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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5782

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Questions about Religious Services in Eretz Yisrael #111 part IV



Date and Place: 2 Adar I 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient: Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, author of Dorot Harishonim.

Body: I will do my best to answer your questions. First, I will quote your question, and then I will answer. 

Question #5, cont.: Will the religious schools teach the language of the land, if it is possible to find religious Jewish teachers who have fear of Heaven “from beginning to end”?

My answer: [We saw last time that in Eretz Yisrael, in response to the challenges from the Haskala movement, a ban was made by great rabbis against the study of secular matters, including foreign languages, and that Rav Kook felt that this prevented many parents from sending their children to religious schools, most of which followed the ban.]
       
Use of the term “the language of the land” is not precise in this case. The language of the government is Turkish, but there is no need for it in normal daily lives, and there are very few who need to use Turkish. It is true that it is very proper that there be at least a few exceptional individuals among the Torah scholars of the Land who know Turkish, so that they can go before the higher government officials in a respectable manner. However, the main usable language is Arabic, and most of those who are born in Eretz Yisrael learn how to speak it even without formal instruction. To be able to write Arabic or speak it with correct grammar is not viewed to be very valuable. In any case, it is not enough in order to be involved in life and commerce in the Land unless it is combined with knowledge of a European language, like English or French, which is worthwhile to obtain.
       
I want you to realize that in the existing religious schools they do not and will not teach any [foreign] language. In those that we are hoping to establish, we have to arrive at a point at which languages will be taught, but to do so in a manner of peace and sanctity, in a manner that the spirit of the sages will be happy with.
      
This also involves a problem, namely, that it is very difficult to find teachers for foreign languages who are reliable in regard to their fear of Heaven. This is because for the most part, those who learned languages did so in a forbidden manner [ed. note - perhaps Rav Kook meant that it was done in the wrong setting or with the wrong intentions or perhaps just that the fact they did it without rabbinic permission/guidance]. In that case, they already have leaned in the direction of external, negative influences and those who “damage the vineyard” (traditional Judaism). If we can find certain rare, special people, there will not be enough of them to teach in all of the religious schools. Therefore, it would be worthwhile to send to here some of the graduates among the G-d fearers in Germany, until a “path will be paved” upon which there will be a permitted way to learn foreign languages [in Eretz Yisrael]. This will be along the lines that Shmuel said: Everything should be done for the sake of Heaven.    

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