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Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew (English, Hebrew and Aramaic Edition) Hardcover – November 25, 2014
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Reuven Chaim Klein has done a great service to us in his work on the Hebrew language, its origins, and inherent holiness. It is the only language of the ancient past that has survived, revived itself, and is in use by millions of people in today's world. This relatively short work is full of information, tradition, and insights. The history of Hebrew is a microcosm of the history of the story of the Jewish people itself. It is a work to be studied, appreciated, and read by all those who truly wish to understand Torah, holiness, and Jewish survival. --Rabbi Berel Wein (Jewish Destiny Foundation, founder)
...provides a very thorough and intriguing account of the language that secular scholars and laypeople generally call Hebrew as it is presented by Rabbinic scholars in the vast Jewish religious literature from the Talmud up to the present day... a major resource for all who wish to understand traditional Jewish scholarly approaches to Jewish linguistics. --Dr. Bernard Spolsky (Bar Ilan University, professor emeritus)
...I commend the author on this enlightening presentation and recommend this work to all those who want to enrich their understanding of the importance and implications of our holy language... --Rabbi Zev Leff (Moshav Matityahu, Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva)
About the Author
Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is a graduate of Emek Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles. He is also a proud student of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood. He received Rabbinic ordination from several leading figures in Jerusalem, including Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, and Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Lerner. His writings have been published in several prestigious journals including Jewish Bible Quarterly (Jerusalem), Kovetz Hamaor (New York), Kovetz Kol HaTorah (London), and Kovetz Iyun HaParsha (Jerusalem). Most recently, this young scholar has dedicated time and efforts to researching the history and religious significance of Lashon HaKodesh. He is currently a fellow at the Kollel of Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem and lives with his wife and children in Beitar Illit, Israel.
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Those who take the latter approach are convinced that the Hebrew language developed just as other languages did, that it was influenced by surrounding cultures, and changed over time. They would accept that Hebrew is Lashon Hakodesh, Hebrew for “holy language, but only in the sense that it is the language in which the Torah and siddur, the prayer book, and other religious documents is written. Rabbi Klein takes the opposite approach. He writes, among much else that is interesting, that Hebrew is the language with which God created the world.
Rabbi Klein discusses the various rabbinical views about the language that Adam spoke, that some rabbis believe that Hebrew was not invented by people but by God; what happened at the Tower of Babel when the Bible states that God caused people to speak in different languages, did they all speak a single language before building the tower and, if so, what was it; what language did Abraham and the Israelites in Egypt speak; the views of Ultra-Orthodox who refuse to adopt Modern Hebrew as a spoken language and why they do so; foreign influences on Hebrew in the past and today; the development of Aramaic; the various scripts of Hebrew letters, including which came first and what script was used for the Ten Commandments; Egyptian and Aramaic words that are in the Five Books of Moses; and prayers recited today in Aramaic and why this is done.
He tells the different views of dozens of rabbis on these subjects. For example, Yehuda Halevi believed that Adam spoke Aramaic during the day and Hebrew for sacred purpose. In contrast Rabbi Eybeshitz contended that Adam spoke Hebrew until he ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and Aramaic afterwards. Midrash Genesis Rabbah states that Rachel gave her son the Aramaic name Ben Oni, but Jacob changed it to a Hebrew name Binyamin, Benjamin. Whether one agrees with any particular view or disagrees, readers will find the views thought-provoking.
Similarly, he tells about the views of many rabbis that angels do not understand Aramaic and, knowing this, how rabbis used this idea to their benefit.
He points out, among much else, that there is more than one Jewish language. Jews use Hebrew in prayer and study; use Aramaic which is the principle language of the Talmud, the Aramaic translations of the Bible, and is the language of some prayers; speak in Modern Hebrew that is in many ways different than biblical Hebrew; and communicate in Yiddish, the language of many European Jews during the pre-holocaust era and thereafter.
The book also presents readers with a lot of different, and occasionally even conflicting opinions about the various traditions we have regarding Lashon Hakodesh, enabling the reader to make their mind up for themselves, where they felt the truth really lies, which I liked.
Spanning from the beginning of time, right up to the use of modern-day Hebrew and the State of Israel, the book packs a lot of information and material into its pages, but it’s not in the least overwhelming or (worse…) boring.
It's an interesting read even if you’re not a language ‘nerd’, and full of fascinating facts about the Jewish use of biblical Hebrew that you probably never knew before.