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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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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

But my main concern rests is my fourth and main concern when hearing the common “speak Hebrew” uttered frequently. As we all know, the Jewish months of the year have names, such as Tishrei, Cheshvan, etc., which make their way to our Jewish calendars as well as to formal Jewish legal documents, such as a Ketuvah. The Ramban (Shemot 12:2) is rather puzzled as the months in the Torah are numerated (i.e.- “First month, Seventh month” etc.), rather than named, and we are commanded to count the months from the first (our “Nissan”), something not possible when we brand names, rather than numbers to the months. But moreover, these names are not even Hebrew names, but rather Aramaic names that the Jews used in Babylonia of old! Accordingly, the Ramban askswhy do we use these non-Hebrew and non-Biblical names?

Responds the Ramban, our custom is to show that Jewish history didn’t end with the emergence from Egypt in that famous “first” month. Rather, years later, while so enriched in the Babylonian culture (so much so that we changed the names of the months to Aramaic), G-d still redeemed us yet again and brought us back to Israel. Thus, argues the Ramban, each time we use those non-Hebrew names, we are reminded of where we came from to get to where we are.

Those who have taken the huge step of Aliyah were not dropped from heaven into an Israeli neighborhood. Years of Torah and Zionistic learning and yearning, in their original home lands, and yes, not necessarily in Hebrew, led them to relocate to the Eternal Land, and be part of the miracle of a nation returning to their original land after nearly two thousand years.

It is suitable and expected to show proper gratitude to those before us, upon whose shoulders we stand to reach this milestone. I think it’s the most beautiful tribute to any Israeli to see the streets fill of Jews, speaking a multitude of languages, and thus knowing that their journey to walk the streets of the Holy-Land was a long and complex journey, starting far away from its shores. But more importantly, I would greatly fear that these precious additions to Israel society would not be able to communicate with their grandparents, parents and teachers, all of which have great “stock” in their current privilege of living in Israel.

Thrice daily, we plead that G-d “ingather our exiles.” Blessed is our generation seeing this happen before our eyes, with the diverse languages that fill the streets of Israel. I hope and pray that while they hopefully learn the language of the land, the land will continue to be privileged to hearing the languages of these dispersed returning to their borders, so that this miracle will be all the more felt and seen.

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


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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/

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