How to Spell ט׳׳ו בשבט in English?


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Transliterating Hebrew into English always leaves room for interpretation, frustration, complication, and confusion. There is of course the raging debate in America for the last 100 years: how do you spell Hanukah? Is it Chanukah using the “ch” of the original hebrew ח. Or will you soften it out and just use a “H”. Is there one “n” or 2? etc.

The issues that we face with finding a uniform spelling of the Jewish tree-themed, eco-friendly holiday that falls on the 15th day of the 5t Jewish month is equally perplexing.

Let is look at the word in Hebrew: ט׳׳ו בשבט

The first letters are not even a word – they are an abbreviation for the number 15. Hebrew uses letters to convey numbers. ט (tes/tet) has the numerical value of 9 and ו has the numerical value of 6. Add them together you have 15! The reason for this spelling is because using the letters for 10 “י” and 5 “ה” will spell the name of God too!

The letter ב is there to tell us that this is the 15th day in the month of _____.

Finally we have the spelling of the Hebrew month. Still things are not simple. Wikipedia spells it Shevat — but then they spell the holiday Tu BiShvat. Which if you were me would sound a lot like “sheh – baht”. However then they spell the holiday Tu BiShvat, which makes for more trouble.

The word שְׁבָט is tough because we often run through the silent punctuation under the ש. Those two dots signify a sound that can best be described as a “Shh” and not a “sheh” Compounding this is that the sound of a “sh” followed by a “v” don’t happen in English often (or at all?). Additionally, when the month of שבט is proceeded by the “b” sound it gets event harder to find a uniform pronunciation/transliteration.

Where are we left?

I propose that there need be only two possible spellings: Tu B’Shevat and Tu B’Shvat and anything else that you see, well, they must be referring to Channukkah.

Have a wonderful holiday!