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Herb Fried, AKA 'Crazy Herb' has come up with a unique and humorous method for learning Hebrew. In the blog below, he introduces his memory systems and gives a few examples from his book, ‘Crazy Herb’s Hebrew Words’.
What Can Tom Cruise Do for Your Hebrew?
Crazy Herb’s method for remembering words might look mad at first, but there’s logic in the madness! And more importantly – it works!

Imagine you need to remember the fourth month in the Hebrew Calendar (using Nissan as the first month) and the holiday in it, the date of the holiday and what it commemorates. Your teacher is very strict, and if you get the date wrong or put the Romans instead of the Babylonians you'll fail the class.

What you are trying to remember is that the fourth month is Tammuz, the holiday is the Fast Day of Tammuz, occurring on the 17th day of the month and it commemorates the breaking of the first set of the Ten Commandments and the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians on their way to their destruction of the First Temple.

Now picture in your mind Tom Cruise sitting in a sports car reading a magazine. The first set of the Ten Commandments (the set that was broken) is strapped to the hood of the car. Tom Cruise starts driving while still reading the magazine and he drives really fast. He crashes into a wall, destroying it along with his car and the Ten Commandments. He seems shaken and starts babbling.

A car, having four wheels, is used in a picture to represent the number four, here, the fourth month. The magazine, from the Girl's magazine “Seventeen”, is used because the holiday occurs on the 17th day of the month. The speeding car reminds you it is a “fast” day. Finally, Tom Cruise, sounds like Tammuz, was babbling, reminding you it was the Babylonians that destroyed the walls of Jerusalem and ultimately the First Temple.

There are several benefits to this method.
  • The scenario is usually so bizarre it is easy to commit to memory.

  • Once you do, the facts are unchangeable and you are positive that your answers are correct. For example, the magazine represents 17 so you are sure it’s on that day and not the 7th or the 10th or any other day whereas rote learning can't give you that confidence or certainty.

  • It is much quicker both objectively and subjectively to commit the facts to memory because it is the way the mind actually works and because it is fun, so you want to continue rather than stop early because of boredom.

  • You realize that it is not that difficult to apply this and other methods described in 'Crazy Herb's Hebrew Words” to your own study words.
Another example when learning vocabulary in Modern Hebrew is lˆ•hat•chil (to start). The runner at the starting line puts the heel of his shoe on the starting blocks. The starting blocks are hot from the sun and he gets a “hot heel”.

Research confirms that the mind thinks and remembers in pictures. Memory experts agree that using pictures of tangible objects in a bizarre illogical and emotional situation is the most effective technique to great memory. “Crazy Herb's Hebrew Words” takes that principle and applies it to learning Hebrew and Jewish culture.

These methods are very useful when learning from your own curriculum. For instance, a book such as "English Hebrew By Subject" by Hanna G Perez is especially benefited by these methods because you can create a story that uses many of the words in a topic and therefore thinking about the story keeps the meanings straight in your mind. I believe learning Hebrew by topic is critical because when you search in your mind for a word to use, having words belonging to the same topic together makes it easier to pick the most appropriate one.

Finally, just a small thing for Pesach: to remember maror (bitter herbs, usually raw horseradish and cooked beets) ask yourself “what would you get from a growling lion if you fed horseradish to him? More roar! (maror)”

“If you're not laughing, you're not learning.”
Herb “Crazy Herb” Fried

For more information, go to: www.CrazyHerbsHebrewWords.com

Herb Fried's book, 'Crazy Herb's Hebrew Words: Memory Systems for Learning Jewish Culture and Modern Hebrew' is now available on Amazon.com (direct page)

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