When I study the Old Testament I generally do individual word studies as it is very difficult to keep up with Hebrew grammar. I learned enough Hebrew grammar in seminary to figure it out if my life depended on it, but the process is so slow that when I study for a message I concentrate more on the individual words, unless there is a key thought in the text that requires me to investigate the grammar further.
It has been fun here to recognize and read various Hebrew words on road signs and billboards. The only problem is that modern Hebrew does not have the vowels inserted in the words, kind of like if I were to spell the word “covenant” with just the consonants “cvnnt.” After a while you could get used to it, but it would take some practice. Ancient Hebrews did not insert the vowels when writing Hebrew. They just knew where the vowels were at, and what the sounds were like. So, modern Hebrew is really a return to an ancient practice. Fortunately for those of us who study biblical Hebrew there were a group of scribes in the middle ages who inserted the vowels for us. These look like little chicken scratches under the consonants, but are very helpful in reading. I asked a Jew about this, and he said that when the students are learning the Hebrew language in elementary school the vowels are inserted, but as they become more proficient they learn to read and write without the vowels.
One of the good things here in Israel is that due to the many transplanted Americans and the universal language of most educated people worldwide, namely English, all of the road signs, and many other significant signs are both in English and Hebrew. Today I came across a sign for one of my favorite Hebrew words, a word that many of us have heard before, the Hebrew word “hesed”, a special word that refers to God's loving kindness. The word was used in reference to a local synagogue, a very appropriate word to name a synagogue I guess.
My Psalm reading today was from Psalm 25 including Psalm 25:6, “Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love for they are from of old.” In this ancient place I am remembering and meditating on God's “mercy and love” which is indeed great.