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Chapter 3: General Knowledge

Chapter 3: General Knowledge

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The Aleph-Bet

1) The Aleph-Bet has 22 letters and five final letters. The letters are:

Block Script Numerical Name Name
Value [Sephard] [Ashkenaz]

א א 1 Aleph Aleph

בּ ב 2 Bet Bais

ב ב 2 Vet Vais

ג ג 3 Gimmel Gimmel

ד ד 4 Dalet Daled

ה ה 5 Hay Hay

ו ו 6 Vav Vov

ז ז 7 Zayin Zayin

ח ח 8 Chet Ches

ט ט 9 Tet Tes

י י 10 Yud Yud

כּ כ 20 Kaf Kof

כ כ 20 Chaf Chof

ך ך 20 Final Chaf Final Chof

ל ל 30 Lamed Lamed

מ מ 40 Mem Mem

ם ם 40 Final Mem Final Mem

נ נ 50 Nun Nun

ן ן 50 Final Nun Final Nun

ס ס 60 Samech Samech

ע ע 70 Ayin Ayin

26

ת ת 400 Taf Sof

2) The vowels are:

Name Sephardic Ashkenazi
pronunciation pronunciation

as in as in

Kamatz ָ a cat o cot

Patach ַ a cat a cat

Tzayray ֵ a day ay day

Segol ֶ eh pen eh pen

Sheva ְ uh done uh done

Cholam וֹ oh off oy toy

Chirik ִ ee bee ee bee

Shuruk ֻ oo do oo do

[or Koobutz]

Mlupam וּ oo do oo do

[or Shuruk]

Numerical Values

Every letter of the Aleph-Bet has a numerical value. From Aleph to Yud the values of the letters increase by ones, from 1 to 10.

From Kaf to Koof, the values of the letters increase by tens, from 10 to 100.

From Koof to Taf the values of the letters increase by hundreds, from 100 to 400.

To write the numbers using letters, simply add letters of the correct values. For example, the numbers 10-20 are written as follows:

11 = יא

12 = יב

13 = יג

14 = יד

15 = טו

16 = טז

17 = יז

18 = יח

19 = יט

20 = כ

Note: The numbers 15 and 16 are not made up by adding a ה and a י, for this would spell the name of G‑d, which we must not write unnecessarily as it may not be erased. Even in English, we hyphenate the word — G‑d.

The numbers 21 to 30 are written as follows:

21 = כא

22 = כב

23 = כג

24 = כד

25 = כה

26 = כו

27 = כז

28 = כח

29 = כט

30 = ל

With numbers over 100, simply add units:

110 = קי

248 = רמח

365 = שסה

With numbers over 400, add hundreds:

571 = תקעא. 400 + 100 + 70 + 1

With numbers over 1000, write a letter with a dash:

5751 = ה'תשנא i.e.5000 + 400 + 300 + 50 + 1

It is also possible to convert words into numbers:

ואתחנן = 515 i.e. 6 + 1 + 400 + 8 + 50 + 50

The study of numerology, i.e. the numerical equivalent of words, is called Gematria.

The Jewish Calendar

The Jewish Calendar takes into account both the solar year of 365 days and the lunar year of 354 days. The calendar works on a 19 year cycle, of which seven are leap years. This equals out the discrepancy of 11 days between the solar and lunar years. Approximately, every three years there is a leap year. The Torah does this so that the festival of Pesach is always in the Spring. The regular year has 12 months; a leap year has 13 months.

The names of the months are:

ניסן Nissan

אייר Iyar

סיון Sivan

תמוז Tamuz

אב Av

אלול Elul

תשרי Tishrei

חשון Cheshvan

כסלו Kislev

טבת Tevet

שבט Shevat

אדר Adar

אדר שני Adar Sheni [the extra month in a leap
year]

Each month has either 29 or 30 days. Although the New Year Rosh Hashanah — is in the month of Tishrei, the months are counted from Nissan as the Jews left Egypt in the month of Nissan.

The Hebrew calendar stretches back to the six days of creation. At the date of writing this book, the Hebrew year is 5773. The Torah was given to us in the Hebrew year 2448, exactly 3,325 years ago.

Dates

A Jewish date is written using the numerical values of the letters [as above], e.g.

15th Shevat = ט"ו שבט

19th Kislev = י"ט כסלו

11th Nissan = י"א ניסן

The first day of the month is called Rosh Chodesh — ראש חודש. This is abbreviated: ר"ח

The following is a list of common abbreviations:

Rosh Hashanah — ר"ה

Yomtov — יו"ט

Yom Kippur — יוה"כ

The Calendar

We will now go through each month listing the days of note in each month. [See chapter on Festivals for more detail].

