I walked into that room with a feeling of such confidence. It was obvious, set in stone: I was to be exempted from Hebrew 1305. I had been in an Israeli yeshiva for the most part of a year at that point, no longer terribly embarrassed to ask the cashier to repeat herself at the grocery store. I had toiled through many a Hebrew lecture and had finally broken that divide between having the ability to read and write and having the ability to converse. No longer was my Saba’s incessant desire to speak with me in Hebrew a barrier to communicating with him. I had plans to bring novels home to read in Hebrew, to apply my new eyes to reading the Parasha, to find ways to keep up this proficience on my own; no course was going to suck my love for Hebrew dry.
When that didn’t happen, as many a that has not, I wasn’t exactly so embracing. Outwardly I made sure to behave as if I had a savory anticipation, for emotions are evaluations and behavior influences such evaluations. Hook me up to a lie detector, though, and I probably would have admitted to my begrudging acceptance of what was to come: Why me, why now! Should more of my credits to explore what we know of this world be forcedly spent on something so familiar and demystified?
I remember one of my first assignments was to explain the meaning of my names. I wrote with my usual fervor of how the English meaning of my last name is lost to history, but when my family gave it a Hebrew spelling, we split it into two words: Lev Nattar- a watchful heart. My professor clearly put thought into her reading of each student’s piece. From that point on I was no longer Levnattar, for my instructor insisted on exaggerating the Hebrew stress: Levnattar.
This was a local peak of interest. Despite my previous obdurateness, I had an instructor who was hardworking and thoughtful, sharing with me a subject so important to my identifying as Jewish. From there my regard for the course was repeatedly upscaled. There was no dreaded rehash of what I had known for ages but a systematic refinement of skills that I wanted to refine. The classroom wasn’t a closed system but open to the world, full of current events and dissections of quotes from Tanach, etymology of words so central to expression, explanation of important lines of prayer… rapture. This was no place where my love of Hebrew was to wither, but where it would flourish and extend to new areas, unfamiliar and beckoning.
So many of my classes are not exactly necessary to attend. I read my textbook diligently and with awe, and find myself at times going to class simply to ensure that I know what is focused on. The textbook isn’t composing tests, after all (and to my dismay). It is sadly safe to say that there are class lectures I can simply do without. As I have made clear, the Hebrew courses I’ve taken here are far from this sorry sort of class. A language instructor gives live feedback to speech and a classroom makes for an arena to build confidence wielding a foreign language. A Hebrew language instructor, as this institution must surely recognize, can make Hebrew far more than just another set of papers to fill out. A Hebrew language instructor can bring students to fall in love with the language that echoes so sonorously through our history. To relinquish such a setting at this institution would be inconceivable.