I Can’t Speak Hebrew (But Really, I Can)

I often say/write that I can’t read or write Hebrew, except  the letter ל , which is attracted to my autistic brain in the same way that the letter ‘A’ is. (I also see A in bright red, and E — although it doesn’t hold the same attraction that A does — is yellow.)

I disappoint myself that I don’t see ל in any specific colour, though. This isn’t something you choose: it comes with the territory.

So I don’t speak or read Hebrew, and not for lack of trying. But rather than continue frustrating myself for it, I decided, a couple of weeks ago, just to accept it. There are reasons for my difficulties, and that’s OK, and I accept that’s just how it is.

But then, last week, after reading a comment to me on this site, something happened; a germ of a thought. And it’s grown into a grown-up thought. Especially after the article for helping writers (aside from the picture on the article freaking me out a little — at first I thought it was pasta shapes, then, on closer thought, saw that it was Lego heads, and I became mildly disturbed wondering where all the bodies were…)

To the point:

It turns out, I was wrong. I do speak Hebrew. And the feeling I got when I realised that was like a big fat hug on the inside – the inside, rather than the outside, for reasons which will become clear shortly.

Since I was about seven, I’ve had what might euphemistically be called “a weak tummy,” caused by catching dysentery (which was known during World War I as “trench fever”), and which I very kindly passed on to my mother. We were under quarantine for about six weeks. I have little memory of it, but it left me very easily upset in that area.

It grew slightly worse, and then, to fast-forward: Two and a half years ago I had to have a colonoscopy, the result of which could have been much worse, so I’m grateful it’s not, but I have diverticular disease (which apparently is different to diverticulitis or diverticulosis — I tried finding out, and basically this is with me for life, so I have to be quite careful).

I was also diagnosed with “the Duke of Argyll.” That’s rhyming slang…which is, to be quite literal, a pain in the arse.

So this was six weeks after losing my husband, and inside my head was not a pretty sight. At some point, because I am very limited as to what I can do in the way of observance, I thought it would be good to try to gradually take on more, slowly, things which I was as sure as I could be that I could keep up (my personal theory is that. I’d rather do one small mitzvah that I know I have a good chance of keeping up than face myself, and end up giving up and doing nothing (that’s what I’m like, in general, so it seemed reasonable to think it would be the same).

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Since the start, for me, five years ago, in my mid-fifties, I’ve always liked saying blessings, and prayers. Sometimes aloud, sometimes just reading. And I love what I think is called hitbodetut, or basically just talking to G-d. And I include in that my Captain’s Log (my journal, diary, often write to G-d).

So I thought. And I had a blether with my my lovely friend to whom I can say anything, and who also happens to be a rebbetzin. And I decided I wanted to try to remember to say the bracha before eating anything – and also asher yatzar, the blessing for going to the bathroom. Just for 💩.

Given my condition, I’d get plenty of practice without adding the other one, too.

And I did. I’d sit on the couch afterward, and say the transliteration.

And then then gradually I found I managed to say the first few lines (in Hebrew!) while washing my hands, finishing in the living room.

And that continued… and grew… and now I can say it all in Hebrew while washing my hands.

So…….. (drum roll)………. I can speak Hebrew!

And other little things which connect to things I’m interested in. Who could have imagined that bananas and Battlestar Galactica were linked by a bracha? So many things to discover, even when you can’t do much.

Maybe especially when you can’t do much.