From Ideology to Halakhah: Ultra-Orthodox Opposition to Modern Hebrew
On the margins of Israeli society, in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, there is a lively and fierce debate over the status of Modern Hebrew. At the beginning of the resistance, the reservations and opposition concerning Hebrew formed part of the reaction to the innovative activities of secular Zionists. Despite the fact that it was taken as a continuation of the beloved “Holy Tongue” of the Bible, the Ultra-Orthodox viewed it as a modernist innovation. This paradoxical situation produced an extensive literature rejecting Modern Hebrew on ideological and educational grounds. Later, during the second stage of the resistance, opposition to Hebrew also acquired a pseudo-halakhic tone. This article describes the various opinions of members of the Ultra-Orthodox community regarding Modern Hebrew, the different stages of their resistance to it, and the reasons given for this resistance. The changes that occurred in the attitude of Ultra-Orthodox society toward Hebrew are not only of interest in their own right but also provide an interesting case study on the emergence of a binding norm that quickly became phrased in halakhic terminology.
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Binyamin Harshav, “Massah ‘al tehiyat halashon ha’Ivrit” [An essay concerning the rebirth of the Hebrew language]” Alpayim 2 (1990): 9–54. For a preliminary discussion on the polemic against Hebrew, see Haim Be’er, “From the language of G-d to the language of the Devil,” BGU Review 1 (2005), n.d., accessible at http://in.bgu.ac.il/en/ heksherim/2005/From-the-Language-of-G.pdf. This article cites many interesting sources from the author’s private archive, some previously unpub- lished. I will use some of them below. However, Be’er’s article primarily addresses the early stages of the struggle against Hebrew, paying little attention to later stages—once the language had become well established in the Land of Israel—which are the main focus of the present article.
“The War of Languages” that began in the Technion of Haifa in 1913 and concluded in 1914 with Hebrew victorious resurfaced in 2009 when, in the very same institution, controversy arose over the lan- guage of instruction in the Department of Business Management. This time, Hebrew was defeated and English prevailed (http://www.bathlizard.com/ archives/2008/hebrew-technion).
Harshav,“Rebirth,”9–14, 19–22. As Harshav explains, “the rebirth of the Hebrew language and Hebrew culture did not happen in one day” (ibid., p. 9). The first signs of Hebrew’s adoption as a spoken lan- guage appeared already during the Second Aliyah (1904–14). During the Third Aliyah (1919–23), Hebrew began to overtake other languages in the Yishuv, a trend that continued into the Fourth Aliyah (1924–31). Even then, however, many households preserved the language of their ancestors, Yiddish. Harshav mentions that in the early 1930s even the masters of Hebrew literature spoke Yiddish. Thus, for example, Yiddish was spoken in gatherings taking place in Bialik’s home and was also the lan- guage in which Bialik and Steinman would speak. However, Hever, who discusses this question at length, concludes that “in 1935 the position of the Hebrew language in the Yishuv was already well established” (Yael Hever, Mah Shehayavim Lishkoah [That Which One Must Forget], [Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi, 2004], 71).
Dalit Bermann-Assouline, Shelo Shinu et Leshonam: Yiddish Haredit BeIsrael [Those Who Did Not Change Their Language: Haredi Yiddish in Israel] (unpublished).
The position of the Zionist-Religious movement toward the rebirth of Hebrew is also an interest- ing topic but beyond the scope of this article. See Shlomo Carmi, “‘Emdoteihem utefisoteihem shel Hagaon Rabbi Y. H. Sonnenfeld veshel Harav A. Y. Hacohen Kook bisheelat tehiyat halashon ha’Ivrit vehanhagatah kisefat hora’ah [The positions and views of Rabbis Y. H. Sonnenfeld A. Y. Kook on the rebirth of the Hebrew language and its placing as teaching language], Dor Ledor 9 (1994/5): 61–91. See also Tavori, Leshon Hakodesh, Rabbi Shime’on Federbusch, “Gedolei Israel—megginei halashon ha’Ivrit batefillah” [The great rabbis as defenders of the Hebrew language in prayer], Or Hamizrah 15 (1965/6): 105–10; Israel Shchefansky, “Halashon Ha’Ivrit leor hahalakhah” [The Hebrew Language in the light of Jewish Law], Or Hamizrah 22 (1972/3): 98–117 (it seems that this article is a polemic against the Satmar Rebbe’s approach); Neriah Gutel, “Yahaso shel Harav Kook litehiyat halashon ha’Ivrit [Rabbi Kook’s approach to the revival of the Hebrew Language], Shema’atin 117 (2010/1): 11–25; and more.
Berman-Assouline, Those Who Did Not Change, and in the references cited there.
On the status of Hebrew in contrast to Yiddish in different sectors of Ultra-Orthodox society, see Miriam Isaacs, “Haredi, Haymish and Frim: Yiddish Vitality and Language Choice in a Traditional, Multi- Lingual Community,” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 138 (1999): 9–30; Miriam Isaacs, “Hebrew-Yiddish Bilingualism among Israeli Hasidic Children,” Issues in the Acquisition and Teaching of Hebrew, ed. A. Feuer et al. (Bethesda, MD: University Press of Maryland, 2009), 139–54; Miriam Isaacs, “Contentious Partners: Yiddish and Hebrew in Haredi Israel,” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 138 (1999): 101–21; Simeon D. Baumel, Sacred Speakers (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006); Tamir Granot, “Galut Israel beEretz Israel: HaYiddish vehamivta haAshkenazi bapesikah uvahagut haharedit bizmanenu [“Exile in the Land of Israel: Yiddish and Ashkenazi accent in contem- porary haredi halakhic and theological literatures,” Mayim Midalyo 18 (2006/7): 376–77.
