Shabbat Parashat Eikev | 5769
Parashat Hashavuah: Speaking the Holy LanguageHarav Moshe Ehrenreich
In the famous section of V’haya Im Shamo’a, found in our parasha, the Torah instructs us to “teach them to your children to speak in them” (Devarim 11:19). Rashi cites the Sifrei: “From the time the child knows how to talk, teach him “Torah tziva lanu Moshe” (Devarim 33:4) … from here they said: when a small child begins to speak, his father should speak with him in the Holy Language and teach him Torah, and if he did not do so, it is as if he buried him.” The Tosefta in Chagiga also stresses the matter of speaking in Hebrew to one’s child. On the other hand, the gemara in Sukka says that when a child can speak, his father should teach him Kri’at Shema and Torah but mentions nothing about speaking Hebrew with him.
The Rambam, in explaining the mishna that one should treat “light mitzvot” as seriously as severe ones, mentions simchat haregel (being joyous on the holidays) and learning Hebrew as examples of light mitzvot. The severe ones are the ones whose strict punishments are mentioned explicitly. This seems to put teaching Hebrew on equal footing with a full-fledged mitzva from the Torah like simchat haregel. Why, then, did the Rambam omit this mitzva from his halachic work, Mishneh Torah.
A few years ago I met a dayan of the Satmar beit din in
I responded in a few ways. Firstly, the great majority of gedolim over the centuries, including Rashi, the Ramban, and the Rambam, gave shiur in Hebrew. Also, the Kuzari says that based on logic and tradition, Hebrew is the language which was used by the great Biblical characters, from Adam and Chava through Ever, after whom the language is named. Avraham spoke Aramaic, but kept Hebrew as a language he would use as a special, holy language.
Also, as the geula has begun to unfold, so too has the usage of Hebrew come to life again. The Torah Temima explains that the poskim barely discuss the importance of speaking Hebrew because it became too difficult in the Diaspora. He also gives another explanation. In line with Berachot 28b, a fear developed that if people knew Hebrew too well, they would be tempted to explain p’sukim in Tanach based on the simple meaning and not through Chazal’s “eyeglasses.” Based on this idea, looking at the Rambam’s formulation of the mitzva to educate his children (Talmud Torah 1:5), he may imply that we are indeed supposed to teach our children Hebrew but that the methodology of doing so is through the teaching of the p’sukim of the Torah.
Let us end off by noting that one of the miracles of modern Jewish history is the rebirth of the Hebrew language.
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The Eretz Hemdah family expresses its condolences to
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
Hemdat Yamim of this week
is dedicated in memory of
Yitzchak Eizik Usdan ben Yehuda Leib a"h,
whose Yahrtzeit is the 29th of Av