caleteu wrote:Can anyone recommend a resource or explanation on the usage of Aramaic in modern Hebrew? I am reading a religious text and keep running into words that look Aramaic and aren't in my Hebrew dictionary, for example תְהֵא. I suspect it's the equivalent of the 3. sg. feminine of היה, but I would like to be able to look something like that up to be sure. Or do I have to learn Aramaic?
Be careful in your assumptions. תהא is not Aramaic. It's just a Mishnaic Hebrew form (of both תהיה and תהי). Mishnaic Hebrew was influenced by Aramaic to some extent, but not everything that's different about Mishnaic Hebrew necessarily comes from Aramaic.
As far as this term itself, any comprehensive dictionary will have it. I just checked my Even Shoshan, and it's there under the verb היה (well יהא is listed, while תהא is implied).
Most Aramaisms that are common in Rabbinic Hebrew texts from any period will be found in comprehensive dictionaries as well. If you are finding yourself delving deep into Rabbinic texts, then you'll find Jastrow's dictionary useful (it's technically a dictionary of Aramaic, but it actually includes Mishnaic Hebrew as well).
One important general point is that every period and region where Hebrew was written (and sometimes even individual author) had or has its own variety with its own idiosyncrasies. When reading a text in a variety of Hebrew that is new to you, you'll have to adjust to it. It will take a little bit of time to get used to it and learn to understand it.
A further problem is that most post-Talmudic texts require a lot of Talmudic context (much like the Talmud requires a lot of Biblical context). Not only are the concepts being discussed often taken from the Talmud, but also the language, not just the vocabulary, but even the grammar. This is why some post-Talmudic texts feel like a blend of Hebrew and Aramaic. But very often you'll find in post-Talmudic Hebrew texts that when suddenly an Aramaic word was used unexpectedly, that's because the entire topic was plucked from the Talmud, and that word was the word used in the Talmud.
A good analogy is that it's like when a native English speaker with no scientific background starts reading a scientific paper, or one with no legal background starts reading "legalese". Not only will there be concepts he doesn't understand, but also just the use of language will be different.
So in short: No, don't learn Aramaic, it won't help you with this (unless you just want to learn Aramaic of course, then go ahead). Instead, focus on familiarizing yourself with the language of the particular text you're reading. And don't be afraid to ask for help! Religious Jews spend their lives learning these texts, so there are a lot of people who can answer questions.