Thursday, September 6, 2012

The" Brisker Reish", authentic and correct way how to Pronounce the letter "ר"

The letter Reish," ר" of the Alef bais has several pronunciations, what has been known In the yeshiva world  as the Brisker Reish, may not be the most accurate way of pronouncing the letter. There are 3 dialects and ways the Reish is pronounced.

1. The most common and oldest pronunciation is through curling and pressing the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth. The way it is pronounced with a Russian accent and pronounced by many sefardim, Chabad, and chasidim.

2. Within the last few centuries what is known as, the brisker Reish, its pronounced from the back of the throat. Its most common among modern Hebrew speakers and is of French and German origin. The sound of it is, that of one gargling water in back of his throat. It is pronounced that way in a few European countries. The Yerushalmis who came over from Europe spoke that way although it is a modern version of the authentic Reish.

3. The American R sound which is a liquid sound made from the lips and the outside edges of your tongue against the inner edges of the rear portions of the gums, next to the rear molars. It is similar to the W sound which why kids mix it up.

Now Your wondering which is the correct or authentic way to pronounce it. Well there is no way to know that as there has always been different accents based on languages. However the ספר יצירה  (Sefer Yetzirah Perek 4) when discussing the 5 Sounds of the mouth it  Groups Reish amongst the letters that emanate from closing of the Teeth. Which are Zayin Shin Samach Reish Tzadi  ז ש ס ר צ. This appears to be as the First way it is pronounced through the closing of the teeth and the tip of the tongue.  However in other places the Reish is grouped with the Seven Osiyos that are Doubled as soft or with a Dagesh  known as  בגד כפרת . Which correlate to the Seven days of the creation. The Reish would have to than, be coming from the throat or other area if it were to be pronounced softly. Which could be either the the Brisker Reish or like the English R sound.

Either way as we approach the Yemay Hadin lets concentrate on our Tefillos and have a Kesiva vechasima Tova.


  1. Interesting i believe there is a 4th way to pronounce it. Its a softer version of the first way you mentioned. A lot of litvaks say it that way its a mixture of the russian and american R.

  2. In Shulchan Aruch, we are warned not confuse our reishs with our daleds in krias shma. I have heard people use this as a proof for the tongue tooth reish. If reish is a gargling sound it bears no resemblance to the daled. However, if reish is a repeated tongue aginst tooth sound, the only difference between it and the daled is the repetitions. Thus, the admonition to correctly enunciate (and extend) the reish.

  3. If reish were a throat sound, it would be a voiced chaf, i.e. the position taken by the undotted gimel. Kaf is to gimel as khaf is to Israeli reish.

    W is made with the lips, it's unlike an R which is made with the tongue. Actually, tongue and teeth. I therefore thing the American reish is actually more like those of the original shevatim than the Israeli one. I can only guess what a dotted reish would sound like, but the indications are of a ligui-dential plosive. Maybe something like the single flap that I think you're describing as a Russian reish. Notably, similar enough to a dalet to justify a warning.

    But recall that the shevatim differed in accent. Shiboles - Siboles. So, I don't think the whole question of One True Pronunciation is meaningful.


  5. Can someone please provide either IPA phonemic representation of the various sounds or at least a more formal linguistic description.

  6. I say go with the teimanim. They probably have the purest form of Hebrew. They alone continue to pronounce the dagesh in all letters of beged kefes

  7. Not all chassidim do as in Chabad. A large portion of Galitzia used the "Brisker" reish.