Chesed or Hesed

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Michael Kinch | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Oct 21 2020 11:22 AM

I am studying Ruth.  In some of my commentaries it is spelled hesed and in some it is spelled chesed.  Why the difference?  Any resources that will help explain?  Thanks!

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 11:33 AM

It’s a gutteral h, quite distinct in sound and printed Hebrew from an aspirated h. Some try to represent that guttural with -ch. 

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 3:47 PM

Michael Kinch:

I am studying Ruth.  In some of my commentaries it is spelled hesed and in some it is spelled chesed.  Why the difference?  Any resources that will help explain?  Thanks!

Technically, both "hesed" and "chesed" are incorrect. I use "hh" to represent the hheiytth (ח) in English since "ch" in English makes a completely different sound (either church or character, neither of which is like the sound of hheiytth -- the proper pronunciation is a raspy, gargly "gutteral" exhalation). People use "ch" for hheiytth based on the supposition that it makes the sound of the "ch" in Bach, but that's not true. The letter that makes that sound is the non-daagheish kapph (כ), which I represent as "kh". You asked for Logos resources to help untangle this subject, but you will find more to confuse you than make it clearer, since many (probably most) "learning Hebrew" resources teach these fundamental facts incorrectly, and they even admit to that up front. This is from Futato's book:

As you can see, he spells hheiytth as chet (you know, like the Hardy boys' pal) because he asserts the letter is pronounced as "CH as in BaCH", which is totally false. He then says that the non-daagheish kapph (which he spells "kaf") has the exact same sound. This is fundamentally WRONG. It is taught this way to make things "easier", but it has the inevitable cost of creating confusion for anyone trying to make sense of what's happening rather than just swallowing rules whole without question.

The reason people use both "h" and "ch" is because there is a wild west mentality about Hebrew transliteration. This is often driven by an erroneous motivation to focus on spelling rather than on elicited pronunciation. For some reason I certainly can't explain, people seem to feel that having the transliterated Hebrew word look like an English word is more important than finding a way to represent the proper sound of the Hebrew word. The result is that people typically "overreach" [under reach?] and the outcome is that many Hebrew words get spelled in ways that essentially force English speakers to pronounce words incorrectly. There is also a very common approach of "simplifying" transliterated Hebrew in English that generates confusion for those trying to work backward and make sense of the process. For instance, Qaraite Jews (those who reject rabbinic interpretation of Scripture, i.e. the supposed "oral law") get their name from the word qaaraa', which means "to call, to call out" and is a short-hand way of referring to Scripture since it is "called out" when it is read in the synagogue. In other words, Qaraite is a short-hand way of saying "Scripturalist". But the vast majority of times you will find that Qaraite is spelled Karaite in English, because it is deemed "simpler", "easier", and more in keeping with English spelling. But this spelling inevitably causes confusion for anyone who wants to work backward to learn Hebrew, because the spelling "Karaite" will send folks to the kaapph (כ) section of the lexicon rather than the qohpph (ק) section where the word qaaraa' is found. Just to be clear, it is Jews and Gentile Hebrew scholars who are using these erroneous practices and literally teaching them to others. The commonly-made argument that "it's their language so the Jews should know better" is bogus and patently false (not the least reason being that it assumes "the Jews" are a lock-step monolith in such matters--for instance, synagogues are often given the title "house", which is variously spelled in English as bet, beth, beit, or bes, all of which are technically incorrect).

Fwiw, after I decided that I would use "hh" to represent hheiytth as an English transliteration, I noticed that Jeff Benner of the Ancient Hebrew Research Center uses the same symbol. You won't see it very often, but you will definitely pronounce the word more correctly if you think of it as being spelled hhessedh.

Last thought: see this word?

It's the word Hanukkah, also occasionally spelled Chanukah (often by Jews). According to Futato (he of the PhD in Hebrew), this word should be pronounced KANUKKAH. Here's the thing...NO ONE PRONOUNCES THE WORD LIKE THAT. Know why? Because the hheiytth IS NOT pronounced like the "CH is BaCH". It's foolishly absurd...yet it's also what you will be taught in your Logos library. Sadly, the fact is almost no one pronounces the name for the holiday correctly, because very few people (even very few Jews) pronounce the gutteral hheiytth (ח); rather, they pronounce it as the simple h-sound hei' (ה) even when they spell it with an initial "ch". Like I said...wild west.

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 21 2020 8:12 PM

David Paul:
It's the word Hanukkah, also occasionally spelled Chanukah (often by Jews). According to Futato (he of the PhD in Hebrew), this word should be pronounced KANUKKAH.

Actually, I think the problem is more that "Bach" is being mispronounced as "Bock" or "Bak", instead of its correction pronunciation, given (e.g.) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abBbG39BNeE

(For those of you who didn't watch the video: the "ch" in "Bach" is not at all a "ck" sound!)

When pronounced correctly, the "ch" in "Bach" sounds very much like the "Ch" in "Chanukah" as pronounced by modern Hebrew speakers.

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Michael Kinch | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2020 3:19 PM

Thanks everyone. This has been very helpful. 

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