When G-D created the universe he wanted holiness, Godliness, to be a part of his creation. The first thing he did was create Light.
The rabbis ask why did G-D have to actually say “Yehi Or “ Let there be Light?” He could have created the Light of Holiness just by simply thinking about it.
But G-d decided to use Hebrew words for creating the Divine Light which was then used to create everything else. Imagine how powerful these words are. They were used to create our universe!
This is why our Torah is written in Hebrew and why our blessings and prayers when done in Hebrew are so powerful.
In order to adapt Lashon Kodesh, our holy language, as a spoken language, it could only flourish in a holy place in G-D’s chosen land. Therefore it was only spoken in ancient Judea and Israel. Outside the land of Israel, Jewish people would speak the language of the host country and only use Hebrew for prayer as well as Jewish related poetry and religious commentary.
Over the many centuries, spoken Hebrew outside of the Biblical context became extremely limited and very unsuited as a spoken language especially in a world becoming modernized over the centuries.
When I recently read Jewish related text from the early 19th century I had to chuckle with how the author tried to adapt Biblical Hebrew to non religious topics.
Things changed with the return of the Jewish people to our homeland. The awakening of Jewish national feelings among young Zionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries breathed new life to the old forgotten Hebrew. A few young men who were fanatics to the cause began to rehabilitate Hebrew by adding the necessary modern words and expressions to this Biblical language.
Among them was Eliezer Ben Yehuda who is considered to be the father of modern Hebrew, and who created the first modern Hebrew dictionary by literally inventing thousands of new modern words while always trying to stay as true as possible to Biblical sources. His lifetime project was carried on by Israel’s national poets, such as Chaim Nachman Bialik and others who in order to enrich their Hebrew poems, created thousands of new words as well.
As the land of Israel began to awaken through the hard work and the dedication of the young Jewish pioneers of the early 20th century the Hebrew language reshaped itself back to the way it was thousands of years ago- a holy language which was used as a day to day national language.
This process was not easy. Hebrew was still a limited language and only by the fanaticism and sheer determination of the early pioneers it began to be spoken by more and more European pioneers.
I remember a story my mother told me when she was a little girl coming from the US to Israel in the early 30’s. On the first day of school when asked for her name she replied “Annette”. The teacher was visibly upset. She called my grandmother to school and told her in Yiddish (at that time my grandmother still did not understand Hebrew) in a less than polite way, that “here we speak only Hebrew and her name is Chanah, absolutely not Annette”.
So, are we diluting Hebrew from its divinity by using it as a national spoken language?
To begin with, Hebrew is who we are. It is part of our identity. We were referred to as “Hebrews” for many centuries. One can not deny our national identity as Jews if Jews all over the world share the same language.
The Hebrew language is like wearing a kippah. Even in a mundane, day to day life it constantly reminds us of our spiritual obligation to G-D, our obligation to be a Light unto the Nations.
Part of our obligation of being a Light unto the Nations is to keep learning and why Torah Study which encompasses all of our teachings is so paramount to our spiritual growth.
During our upcoming workshop this Sunday, we will be delving into the power of the Hebrew letter, Shin, which brings protection, healing and inner/outer Peace not only for us but for others when we learn to harness its Light. We are all familiar with Shin as it is on every mezuzzah.
I hope you will join us this Sunday May 1st, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Register Here
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