When my friend got back from the prerelease tournament that I was unable to attend, he said he had a special present for me. I had no idea what it could be… But I was definitely pleasantly surprised when he presented me with a Magic card written in Hebrew! As some of my more devoted readers may know, I’m Jewish, and this card is totally cool to me. As a matter of fact, I just can’t stop looking at it! I was so impressed with the card, that I brought it to my rabbi (that’s like a Jewish minister, for those of you who don’t know). What I learned is fairly interesting, and I thought I’d share it with you this week.
First, a translation: I showed the card to my rabbi (who does not play Magic but was duly impressed nonetheless) and asked her (yes, her) to translate it for me. I didn’t tell her what the card was supposed to do beforehand, and she knows none of the rules, so I was fascinated to see what her rather literal translation would make the card out to be. Keep in mind as I share this with you that, although my rabbi is fluent in Hebrew, her specialty is not modern Hebrew, which is what’s used on this card. So when I showed the card to the rabbi, here’s what the card looks like with her translation. (Note, everything written after”Creature – ??????” is exactly what she wrote down.)
Creature – ??????
Ability to fly.
2W: Creatures that are found in your area(?) appear for its protection among the color that you choose, until the end of turn. Use this ability only (as it occurs?) once(?) as its praise is found in your cemetery.
“Praise disappears, praise was in every place.”
Scroll of formation and the source (essence)
Additionally, she translated the bottom of the card as”Illuminator: Donato Giancola.”
For reference, here’s the English version of the card:
Creature – Incarnation
2W: Creatures you control gain protection from the color of your choice until end of turn. Play this ability only if Glory is in your graveyard.
“Glory was gone; Glory was everywhere.”
-Scroll of Beginnings
Now, I guess the main thing to realize is that she didn’t know that the word”praise” in the card text was referring to the name of the card instead of simply the word”praise.” Hence,”its protection” and”its praise.”
So I thought it’d be interesting to work down the card to see how the text got translated from one of the most complicated languages in the world to one of the oldest languages in the world.
First, the name: The rabbi translated the word T’hilah (the name of the card in Hebrew) as”praise.” When I told her the English version of the card was called Glory, she agreed, saying that that translation was just as good.
She had a bit more trouble with the creature type. She definitely knew that it said creature – (something), but she didn’t know what that something was. When I told her it was”incarnation,” she said that very well could be, for she had no idea what the Hebrew word for incarnation was.
Now, the next bit is very interesting to me. If you went to the prerelease, go get your foil entry prize; otherwise, click here to see the card. Now, you know that the English version of the card has flying. If you look where the word”flying” would be on the Hebrew version of the card, you notice two words. They translate as”ability to fly.” I think that’s really neat. I don’t know if there’s a Hebrew nuance that makes the word”flying” undertake a different context unusable in this situation, but it would seem to me that”flying,” when used in conjunction with a Magic card, would mean the same thing in terms of Magic. One way or another, though, Glory has flying, and T’hilah has the ability to fly.
You can see that the activated ability cost looks like this on the prerelease card:
(HEBREW TEXT): 2W
instead of the accepted English version of:
2W: (ENGLISH TEXT).
This is so because Hebrew is read from right to left. If Hebrew words are read from right to left, why shouldn’t Hebrew mana costs?
Now, this next piece is very interesting as well. The rabbi said that the Hebrew equivalent of”creatures you control” is something to the effect of”creatures in your area.” The Hebrew concept is that something”in your area” is under your control or ability to influence. The concept of a”creature you control,” I believe, would have a different connotation than is desired in the Magic card. Therefore, they must have used the idea of an area of influence to represent what we know as your play zone, which encompasses all cards you control.
