The Hebrew and Yiddish languages use a different alphabet than English. The picture below illustrates the Hebrew alphabet, in Hebrew alphabetical order. Note that Hebrew is written from right to left, rather than left to right as in English, so Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and Tav is the last. If this sounds like Greek to you, you’re not far off! The “Kh” and the “Ch” are pronounced as in German or Scottish, a throat clearing noise, not as the “ch” in “chair. Note that there are two versions of some letters.
People who are fluent in the language do not need vowels to read Hebrew, and most things written in Hebrew in Israel are written without vowels. These dots and dashes are written above, below or inside the letter, in ways that do not alter the spacing of the line. Text containing these markings is referred to as “pointed” text. Most nikkud are used to indicate vowels. Table 2 illustrates the vowel points, along with their pronunciations. I have heard quite a bit of variation in vowel pronunciation. Vowel points are shown in blue. The letter Alef, shown in red, is used to illustrate the position of the points relative to the consonants. The letters shown in purple are technically consonants and would appear in unpointed texts, but they function as vowels in this context. There are a few other nikkud, illustrated in Table 3.
The dot that appears in the center of some letters is called a dagesh. It can appear in just about any letter in Hebrew. Shin is pronounced “sh” when it has a dot over the right branch and “s” when it has a dot over the left branch. Illustration 1 is an example of pointed text. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. It is referred to as block print, square script or sometimes Assyrian script. There is another style commonly used when writing Hebrew by hand, often referred to as Hebrew cursive or Hebrew manuscript.
Table 4 shows the complete Hebrew alphabet in a font that emulates Hebrew cursive. Another style is used in certain texts, particularly the Talmud, to distinguish the body of the text from commentary upon the text. But there was once another way of writing the alphabet that the rabbis called K’tav Ivri, which means “Hebrew Script. The rabbis of the Talmudic period were well aware of this ancient K’tav Ivri, and they raised the question whether the Torah was originally given in K’tav Ivri or K’tav Ashuri. The general consensus is that the Torah was given in K’tav Ashuri, because the Talmud makes other references that don’t make sense in K’tav Ivri. The Talmud talks about final forms of letters in the original Torah, but K’tav Ivri doesn’t have final forms. All authorities maintain that today, the only holy script is K’tav Ashuri. K’tav Ivri is understood to be in the nature of a font, like Rashi script, rather than in the nature of a different alphabet, like Greek, Cyrillic or Roman. Transliteration is more an art than a science, and opinions on the correct way to transliterate words vary widely.
Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanuka, and many other interesting ways. Each letter in the alefbet has a numerical value. Table 6 shows each letter with its corresponding numerical value. Note that final letters have the same value as their non-final counterparts. The numerical value of a word is determined by adding up the values of each letter. The order of the letters is irrelevant to their value: the number 11 could be written as Yod-Alef, Alef-Yod, Hei-Vav, Dalet-Dalet-Gimel or many other ways. Because every letter of the alphabet has a numerical value, every word also has a numerical value.