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What is Aramaic?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Miscellaneous » Hebrew / Languages » Other Languages | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A. Aramaic (pronounced a-ra-MAY-ik) is an ancient, mostly defunct group of related Semitic dialects originating in, and very similar to, Hebrew. Their similarity extends to their written alphabet, which looks like a prototype of Hebrew and is written right-to-left as well. At one point in time, Aramaic was the lingua franca of Mesopotamia and the whole Middle East, functioning in society the same way English does today. There are two major dialects of Aramaic: Eastern (a.k.a. Syriac), and Western (a.k.a. Palestinian); which is still spoken in parts of Syria today.

B. The word "Aramaic" comes from the biblical Aram (pronounced AH-rahm), son of Shem and grandson of Noah. Being that there weren't exactly a whole lot of people alive in the world at that time (it was right after the Great Flood), whole nationalities sprung from single individuals. Thus, Aram was the father of the ancient civilization of the Arameans, who spoke--you guessed it--Aramaic. Contrary to the claims of some confused people, Aramaic has no relationship to Assyrian.

In addition to the Talmud, there are several other Jewish books written in Aramaic: much of the Book of Daniel, as well as much of the Zohar, and other books of Kabbalah
C. Aramaic is also an adjective describing someone or something pertaining to Aram, or to the territory, inhabitants, language, or literature of Syria and Mesopotamia; more specifically, the northern branch of the Semitic family of languages, including Syriac and Chaldee.

How is Aramaic used today?

1. The Talk of the Day

Aramaic was society's primary spoken language in the Talmudic Era, thus, the Talmud is written in Aramaic, although transliterated into the right-to-left Hebrew alphabet.

2. Where to study Aramaic

The language can actually be studied at such institutions of higher learning as Harvard or the University of Chicago. There are also a number of unusual people on the Internet who think they've taught themselves authentic Aramaic. The accuracy level of the information supplied at these venues has yet to be determined, though--your best bet is the Talmud. But before you can study the Talmud in the original Aramaic, you'll have to know how to read Hebrew.

3. Hebrew's Helper

In addition to the Talmud, there are several other Jewish books written in Aramaic: much of the Book of Daniel, as well as much of the Zohar, and other books of Kabbalah. In times of persecution, when Jews were forbidden to read, write, pray or converse in Hebrew, Aramaic was used as a substitute. (For this reason, there are several prayers set exclusively to Aramaic.) Aramaic has thus acquired a semi-sanctified state; it is considered almost as holy as the Holy Tongue itself--Hebrew.

TAGS: aramaic


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Amazing Spiritual Technology

Posted by: Anonymous on Oct 15, 2005

The Zohar, and certain prayers, are not in Aramaic by coincidence. The angels cannot speak this tongue, nor understand it, and so connections using it go right to the Creator, acting as our direct line to G-d.

Aramaic script

Posted by: Anonymous on Dec 18, 2005

Hello shavua tov, I thought the square script we use in writing Hebrew was the Aramaic script and that the original Hebrew was differnt, what scholars label 'palio' script? My Hebrew tutor who is Orthdox told me that this 'palio' script was a kind of short hand like the cursive script used in Israel today, that Moshe recieved the Torah in the square script, but the evidence seems to point the other way, are we lieing to ourselves about the Aramaic Script or is there real evedence? I mean, we can't say Aramaic script is 'similar' to the scripe we use, its the exact same...are we telling ourselves stories:/. Is there anything in Talmud about the older script?


Torah » Mishnah and Talmud

Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
1. A Jerusalemite exiled in Babylon after the destruction of the 1st Temple. He interprets dreams, gives accounts of apocalyptic visions, and is divinely delivered from a den of lions. 2. One of the 24 Books of the Bible, which describes the events of Daniel's life.