Nissan

14th Fast of the Firstborn. All firstborn males must fast. It is customary to attend a
Siyum — a celebratory completion of a
tractate of the Talmud. A firstborn who attends a Siyum in the synagogue need not fast. Fathers who have firstborn sons who cannot yet fast, are required to fast in their stead.

15th Seder night. First day Pesach.

16th Second Seder. Second day Pesach. Start counting the Omer — the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot.

17th-20th Chol Hamoed Pesach. Chol = weekday; Moed = festival. Chol Hamoed is the name for the intermediate days of the festival. They are partly weekday, partly festival.

21st & 22nd Seventh day and Acharon [last day] of Pesach.

Iyar

14th Pesach Sheni. The second Pesach. In Temple times, one who was unable to offer the Paschal Lamb on 14th Nissan, had a second chance on 14th Iyar. It’s never too late!

18th Lag B’Omer. ל = 30; ג = 3. 33rd day of the Omer.In Roman times, there lived a great Rabbi called Rabbi Akiva. He had 24,000 students. Unfortunately, a plague struck them during the Omer period and they died. However, their deaths stopped on Lag B’Omer. It is therefore a day of rejoicing. Furthermore, it is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar — a noted book on Kabbalah, the secrets of the Torah.

Sivan

6th & 7th Festival of Shavuot. The Jews received the Torah in the year 2448.

Tamuz

17th Fast of Tamuz [see chapter on fasts]

Av

9th Fast of Av

Elul

Month of preparation for the High Holy Days.

Tishrei

1st & 2nd Rosh Hashanah

3rd Fast of Gedaliah

10th Yom Kippur

15th First Day of Sukkot

16th Second Day of Sukkot

17th-20th Chol Hamoed Sukkot

21st Hoshanah Rabbah

22nd Shemini Atzeret

23rd Simchat Torah

Cheshvan

No days of note — often this month is referred to as Mar-Cheshvan — the “bitter” Cheshvan.

Kislev

25th Chanukah, for eight days.

Tevet

10th Fast of Tevet

Shevat

15th New Year for Trees [celebrated by eating fruits with which Eretz Yisrael is blessed].

Adar

13th Fast of Esther

14th Purim

15th Shushan Purim

The Tenach

The Bible, as we know it, is split up into three sections:

תורה [Torah] Five Books of Moses

נביאים [Neviim] The Prophets

כתובים [Ketuvim] The Writings

The first letter of each of the words spell תנ"ך [Tenach].

The Torah

The Five Books of Moses are:

בראשית [Bereishit] — Genesis

The Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

שמות [Shemot] — Exodus

Ten Plagues, Exodus from Egypt, Splitting of Reed Sea, Giving of Torah, Laws, Construction of Mishkan [Tabernacle].

ויקרא [Vayikra] — Leviticus

Laws of the Temple, Sacrifices, Priests, Purity.

במדבר [Bamidbar] — Numbers

Details of wanderings in desert, twelve spies, Korach’s rebellion, Bilam’s blessing.

דברים [Devarim] — Deuteronomy

Moses’ farewell address to the Jews, the Shema, Revision of all Torah Law.

Neviim — The Prophets

יהושע Joshua

שופטים Judges

שמואל א-ב Samuel I, II

מלכים א-ב Kings I, II

ישעיהו Isaiah

ירמיה Jeremiah

יחזקאל Ezekiel

הושע Hoshea

יואל Joel

עמוס Amos

עובדיה Ovadiah

יונה Jonah

מיכה Micah

נחום Nachum

חבקוק Chabakuk

צפניה Tzefania

חגי Chaggai

זכריה Zachariah

מלאכי Malachi

Ketuvim — The Writings

תהלים Tehillim Psalms written by King David.

משלי Proverbs Solomon’s Wisdom. Last chapter — Eishet Chayil.

איוב Job

שיר השירים Song of Songs

רות Ruth Read on Shavuot

איכה Eichah Lamentations. Written by Jeremiah; A lament over the destruction of the Temple. [Read on 9th Av]

קהלת Kohelet Ecclesiastes

אסתר Esther Read on Purim

דניאל Daniel

אזרא Ezra

נחמיה Nechemiah

דברי הימים א-ב Chronicles I & II

Rabbi Nissan D. Dubov is director of Chabad Lubavitch in Wimbledon, UK.
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