web analytics
August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Judaism

Speaking Only Hebrew?

Even Israel’s religious community today is a diverse one, and it’s my humble opinion that hearing different languages in the public thoroughfare adds to this beautiful tapestry.
hebrew

Photo Credit: YY

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

While not naïve to believe that this is part of a constructed effort to enhance the speaking of Hebrew, its wording reminded me of the endless times that speaking to a family member or friend in the language of this article resulted in those passing by or eavesdropping saying the exact same retort as well.

While both seem to be an attempt to listen in and understand a conversation that, frankly, is none of their business, this two-word graffiti hit on a more essential issue that concerns almost any Oleh who devotedly went as Avraham  “from your land, from your birthplace, from the home of your ancestors, to the land…” (Beresheit 12:1) that is very different from whence they originated. Once the move is made, the challenge arises as to the extent of changing the habits and customs from the old country, amongst them the language in which one will speak at home (and in public) with those that comprehend your own mother tongue.

At the outset, I personally encourage and teach my rabbis and teachers in-training to learn the culture and language of the countries they will serve in the future. So too, I believe that when living in Israel, one should do all one can to learn the language of the land. In both cases, it would be almost impossible to feel the pulse of the people, and thus try to impact them, if one doesn’t speak the language of the locale.

All the more so when it comes to Hebrew. While modern Hebrew is not totally synonymous with the original “holy language,” many of the common words and terms we use are part of it. Thus, in the view of the Rambam when speaking Hebrew, one is fulfilling one of the “easy” mitzvot (Interpretation to Tractate Avot 2:1). Finally, there is no question that knowing modern Hebrew would make the study of Torah all the more easier and accessible.

Therefore, while born in the U.S., I am very happy that G-d has privileged me the ability to speak, write and teach equally in both.

Having said that, the majority of those who have made Aliyah (myself included) have decided to continue speaking in the language of their origin, be it at home or with friends.  It’s my humble opinion that, while learning the new language of the land should be encouraged, this decision is correct for a number of reasons.

First, I wouldn’t want to have an artificial conversation with a close family member or friend.   Forcing them to express themselves in Hebrew, rather than their mother tongue, in the most intimate conversations about the most private aspects of life, would be an experience that would be far from real and authentic. A home, or a profound conversation with a friend, should be a comfortable setting, where the conversation should flow naturally, something not always possible with a newly acquired language.

Second, knowing a foreign language is a useful and precious commodity to posses when living in a global village. New doors, otherwise closed, can open before an applicant for a job if one knows more than the formal language of the land. As one who is responsible for training and placing spiritual leaders around the world, I can personally attest that many families, equipped with a strong ideological motivation to “go on shlichut,” to serve their brothers and sisters abroad, is very limited to have not realized, as they don’t possess the language of the community they would like to serve.

But moreover, communities and schools around the world, together with many students visiting Israel for a short time, are sadly not the ultimate beneficiaries of quality bnei/bnot Torah families from Israel, interested in having the best of the Israeli educational system serve them for a few years, as the applicants, even when holding a foreign passport of that very country (i.e.- originating from there themselves or through their parents,) do not speak the language at a level in which a substantial impact can be placed.

Thirdly, I have argued before that the beauty of the Jewish People is its inner diversity within the boundaries of Halacha. I believe that the attempt for all to speak the same language joins other attempts since the founding of the state to have all residing in Israel be exactly the same. From the attempt to have just one state school system, to praying in one Nusach for davening in the IDF (known as Nusach Achid  or the “one” version), these attempts, amongst many, were thankfully not successful. Even Israel’s religious community today is a diverse one, and it’s my humble opinion that hearing different languages in the public thoroughfare adds to this beautiful tapestry.

About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

5 Responses to “Speaking Only Hebrew?”

  1. Stephen Leavitt says:

    Rabbi, that graffiti was put up a long time ago.

  2. Rebecca Carman says:

    For some reason the links to the articles you post (which I really enjoy) keep coming up error. Any suggestions?

  3. Yehoshua Grunstein says:

    Hi Steve, could be it was put up a while back, guess I just didn't take a walk on Shabbat for a while….

  4. Yehoshua Grunstein says:

    Hi Rebecca Carman, many thanks for your warm words. The link to the article I was referring to is here; http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/lets-connectdiversely-2/2012/07/19/

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Gaza Region
Live Updates: Hamas Rockets Land Along Coast, In Border Towns (13:57pm)
Latest Judaism Stories
Leff-081514

“When a mother plays with her child there is an acute awareness of the child. But even when the mother works at a job or is distracted by some other activity, there is a natural, latent awareness of her child’s existence.

Business-Halacha-logo

“Guess what?” Benzion exclaimed when he returned home. “I just won an identical Mishnah Berurah in the avos u’banim raffle.”

The-Shmuz

While it’s clear to you and to me that a 14,000-pound creature can easily break away from the light ropes holding it, the reality is that it cannot.

An Outcast
‘He Shall Dwell Outside His Tent’
(Moed Katan 7b)

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Menachem
Via Email

Based on the opinion of the Ramban, the Territorial School believes that leaving any territory of the Land of Israel in the possession of non-Jews is a violation of a biblical mandate.

“But they told me to come in today,” she said. They gave me this date months ago. It’s not my fault if it’s the wrong day.”

Tosafos there takes issue with Rashi’s view that the letters that are formed in the knots of the tefillin are considered part of the name of Hashem.

Blind obedience is not a virtue in Judaism. God wants us to understand the laws He has commanded us

What does Hashem want of us? That we should protect each other and the awesome heritage He gave us.

Israel is the only place where we have the potential to fulfill our mandate as the chosen people.

The innkeeper smiled and replied, “Why do you think we are dancing? We are dancing because G-d destroyed the Bais HaMikdash!”

One of the manifestations of the immature person is a sense of entitlement.

“Do I have to repay the loan?” he asked. “Does Yosef have to reimburse me? What if doesn’t have that sum, does he owe me in the future?”

More Articles from Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein
what me worry

Using the term “Halacha” for policies which are not in fact Halacha, delegitimizes those who differ and causes ill-will towards Jewish law.

Israelis wave flags and signs saying "Together We'll Win" during a demonstration supporting an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

This past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

“It is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves, It is an eternal statute” (Vayikra 16:31). This is how our Torah sums up the upcoming experience of Yom Kippur: a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Rather than use the more colloquially known “Yom HaKippurim,” The Day of Atonement, the Torah reading of Yom Kippur morning uses the above term to summarize the twenty-five hour experience we are about to step into.

You’ve seen the scene before – the congregants are silent, the tension can be cut with a butter knife, all eyes are peeled on the bimah in the center, two blessings are uttered, and the silence is pierced….by the most primitive horn one could find!

As the year is coming to an end, with endless days filled with doing the very same commandments, we besiege G-d on each remaining day, asking for one vital ingredient for the one yet to come: May we never get used to our routine.

I’d like to submit that anything Frequent in our life tends be Forgotten! Something we see every day does not rank high on our list of concerns, and therefore, we just naturally forget about it.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/speaking-only-hebrew/2012/10/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: