

    And the best part… leftovers!

  8. David J.: Hebrew orthography used ‘ayin for two sounds, the ‘ayin and ghayin (which survived independantly in Ugaritic and Arabic). Though the sound of ghayin eventually merged with ayin in Hebrew, it was still there by NT days. For example, the English pronounciation of Gomorrah comes to us through the Greek Septuagint, which spelled it with a g, even though in Hebrew Gomorrah begins with an ayin.

    Joseph Smith’s Hebrew teacher, Josiah Seixas, was a Sephardic Jew, and pronounced ayin more like the old ghayin. You can see it in his transliterations in grammar he wrote. He also pronounced qamets like an -aw- Hence, we have gnolaum instead of olam.

    Ben McGuire used to have a .pdf of Seixas grammar on his website.

  9. “I don’t believe the Ugaritic cognate for the Hebrew ‘olam even contains the letter gayin as far as I remember…”

    As a follow-up, you are right about this. ( I don’t think I made that clear.) Both the Ug. and Arb. cognates are spelled with ayin instead of ghayin, but due to Seixas’ Sephardic pronounciation, it sounded much more gutteral.

  10. Ben S.: yo, thanks for the info. It’s so sad to me that us “gringos” learn Hebrew by pronouncing the ‘aleph and the ‘ayin the same way. One of my profs indicated that a true speaker speaks and hears the difference. My training didn’t emphasize phonetics much at all, just translation/reading ability and syntax/grammar. Seixas’ grammar would be an interesting addition to my out-of-control “religion” file on the C drive. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I have noticed the gayin issue with Gohorrah once before, and I believe I also spotted it on another word (I think it was a proper noun as well), but I can’t remember that word at all. It’s been two years since I ran into it.

    The gayin issue is interesting, and does explain the presence of the “g,” but I still wonder about that blasted letter “n” in the transliteration. I guess, as you say, it’s more of a phonetic device to match the gutteral sound of the ‘ayin, although I wonder what the original language (Egyptian?) counterpart for the transliteration would have been.

  11. Ben: One more thing, do you have the PofGP file for Bibleworks 6.0? I notice you only have the BofM and D&C on your website. I’m an avid user myself, and would like to start a “triple combo” database, and eventually add the 1921 and 1830 editions of the text of the BofM to the whole database. The PofGP would be great if you have it. If not, I think I can make it from Gospelink, but that again would be tedious. I’d also be willing to help Gardner’s commentary, if you need some more manpower with that.

  12. Gaza = ‘Aza (with ayin), I think. Ask me a Sumerian question.

  13. I do have the PgP. I’ll trade you for the 1830 version…:) Check your email.

    I emailed Ben McGuire and asked him to weigh in on Seixas grammar.

  14. Um, dang. How’s that ole Sumerian, Ronan? Can’t even think of a stupid sumerian question, let alone a good one.

  15. Can’t even think of a stupid sumerian question, let alone a good one.

    Ronan, why don’t we all gather ’round, and you tell us the parable of the good Sumerian? :)

  16. I’ll trade you for the 1830 version

    It’s been a terribly long work-in-process, but I’ll zip it to you when I’m done… it’ll be a while though. Those blasted text-files that Bibleworks likes are… blasted.

  17. My apartment is adjacent to a Jewish synagogue (to the east — immediately to the south is a Presbyterian church). Yesterday morning I woke up to the playing of the shofar. There are beautiful stained glass windows across from my kitchen window, and last year at this time, I walked into the bathroom where the window was open and I was staring straight through a side door that had been opened for ventilation at what looked to be the reading of the Torah. I made it a point to be cautious thereafter.

  18. Ben McGuire says:

    For Ben S.,

    I placed a copy of page 5 of the 1832 edition of the Seixas grammar on my website at:


    The file is about 1 meg in size. The name of the letter is transliterated gnayin – for those of you who read Hebrew, you will also notice a few other difference between standard pronunciation and Sephardic pronunciation.

    Ben M.

  19. Thanks Ben!

  20. I notice he’s also defaulting to the “v” sounding “waw,” which I’ve learned can be a no-no with weak middle roots (like mwt), and may stem from the Yiddish pronunciation. I’ve had 4 different Heb. professors, and only 1 of them pronounced ALL his waws as a soft “w” sound instead of the (probably) Yiddish-influenced “v” sound. I go with the soft “w” when I read to myself. “Pa” and “Pha” are also curious; I learned it as “pey” (“pay”).

    Very cool stuff! Thanks again Ben!

  21. Ben McGuire says:

    If you e-mail me your information, I can arrange to send you a CD with digital copies of both the 1832 and the 1834 editions of the Seixas Grammars. It comes to about 600 megs, which is why I eventually took it from my web site (too mcuh bandwidth for stuff going out).

    Whats interesting is the role that Sephardic Hebrew had in early America. The Seixas family was the most well known of the early Jewish American families. Joshua himself was the black sheep of the family. He converted to Christianity. His father was the leading officer of the New York synagogue (he wasn’t a rabbi – America wouldn’t get a permanent rabbi for decades). And while Sephardic Hebrew was not the common pronunciation system in the 19th century, the fact that the Seixas family spoke Sephardic made it the most used pronunciation system in early America. Despite his conversion, Joshua was one of the foremost American Hebraicists of his day – although because of his status within the Jewish community, his only real lasting legacy (outside of the rare scholarly comment on Hebrew studies in America) was that he taught Joseph Smith the Hebrew language.

    In any case, my copies of the grammar were scanned from copies owned by the University of Michigan – although they are not in general circulation. The 1834 edition has been around – particularly due to Zucker’s reprint some years ago, although the 1832 edition plays a significant role in helping understand Joseph’s use of Hebrew. While Zucker had to rely on transliterating the word _nauvoo_ in the 1834 grammar, Seixas provides the transliteration in the 1832 grammar. There are a number of other related issues, but I think that anyone who is attempting to follow Joseph’s use of Hebrew (as in his King Follett Discourse for example) ought to at least peruse the grammars. Some of the non-Hebrew terms Joseph uses to describe the Hebrew language are also used by Seixas. So, for example, Joseph’s mention of a “grammatical termination” in the KFD. In any case, I have been circulating the texts largely because neither one is easily accessible to most individuals.


  22. It warms my heart to read all your comments. My parents were raised in strict Orthodox Jewish fashion with all the Kosher traditions. Consequently,they rebelled so fortunetly for me, I was not put through that trauma. There were plenty of others. Both sets of grandparents came from Russia -two on the boats and there was a lot of Yiddish spoken (yelled) all the time. Every service I went to seemed to have a little different translation for the Hebrew prayers depending on the residing Rabbi or Cantor. For example: some say king of the universe, some say king of the world. The written translation I see here in my prayer book is spelled this way ”haw-olawm”. I was always told there were some words simply not translatable. That’s an easy out! I believe that is true for Yiddish though. In keeping with your humor theme today -here is a fun website: http://www.sbjf.org/sbjco/schmaltz/yiddish_phrases.htm
    Shana Tova Bubbalas!