Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

In defense of Hebrew: Sho-fe-teem

101 Hebrew pronunciation for English-speakers

It doesn’t matter how great the authorities and how many the ignorant, it is still wrong to call our upcoming Torah Portion of the Week “Shoftim.”

There are two syllables in this word, Sho– and fe-teem.

Each Hebrew syllable generally consists of one vowel and one or more letters before and/or after the vowel. When two letters in a syllable precede the vowel, they are separated/connected by a semi-vowel, an audible Shewah. (The word Shewah itself has one syllable. The two prior letters are the Sh and the W, with an audible Shewah between them.)

NB: The Shǝwah is pronounced Ə or ǝ like in Duh! Not as the e of Quack.

Similarly, there is a Weekly Portion called Bǝha’alottǝchah, not: Bǝha’alotchah. Also: Bǝreisheet, not: Breisheet. Shǝmot, not: Shmot. Bǝshalach, not: Bslach. Tǝroomah, not: Troomah. Shǝmini, not Shmini.


Similarly, the Jewish Credo starts with the word Shǝmah, not: Shmah or: Shemmah. Also not: Shǝmaaa. It ends in a letter, though ignored by many.

Another letter too often ignored is in Yisra’eil. Not: Yisreil (or: Yizra’eil). Almost all the books say that the Alef and the Ayeen are not pronounced. That is untrue. They are pronounced by an interruption in airflow.

Also the h must not be skipped at the start of any syllable. People with the tradition of saying: Eloiheinoo, guard themselves not to say: Eloyeinoo.


In Hebrew, every letter, if pronounced, has the same sound, no matter what sounds follows or precedes it.

So, the c is always pronounced: S. Also when it’s close to a hard sound, like in: Chessed, not: Chezzed, and: Choos, not: Chooz.


Very important is to pronounce G^d’s main Names properly.

Those whose tradition has Addonai make sure not to say: Addoonai.

Those whose tradition has Addoinoi make sure not to say: Addeenoi.

In any case, don’t pronounce it: I-dunno or I-deny.


The most prominent molecule in the human body is called in Hebrew: Ma-yeem, not: Ma-ym. We live under the sky: Shama-yeem, not: Shama-ym. We left slavery from Mitzra-yeem, not: Mitzra-ym.

Whenever a word is all too familiar or frequent, chances are we’d say it on the automatic pilot. And that gives our Evil Inclination an opening to mess it up. That fits. Religion is not meant as a customary backdrop.



That’s the hardest when you know a text by heart (you think). If it reads: Vashalom, doesn’t say: Bashalom. It easily changes the meaning. (G^d isn’t at peace when He blesses us, but rather, He blesses us with peace.)

The Levites are called: Lǝveeyeem, not: Lǝvee’eem.


When singing Hebrew, let’s not violate it and mispronounce.

So, two separate words don’t get connected. Words are not split up. The proper syllable still gets the stress. So: ElloKEInoo, not: Eh LOH kei NOO.


This should cover 99% of the Hebrew.

For those with a musical ear: How do you prevent yourself from learning wrong pronunciations when they are all around you? One trick: Say (at least to yourself) the right pronunciation each time a word gets violated.)

The first priority is to do it right. Only when you took case of acting properly, the intention becomes the essence.

There are times to be sloppy. And there are times to be respectful.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1400 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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