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Hebrew Matters

110 Hebrew Roots, the Roads They Take, the Stories They Tell

Hebrew Matters
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  • RELIGION / Biblical Reference / Language Study

  • LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Historical & Comparative

Hebrew Matters is the third in a trilogy of books—following HebrewSpeak and HebrewTalk— that examines Hebrew roots, their derivations, and their contexts, as they appear in the Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Literature, Medieval Hebrew Poetry, and on the vibrant streets of the modern State of Israel. Each of the book’s 110 chapters is devoted to one Hebrew root and takes the reader on a journey through Jewish history, Jewish literature, and Jewish thought. The book is designed so that the reader will begin to understand how these roots have developed into a reborn living language, Modern Hebrew. Although the book deals seriously with Hebrew, each root is presented with a light touch, is spiced with a good measure of humor, and tells an interesting story or two on the way.

About the Author

Joseph Lowin has a Ph.D. in French literature from Yale University, was a Fulbright Scholar and Jerusalem Fellow and taught at Yale University, The University of Miami, and Touro College. He eventually left a career in academia for leadership positions in Jewish cultural organization and served as, among others, Executive Director of the National Center for the Hebrew Language. He has been the Hebrew columnist at Hadassah Magazine for more than thirty years and is the author of four books, among them HebrewSpeak and HebrewTalk, precursors to the book in your hands, HebrewMatters. During a Sabbatical year in Jerusalem, he had a weekly spot on Kol Yisrael, presenting to a world-wide radio audience Hebrew “Roots and Sources with Dr. Joe.” Joseph Lowin is also the author of a literary biography of the American novelist, short story writer and essayist Cynthia Ozick (Twayne, 1988). Most recently, Rowman & Littlefield published Lowin’s Art and the Artist in the Contemporary Israeli Novel (2017), a study of eight major Israeli novelists and their artistic contributions to a culture and civilization that have often been preoccupied by other matters.


"Nobody knows the Hebrew language the way Joseph Lowin does. Whether tracing the ethical root of an everyday phrase like “after you,” or uncovering the deep-seated connections between Hebrew, Aramaic, and even English, Lowin is a master of Hebrew words, phrases and ideas. To read this book is to journey into history, literature, philosophy and politics. And besides all that, it is wonderful fun, whether you are fluent in Hebrew or just a beginner. So read, learn and talk the talk that Lowin makes so accessible."

‒Francine Klagsburn

Author of Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

“Hebrew language is holy, its very letters sacred. In Joseph Lowin’s hands, we see that it is also exuberant, full of rich treasures, fresh as well as ancient, funny as well as profound. This is a book for scholars of leshon ha-kodesh, for amateur linguists and for ordinary folk who simply like a good read.”

‒Blu Greenberg

Author of On Women and Judaism

“From your columns emerges, subtly but powerfully, and without any preachment, the notion that Hebrew is quite the indispensable vehicle for knowing the amalgam of history, religion, culture, experience and wisdom that comprise Judaism.”

‒Howard Marblestone

Professor of Classical Languages, Lafayette College

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