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I am studying kabbalah and using gematria, I need to know what is the best way I can read the tanakh and what language I should learn. I have been told that the tanakh was originally written without vowels. Is this so? Could someone please tell me the following things: a) Was the tanakh originally written without vowels? b) What is the best language to learn for this purpose? (I hear it's biblical hebrew) c) What is the best copy of the tanakh to buy that has both the biblical Hebrew and the English after each verse. d) what is the best biblical Hebrew to English dictionary to buy?

  • Torah scrolls still don't have vowels in them. – Double AA Oct 11 '16 at 16:22
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    If you don't speak any Hebrew you'll have a hard time learning any real kabbalah, as it usually requires decades of intense background in Talmudic study. Anyone claiming to be teaching you kabbalah is almost certainly faking it. – Double AA Oct 11 '16 at 16:23
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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. You are asking some divergent questions. I recommend that you make a) its own question, as this deal a bit with history and Torah writings. Perhaps b) can go with a) but I'm unclear about the question. C) and d) should go into its won set of questions as you are asking for a recommendation. I hope this helps. – DanF Oct 11 '16 at 17:01
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    What is the best language to learn for this purpose? (I hear it's biblical hebrew) Yup the Bible is (mostly) written in Biblical Hebrew. – mevaqesh Oct 11 '16 at 17:41
  • @mevaqesh: Would prefer interlinear. – Nathan Edwards Oct 11 '16 at 18:01
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Hebrew, up to the present day, is normally written without vowels, except for Bibles, prayer books, poetry, and children's books. That doesn't mean that there aren't vowels, it just means that readers need to supply them from their own knowledge.

Which vowels to use for each word of the Bible is dictated by carefully preserved oral tradition, which at a certain point was recorded in written form by the Masoretes of Tiberias, who developed the system of vowel markings.

Torah scrolls used for ritual purposes do not have the vowel markings, and readers need to have memorised them beforehand. Bibles in book form do have the markings.

The language of the Bible is Biblical Hebrew, and, in a couple of sections, Biblical Aramaic. There are many dictionaries of Biblical Hebrew, as well as Hebrew-English Bibles. You're probably best off looking around at what's available and seeing if any of them feel more accessible to you.

A good and convenient Hebrew-English Bible is available online here: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0.htm. This has the advantage of being laid-out in a clear way with the English and Hebrew aligned side by side. It also has the advantage of using a beautiful translation, the JPS 1917 version.

One dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, with definitions in English, is this one: https://www.amazon.com/Langenscheidts-Pocket-Hebrew-Dictionary-English/dp/0887290825. It's small and handy, and covers the complete vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew.

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