Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Hebrew or English

Rabbi Yair Kobernick

HEBREW

Even those who don't know much or any Hebrew should aim towards trying to say some of the basic prayers and blessings in Hebrew. For example, reciting the Sh'ma - it's short and basically anyone, even a beginner, can learn to say and read it in Hebrew. There is something unique about our language. Using Hebrew has advantages that can't be attained in other languages. This is not to say that we cannot pray in our native tongue, it's just that the Hebrew adds an extra dimension that we wouldn't get otherwise.

For sure the best thing is to recite the prayers in Hebrew and understand the words at the same time. True, Prayer is allowed in any language. However this is not a blanket permission, nor does it suggest that other languages are equal to Hebrew, the Holy Tongue. Interestingly, if one prays in any other language he does not fulfill his obligation unless he understands what is being said. Not so in Hebrew. In Hebrew he fulfills his obligation even if he doesn't understand. This is because Hebrew has special virtues that other languages just don't have.

The story is told of an illiterate boy in the time of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement. The boy knew nothing but the letters of the Aleph Bet. While everyone else in the synagogue was praying fervently, he repeated the Aleph Bet over and over again. Then he said to God: "I don't know the words of the prayers. All I know is the Aleph Bet. You take the letters and form them into the proper words." The Baal Shem Tov said this boy's prayers broke through all the barriers and lifted up the prayers of all the others in the synagogue. So, say what you can in Hebrew and leave the rest up to God.

ENGLISH

(The following was sent to me - I think it fits right in here to show the contrast between Hebrew and English)

Let's face it -- English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce, and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why not preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?

Copyright 2000 by Yair Kobernick and Project Genesis, Inc.

 






ARTICLES ON SHOFTIM AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

To Crown a King
Shlomo Katz - 5767

Blueprint for Utopia
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

Life Without Parole
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The Bond that Ties - Prayer
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Blinding Bribery
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Matters of Dispute in Your Cities
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Open Your Eyes
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

Sound of the Unheard Shofar
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

The Focus of Rosh HaShana
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

> The Sounds of the Shofar
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

Judge Below
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Protection For The Way
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772

ArtScroll

A Time for Fear, A Time for Joy
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Justice or Fancy?
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Yehi Ratzon - Text and Instructions
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5760

Judge Me Tender, Judge Me Sweet
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information