Reading the Bible in English is “like kissing your bride through her veil — it’s one layer removed,” local Hebrew teacher Izzy Avraham said.
“So, we like to put people in first-language contact with this book that they love to study and live by.”
With his like-minded wife Genevieve offering her own expertise as a linguist, the two formed the Holy Language Institute — an online Hebrew school with more than 3,600 students worldwide since its launch last year.
The two met in Israel, where their love of Hebrew had brought them to do volunteer work — Izzy from Saskatchewan and Genevieve from California.
“I wanted to be able to read the Bible in its original language and relate to Jewish people better,” Genevieve said. “Our love of Hebrew brought is together.”
A love of Hebrew not only brought them together as a couple, but closer to the Bible and their faith, Izzy said.
“It’s often this side of Christ that a lot of people haven’t realized before, and when they start reading Hebrew — the language of Jesus — and they learn the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew … it brings about a lot of people’s faith to light.”
The couple live by the Messianic Jewish faith, and are perhaps best known in the community for their Saturday afternoon musical performances at Kinsmen Park.
With the weather cooling into autumn, they’ve taken to joining a group of between 20 and 30 Messianic Jewish people indoors, at the First Baptist Church at 1351 28th St. E. on Saturday afternoons beginning at 4 p.m.
“It’s often this side of Christ that a lot of people haven’t realized before, and when they start reading Hebrew — the language of Jesus — and they learn the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew … it brings about a lot of people’s faith to light. - Izzy Avraham
The group also meet in each other’s homes on Friday nights for additional discussion.
Though the focus of these meetings isn’t on the Hebrew language, Izzy said that he likes to sneak the odd Hebrew word in there from time to time.
One of the more commonly known words is Yeshua — the name Jesus Christ was originally known by.
Like the rest of Hebrew, using Jesus’s original Hebrew name adds additional context to the Bible.
In one English translation of Matthew 1:21, it reads, “And you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
This passage makes more sense when taken in its original Hebrew, wherein Yeshua replaces Jesus, which means “salvation.”
“We try and help people understand how studying Hebrew will help the understand Jesus and the cultural context of the New Testament,” Izzy said.
Language can’t be separated from culture unless you focus on the bare-bones mechanical nature of it — something Izzy has little interest in doing.
“We’ll read through different passages in Hebrew, explain the words and of course a lot of traditions and customs come up in the process.”
For more information on the Holy Language Institute, Izzy and Genevieve can be found online at www.holylanguage.com . The duo also has a Facebook page, named Classical Hebrew.