From the Sefer Yetzirah it seems that there is both a hard and soft letter reish (see 4th perek, Aryeh Kaplan edition). How do you pronounce the soft reish?

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    I've never opened Sefer Y'tzira, but note that there are seventeen reshin d'gushos in Tanach. I haven't checked any of them to determine whether it has a dagesh lene or a dagesh forte.
    – msh210
    May 14, 2012 at 15:39
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    @DoubleAA poof! books.google.com/… basic text - hermetics.org/pdf/Sefer_Yetzirah_Kaplan.pdf May 14, 2012 at 15:55
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    Why are you asking for the soft reish? What we have sounds more like a soft reish as it is not plosive. Maybe you should ask about the hard reish.
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2012 at 16:06
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    @DoubleAA not being a linguist i'm taking kaplan's word that the hard one is what we currently use, not the soft one. May 14, 2012 at 16:08
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    @Identitytheft-Dave - Almost all instances of the reish are supposed to be soft. R' Kaplan actually says that he thinks the fricative reish that is used (at least by Israelis) is appropriate for the soft reish. As per DoubleAA, R' Kaplan stated that the hard reish is unknown.
    – Fred
    May 15, 2012 at 0:57

2 Answers 2


In the Hebrew dialect of Habbani Jews (type of Temanim), we maintain a double pronunciation of resh, as well as a few other sounds I'm not aware of other dialects having.

The main pronunciation of resh is a regular rolled r, like exists in Arabic and Spanish. The soft resh is much like an English r, but more emphatic, as if you were about to roll it but stopped short. You can still hear this sound in some old Arabic music. The fact that this sound existed in earlier Arabic I'm sure is along the lines of more than 50% of root words in Arabic come from Hebrew - not the other way around.

Interestingly, in Habbanit our hard gimel is neither j nor g, but a kind of clicking g sound. (Soft gimel is "gh") Samekh is best described as the s sound after the k in "Mexico" (since x is truly k-s), with the tongue positioned lower than in a regular s sound. Quf is a guttural "g" sound, not as intense as the Iraqi version. Everything else is the same as normative Temani dialect.

This stuff fascinates me. ^_^

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    Also, I think pronouncing Hebrew with the most authentic and original pronunciation is important for spiritual aspects as brought in Sefer Yetzira. Even if it means you think Iraqi or another Temani is more authentic than Habbanit (I won't be offended). But in actuality, Iraqi and Temani dialects are almost the exact same, only with minor differences. And I believe they are the root of the Ashkenazi dialect, where waw became vav, thaw became sav, etc (a double pronunciation of tav not being maintained by many Sepharadim).
    – Aman
    May 14, 2012 at 18:41
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    +1, but if you could use IPA symbols it'd help a lot: personally (though I may be alone) I have no idea what you mean by "gh" or "clicking g", nor really what you mean by "much like an English r, but more emphatic, as if you were about to roll it but stopped short".
    – msh210
    May 14, 2012 at 18:42
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    Can you clarify which Reish's get which pronunciation, as most Tanach texts do not seem to differentiate? May 14, 2012 at 18:47
  • Make a normal g sound, move is SLIGHTLY forward towards your teeth, and emphasize it to the point that it clicks. Ethiopians, who speak Semitic languages, have this sound as well. "Gh" is "ghayin" in Arabic, as in "Baghdad", it sounds almost like the French r. English r is as in American English, or West Country England English. Move your tongue forward more to emphasize the sound, and that is basically it.
    – Aman
    May 14, 2012 at 18:47
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    #1. Aman, that's unbelievable. #2. you should make a youtube video delineating the various pronunciations. May 14, 2012 at 21:24

Hidāyat al-Qāriʾ (see Eldar's edition) indicates that the regular resh pronunciation was articulated at the middle of the tongue. This is farther out than the articulation for fricative gimel (IPA: ʁ) or the fricative kaf (IPA: χ), which was articulated "at the back third of the tongue". This suggests that resh had an advanced uvular articulation. It is unclear if it is a roll (IPA: ʀ) or frictionless continuant (IPA: ʁ̖).

The second resh (called "heavy"), which is found in the environment of the alveolar consonants דזצתטסלן was probably an alveolar trill, like the one used for resh in Middle Eastern Hebrew. The terminology used to refer to this resh (makrūḵ) and other evidence suggests that this resh was emphatic.

Saʿadya Gaʿon writes in his commentary on Sefer Yeṣirah that Tiberians have a dual form of resh (hard and light), but the Babylonians do not.

See Khan's A Short Introduction to the Tiberian Masoretic Bible and its Reading Tradition.


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