gravestone inscription deciphered #general

Judith Romney Wegner

To Mark Michaels. who asked about deciphering a gravestone inscription:

It does indeed turn out, as you said, that this man and woman both had
fathers whose given name was the biblical name Yequtiel --rather
surprising, since this name is not very common!
(Question, are you quite sure this is a husband and wife and not a brother
and sister buried side by side?)

This puzzle exercised all the ingenuity one could summon up; mind you, it
would have been a lot easier and taken far less time had you listed all the
letters accurately (but then it would have been far less of a challenge
and much less fun, so I guess that's the trade-off!)

Here's what I came up with >from the letters you gave -- after changing a
few that you misread and adding one in one place where you seem to have
left a letter out of the name of a month!

"Rachel daughter of Yequtiel Altbach, who departed on the Holy Sabbath, the
2nd day of Rosh Hodesh Adar Bet,
5,670" (= 1910)
"and Hanokh son of Yequtiel, who departed on the "somethingth day"
(number indecipherable) of Heshvan
( the year of his death, 1895, would have been 5,656 (as it was after
Rosh Hashanah that year) -- but for some reason the letters you gave at the
end did not correspond to "656" as they should have done for that Hebrew
year -- and I simply couldn't make head or tail of them)!

Rachel's inscription breaks down like this:

resh het lamed - bet taf - yod qof vav taf yod aleph lamed -- aleph lamed
tet nun het
Rahel bat Yequtiel Altbach ("Rachel daughter of Yequtiel Altbach")
[I'm guessing that your nun is really a bet, and that her father's
surname was Altbach -- I don't think "Altnach" is a name, but Altbach
certainly is.

nun pey tet resh hey = nifterah "departed" ( feminine form of "niftar"
for a woman)
shin qof = shabbat qodesh = "on the Holy Sabbath"
aleph dalet resh bet means Adar Bet -- i.e. the month of Adar 2 in a
(corresponding to your date of 12th March 1910 -- remember that in Europe
12/3 is NOT December 3 !).
tet resh ayin lamed pey cuf
(actually, here , you obviously meant to say taf resh `ayin!)
This is the Hebrew date!: taf resh `ayin means 670, and stands for the
Hebrew year 5,670 (which corresponds to 1910)
lamed feh/ qof: these last three letters stand for "li-frat qatan",
which means literally
"by the abbreviated detail" i.e., leaving out the "five thousand" and
writing only the 670, as is the custom with Hebrew dates) .

Henry's inscription breaks down like this:

vav - chet nun vav daled /bet nun / yud cuf vav tuf yud aleph lamed
Ve-Hanokh ben Yequtiel = "and Henokh son of Yequtiel"
[your dalet here must be a final khaf]

bet pey tet resh [the first letter must be nun, not bet]
= niftar, "departed"

"indecipherable" - chet vav nun
"indecipherable" must be a letter between aleph and yod, meaning
somewhere between the first and tenth day of the month (probably a yod
since it was too small and faint for you to decipher-- but you can figure
out the exact day >from the conversion table for October 20, 1895)

chet vav nun looks like you left out the shin in Heshvan --
(a date early in Heshvan probably corresponded with October 20th in that

bet-lamed tet feh
Now this last part has me completely stymied! (Are you quite sure about
these letters?)
What it OUGHT to say (for the year 1895 = 5656 is Taf Resh Nun Vav
If it's an abbreviation for something else, I guess I am just missing it!

So, finally, darn it, just when I was down to the wire, it got the better
of me! I hope someone else can figure out the bet-lamed-tet-feh for you.

Judith Romney Wegner

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