Why I Know My Binyanim

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Last night I had a dream that I was back in high school, and was working on some homework form my Hebrew class. Homework from that class always looked the same: handwritten work sheets demanding that we fill in the blanks, or, horrifyingly, that we fill in the vowels. In the dream I was considering cheating, because I knew the same sheets were used every year, and my older sister had undoubtedly gotten 100% on hers. It was a remarkably stressful dream.

My high school was notorious for having an incredibly intense teacher as head of the Hebrew department. Known for her drill sergeant mannerisms and adherence to the bun hairstyle at all times, we used to joke that if the building caught on fire she would remain inside teaching as long as possible, and then, at the last second she would grab her verb tables and parachute out the window, quizzing us on tenses all the way down.

A lot of my friends claim that they use the knowledge from that class a lot more than they expected. I can’t corroborate that claim, but I was pretty much dead-set on not learning anything my senior year of high school, so I’m not the best person to consult.

Anyway, Mrs. Bass is the reason I know anything at all about Hebrew grammar and why I can still tell you a lot of rules about the dastardly dagesh but not why it exists. She was one of those teachers who really devoted her life to her craft, and was remarkably successful (if sometimes a bit hardcore for my tastes).

This morning I got an email informing me that Mrs. Bass passed away in Israel on Friday afternoon. I don’t usually believe in any of that dreams-as-link-to-afterlife business, but since I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt about Mrs. Bass before, this is somewhat hard to deny. Godspeed, Mrs. Bass. I hope there are verb tables in Olam HaBa.

Posted on June 14, 2010

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