September 18, 2003
What Does This Mean?

Can anyone translate this brief Hebrew text for me?

It's painted on most of the basement steps in my new apartment. If I had to guess, I would think it means "G-d bless this house" or "G-d forbid that anyone fall down these stairs" or something equally innocuous. I hope it's not "Pork-free zone" or "Eat not the flesh of the blue crab, whether steamed with spices or fried up as crabcakes" or "If you can't read this, you are hereby condemned to everlasting torment for your shameful ignorance of the divine language".

I'm particularly curious as to what vowels should be supplied, whether the third letter is a sin or a shin, whether the text should be divided into separate words and if so how, and of course what the whole thing means.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at September 18, 2003 12:18 AM

Wouldn't it be amusing if it was tagging, left by a Hebrew street gang?

"Ira was here, Dog!"

Posted by: Sigivald on September 18, 2003 01:32 PM

I showed it to my friend the Biblical scholar down the hall: he says that the writer may well have been going for symmetry over accuracy, for (i) he couldn't find what it meant in the (extensive) reference works he had available to him and (ii) the left-hand character is all wrong for the end of a word. Whilst he's not claiming infallibility here -- he does the Greek stuff, not the Hebrew stuff -- it's also safe to say that that there are no condemnations of pork pies and crab cakes involved here.

Posted by: Jon Porter on September 18, 2003 09:53 PM

No idea what it means or how to find out. But, a few notes:

It could be Dv-Hv-Shahat (prep + the + noun; v = unspecified vowel). The noun, in that case, could be "shahat". A search for "shahat" brings up "hell" and "perdition". But because there are multiple "s" and "t" sounds in Hebrew and this is an unpointed text, it's beyond me. Hope it's not an omen. And I wonder if a reference to "hell" could just refer to underground.

By the way, the numerology is 4 - 5 - 300 - 5 - 400. I don't think there's anything in the Gematria (sp?) about such an abstruse combination.

A final thought to make the head swim: Could it be Yiddish?

Hope someone who knows something posts!

Posted by: Geoffrey Barto on September 19, 2003 05:01 AM

Too bad my Dad isn't here. He's the Hebrew guy.

Posted by: Stryker on September 19, 2003 11:34 PM

Hm. I happen to be a bible scholar. I'm no Hebrew genius, but I can make my way around the Old Testament with a minimum of hunting around the BDB...

Still, I'm not sure what we're looking at. Is this meant to be a single word? "RaHaShaHaCH"? Doesn't sound right at all, actually, and as pointed out already, the ending is wrong if this is supposed to be a verb of some kind.

I'm guessing it's an acronym of sorts, but off the top of my head can't think of what RHS(h)HCh might stand for. Without a beth I doubt it's a "bless this house". Is the Hhet standing in for Chasdo?

Great. Now I've got another problem to work...

Posted by: Mac on September 20, 2003 09:33 PM

Using my handy-dandy MS FrontPage options of "inserting symbols", this is stated (according to the app):
Hebrew letters HET, HE, SHIN, HE, FINAL KAF

Posted by: Ricky on September 22, 2003 12:28 PM

Well, no, that isn't a final kaf, it's another het. I final kaf looks a bit like an upside capital "L" that hangs down below the baseline.

Posted by: Mac on September 22, 2003 03:58 PM