There’s pretty much congruence between the Hebrew and English translations until you get to what is the Scroll of Beginnings in English. First of all, you’ll notice that the English phrase”Scroll of Beginnings” has three words. In Hebrew, possession does not require its own word – it’s inherent in a suffix. Therefore, to say”Scroll of Beginnings” would require only two words. However, the bottom line of text in the card says”M’gilat hahayotzrot v’hamakor.” That’s three words, chief. Additionally, what little Hebrew I do know lets me inform you that the”v” prefix on v’hamakor means”and.” Also, my knowledge of the Jewish holiday of Purim, in which we read the Megillah Esther (the Scroll of Esther), clues me into the fact that m’gilat does indeed mean scroll. So, we’ve got”Scroll of (something) and (something).” Obviously,”beginnings” isn’t two words… So what’s the deal?
The rabbi explained that the second word, hahayotzrot, might not actually be pronounced as I’ve written it. There are two vavs (vav is a Hebrew letter) next to each other – which, I believe, doesn’t happen in Hebrew. She said it looked like a stretched form of the word meaning creation in Hebrew, so she translated it as formation. However, she wasn’t really sure of this translation, allowing the possibility that Wizards is using modern Hebrew in a way that she has never encountered. That leaves the second word. The rabbi translated it as”source” or”essence.” That could easily be stretched to mean”beginning,” though I’m still confused about the middle word. It’s here that I entreat anyone at Wizards or any reader from Israel to answer this question by emailing me!
Finally, we get to what I find a fascinating point. The word m’a’yair means, according to the rabbi’s non-modern translation, something along the lines of”illuminator.” She says that this term was used in reference to medieval Jewish scribes. After copying a text, they’d cover the text with a shiny film that would protect the writing. I think it’s not difficult to see the parallels between this practice and modern-day illustration, making the leap of translation from”illuminator” to”illustrator” not a difficult one.
So there’s the in-depth look at the prerelease card you thought just looked cool. To cap off this article, I’ll let you totally astound your friends. Below, I’ve included what should be close to the pronunciation of all (but one) of the Hebrew words on the card. Bear in mind that it might not be perfect – I can only read Hebrew with vowels, and there are none on the card (nor are there any in any literature, for Hebrew-speakers). The rabbi is also better with written Hebrew than spoken Hebrew because when she converses in Hebrew, it’s sometimes hard to get the vowels straight… But this should be pretty good. So, memorize this, or even a few keywords, and impress your friends and opponents!
(Note on pronunciation: All occurrences of x’ are pronounced just as the letter before the apostrophe. An apostrophe after a vowel simply cues you that another vowel sound is coming up (an apostrophe might also separate two of the same consonant to tell you to say the consonant twice). Additionally, ch is pronounced as if you were clearing your throat; think of the exclamation:”Ach! Hans!” It’s not ack – or ach (as in catch). All a’s are short (as in ball), all e’s are short (as in bet), all i’s are long (as in blithe), all o’s are long (as in chosen), and all u’s sound like oo (as in flu). Otherwise, use phonetics to make combinations like ay into the appropriate sound (in this case, long a). I’ve also capitalized T’hilah in all instances of its occurrence in the card, just as Glory is capitalized even though there are no upper/lower-case Hebrew letters.)
Yitzor – (I’m not sure how to pronounce this word)
2W: Y’tzurim shenimtza’im b’sh’lit’techa nehenim mayhaganato shel hatzeva shebacharta, ad l’siyum hatur. Hishtamaysh b’yacholet zo rak b’mikreh, sheT’hilah nimtzayt b’vayt-hakvorot shelcha.
“T’hilah ne’elmah; T’hilah ha’y’tah b’chol makom.”
-M’gilat hahayotzrot v’hamakor
M’a’yayr – Donato Giancola
I hope you’ve found this subject as interesting as I have, whether or not you’ve ever even seen a Hebrew word before. And, maybe you even learned something! I think this is an excellent example of the positive effects of Wizards’ ancient language policy with prerelease cards – I’m all for it! Now, it’s time for Romans, Greeks, Muslims, Indians (?), and Russians to come out of the closet and write similar articles about Raging Kavu, Questing Phelddagrif, Fungal Shambler, Stone-Tongue Basilisk, and Laquatus’s Champion. I find this area very interesting, and if I can’t write about it, I’d sure love to read about it!