Transliteration, Pronunciation and "How do you say 'ZMANIM' anyway?!"

14 Adar 5776

Have you felt excitement and gratitude for ZMANIM's existence in our community, yet self-conscious about how to correctly pronounce our name? If so, you're not alone! Transliteration can sometimes feel more confusing than helpful. Hopefully, this blog post will clear up any confusion on this front. Do let me know if you still have questions, though! 

Let's start with the easier name first: the first word in the name of our after-school program- Massei.

"Massei" is pronounced like "Ma-say" and means "journeys." (There is also a weekly Torah section by this exact name.  It occurs in the summer.)

"Zmanim": that's a little more difficult.  Let's take another word we know young children often have difficulty with: "spaghetti."  In the same way that that word has "spa-" at the beginning, this word has "zma-" at the beginning.  Once you practice that sound so that it's comfortable on your tongue, add the 2nd part: "-neem." Together you get "zma-neem." 

What does it mean?  If you check out the graphic at the top of on any of our website pages, or on our emails, you can see the word "zman" bolded.  "Zmanim" is the plural of "zman." ("-im" is a masuline, plural suffix in Hebrew).  "Zman" means time/moment/season in Hebrew, and appears towards the end of a blessing that is often referred to as the "sh'he'kheyanu" blessing, the blessing that is recited the first time something (positive!) happens ever, or for that year.  For example, it's the extra blessing that we chant on the first night of Hanukkah (and Passover, and Rosh HaShannah), when we add into our candlelighting blessings how wonderful it is that we have arrived at this time/moment/season of the year when we get to light Hanukkah candles again (or enter into our week of Passover, or start our new year)! We call ourselves Zmanim to invite in the opportunity to connect to the richness and fulness of what is taking place at any moment/time/season, and to root our experience in the turning of the planets and Jewish tradition.

If you haven't yet checked out a short 5-minute video presentation that I gave on this as part of the JCC "Ignite" talks last year, do so, and let me know what you think!

And in the meantime, may we each find a moment- starting with today- to open our hearts to the immensity of some of the myriad of miracles simultaneously taking place, right now.  With words, or through the softening of our heart, we might offer thanks to the Great Mystery that we have actually arrived at this time/moment/season ... of awareness, of witnessing, of existing, of participating in this wondrous, often over-full experience we call life. Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melekh haOlam, she'hekheyanu, v'kiyamanu, v'higianu la'zman ha'zeh.  Amen.