By Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, Past Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & the Australian Capital Territory.
The framers of the ritual used several Hebrew words which they often distorted. Generally we can work out which word was meant. The following are some of the words, with brief background notes.
“H” and “KH” – two separate consonants in Hebrew – are both given as “CH” (as in the Scottish “loch”). The main Hebrew pronunciations are the Ashkenazi (north European) and Sephardi (Mediterranean and North African). Universities and seminaries tend to use a version of the Sephardi pronunciation, believing it is more authentic. We are not sure which pronunciation James Anderson was taught, nor whether he was a Hebrew scholar. Masonic tracing boards containing Hebrew letters and/or words are often highly corrupted by copyists who knew no Hebrew.
The following are the leading Hebrew words which most Masons will encounter:
AHIMAN REZON – probably ACHI ME-RATZON, “My brother from desire”, i.e. a chosen but not necessarily a natural brother. Not Biblical.
BOAZ – correctly BO’AZ; Biblical.
CHERUBIM – correctly K’RUVIM.
GIBLIM/N – correctly GIV’LIM, Givlites, from a Phoenician shipbuilding town; or stone-squarers (from G’VUL, a boundary). Biblical: Josh. 13:5, I Kings 5:32, Ezek. 27:9.
HIRAM ABIF – correctly CHIRAM AVIV.
JACHIN – correctly YACHIN; Biblical.
MACHABONE – correctly MACH HABONEH, “The builder is brought low (i.e. dead)”. Not Biblical. Masons sometimes pronounced the word MATCHPIN, which makes no sense. There is no connection with the English BONE.
MACHBANAI – correctly MACH BANAI, “The builder is brought low”. BANAI is Aramaic for Hebrew BONEH, a builder. Not Biblical.
MENATSCHIN – correctly M’NATZ’CHIM, overseers of building (Biblical: II Chron. 2:1,17; 34:12-13; cf. I Chron. 23:4) or music. Biblical: common in Psalms; cf. I Chron. 15:21, Ezra 3:8. From NETZACH, victory: hence M’NATZE’ACH = winner, commander.
SHIBBOLETH – correctly SHIBBOLET (accent the BOL), ear of corn or wheat. Biblical. Used as a test to check if a person could pronounce a SH and was socially acceptable.
TUBAL CAIN – correctly TUVAL KAYIN; Biblical.
URIM AND TUMMIM – “Lights and Perfections”, ie Perfect Lights. Biblical: Ex. 28:30. A form of oracle consulted in time of crisis. No Biblical reference after the time of David.
For more articles on Freemasonic issues by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, visit his Freemasonry webpage.
Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple’s book on the history, symbolism and teachings of Freemasonry, enlivened with personal reminiscences and humour.