Quick, fill in the blanks!
A bird ___.
A ____ surfs.
The travellers ___.
We eat ____.
The players play the ____.
In English, nouns and verbs have their own separate lives. Sometimes they intersect (“a surfer surfs” “a traveller travels” “the players play” “a guard guards”), and sometimes, they don’t (“a bird flies” “we eat food” “the players play the game”).
In Hebrew, the two are closer together and far more flexible than in English. Where in English, they’re always conjugated slightly differently, in Hebrew, nouns and verbs are often completely interchangeable. For example:
- השומר שומר / hashomer shomer = the guard guards
- הגולש גולש על הגולש / hagolesh golesh al ha golesh = the surfer surfs (on the surfboard)
- הנוסעים נוסעים / hanosim nosim = the travellers travel
- הוא אוכל אוכל / hoo o-CHEL O-chel (same spelling, slightly different emphasis) = he eats food
- המשחקים משחקים במשחקים / hamesachakim mesachakim ba-mischakim (same spelling, slightly different pronunciation) = the players play the games
But today I realized there’s one example where English is more flexible. There is no verb in Hebrew (that I know of, which isn’t saying much!) for “to rain.”
Which makes sense. It’s not like you and I go around raining on any given day. In English, it’s always some weird neutral “it” that is going to do the raining. I think it’s going to rain. It didn’t rain today; let’s hope it rains tomorrow.
This honestly makes no sense. Same in French, where it’s an anonymous “he” who does the raining (“il pleut”).
Rain simply is a noun because nobody, ever needs to do it.
And so, in Hebrew, it is. For once, we have a noun with no direct verb form – one of the most beautiful words in the Hebrew language:
גֶּשֶׁם /geshem = rain
Morfix dictionary gives the word’s definition as:
גשם הוא משקע נוזלי שקוף הנופל מהשמים כטיפות מים זעירות. / “Rain is a clear liquid sediment that falls from the sky as tiny drops of water.”
It doesn’t rain from the sky, it falls. However, the more common verb is simply לרדת / laredet = to descend. Just like you or I might on a staircase.
(Technical note: according to Strong’s Biblical Concordance, which I know isn’t Jewish but which is sometimes handy, the root gasham is used once in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah 14:22) as מַגְשִׁמִים / magshamim = causing rain. But that’s ONCE, in the entire Tanach.)
Even more beautiful, however, is where the root does pop up – often. That is in the word לְהִתְגַּשֵּׁם / lehitgashem = to become realized. In English, it’s not even a single word, but here, it’s used all the time, to mean something like dreams coming true. That which you have imagined becomes reality.
This is no coincidence. In a country which dies for lack of water all summer long and springs to life with the first drops in the fall, rain really does make dreams come true in a very concrete and obvious way.
Can you spot the two signs of fall in this picture? (I’ll tell you in a second!)
Here in Kiryat Shmuel, eveyone has once again hauled out their fluffy boots and woolly sweaters, even though it is still sometimes hotter than what I’d normally consider summer.
The two signs of fall / winter in the picture?
- a grassy lawn beside this apartment building, where 2 weeks ago, there was only sand
- a case of Krembo, or, specifically, “manbo,” another brand of the creamy chocolate-coated marshmallow treat that replaces the ubiquitious freezer pops (“shlukim”) here here once the weather starts to cool off. I bought this case of Krembo (two cases, in fact), on orders from GZ’s teacher so she can enact his birthday party tomorrow in exactly the way that she does for every other child.
Last night, where I was in Yerushalayim, there was a definite nip in the air. Mmm… did it feel good.
Fall is on its way, and with it – rain. The rain is raining; may all our dreams of peace and prosperity come true in this damp and green and holy land.