Anon., “Thaharat leshonenu hakedoshah” [The purity of our holy tongue], Hahavatzelet 27, no. 43 (August 28, 1897). For further details, see Be’er, “From the language of G-d.”
Ibid. I would add that such arguments were not used by influential figures of the Old Yishuv with the same prevalence as in later stages of the struggle. While they did call the new language ‘Ivrit (Hebrew) and not Leshon Hakodesh (“The Holy Tongue”), they did not systematically distinguish between the two.
Ben-Tzion Yadler, Betuv Yerushalayim: Zikhronot Hamaggid Hayerushalmi [The Good of Jerusalem: Memoir of the Jerusalem Preacher] (Bnei Brak: Netzeh, 1966), 113.
Ibid., 96. It is noteworthy that some rabbis thought that since women are not obligated to study Torah, they are also not subject to the prohibition of bittul Torah (wasting time that could be better dedi- cated to Torah study) and therefore are allowed to study foreign languages and secular subjects. Yadler, however, reaches the opposite conclusion. For more information on women’s Torah study in the modern era, see Iris Brown, “Women’s Torah Study in 20th Century Orthodox Thought” (master’s thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1996); Iris Brown, “Between ‘the Nature of the Woman’ and ‘the Authority of the Husband’: Haredi Educational Ideology and the Limits of Torah Study for Girls,” Zehuyot 3 (2013): 97–123.
Yadler, Betuv Yerushalayim, 96, in the name of “great scholars of Jerusalem.”
Yadler uses the term “Jargon” to refer to Yiddish; though often used pejoratively by denigrators of the language, it was also sometimes used as a neutral term.
Yadler’s list of regulations is fully cited there, on pp. 115–16. Rebbetzin (Yiddish) literally means a rabbi’s wife but is also used more generally as a term of respect for a woman; gveret (in Hebrew) means Madam or Mrs.
Moshe Blau, Al Homotayikh Yerushalayim (Pirkei Hayai) [Upon Thy Walls, O Jerusalem: Memoirs] (Tel Aviv: Netzah, 1947), 115. The emphasis is mine. On Rabbi Sonnenfeld’s position regarding this issue, see Carmi, “Positions and views of Rabbis Y. H. Sonnenfeld A. Y. Kook.”
That Rabbi Sonnenfeld did not consider Hebrew a prohibited language is attested to by an account cited by Yadler: Rabbi Sonnenfeld refused to join some Jerusalem rabbis who wished to extend the ban (herem) against foreign languages to Hebrew. He justified this decision by explaining that the ban would inevitably be breached and, consequently, would result in many being considered sinners. “This is why I remain silent,” he explained (Yadler, Betuv Yerushalayim, 77). The fact that he was willing to remain silent indicates that, in his opinion, speaking Hebrew was not an inherently sinful act. He conceived the language itself as neutral; only the attempt of the members of the New Yishuv to turn it into the basis for a new identity, which would substitute observance of the Torah and its commandments, drove him to object to its use. This position is evident from several other sources, as well. See, for instance, Yadler, Betuv Yerushalayim, 90–107, 112–13; Blau, Upon Thy Walls, 131–92; and also in the pasquinade published in 1918, quoted by Be’er, “From the language of G-d.”
The letter appears in Yadler’s book (Betuv Yerushalayim, 97–99); the following quotes are from there.
Ibid, 77. Yadler, who asked the Aderet to write this letter, adds: “When the rabbi completed his letter he said […] I wrote each word with blood, but I am happy to sacrifice my remaining blood to strengthen the old-style education and diminish the erosion caused by the [modern] schools”(ibid.).
Ibid., 83–84. The letter, aimed at strengthening the old-style education, is undersigned by more than twenty prominent personalities of the Old Yishuv, including Rabbi Shmuel Salant (1818–1909) and Rabbi Yosef Hayim Sonnenfeld. Therefore, it can be considered a reflection of the dominant approach to Hebrew in those circles at the time. The letter attacks the Zionists on several grounds, but regard- ing Hebrew, it makes do with quoting the Aderet’s letter.
Yalkut Shelo Shinu et Leshonam [Collection: Those Who Did Not Change Their Language] (no editor name) (Jerusalem: n.p., 1987), section II, letter 1.
Rabbi Shaul Brach, Avot al Banim [Children to Their Fathers] (Brooklyn: n.p., 1970), n.p. See also the words of the Rebbe of Pashversk quoted there.
Rabbi Yosef Yadid Halevi was, along with Rabbi Shlomo Laniado, the head of the Yeshiva Ohel Mo’ed. More about him is available in Gide’on Meir Gilkerov, Heir Hamizrah (Jerusalem: n.p., 2002), 1, 106–31. For the analysis of the letter see: Benjamin Brown, “Keshet hateguvot haorthodoxiot: Ashkenazin usepharadim” [The varieties of Orthodox responses: Ashkenazim and Sephardim], in: Shas: Hebetim Ra’ayoniyim Vetrbutiyim, ed. Aviezer Ravitzky, ed., 80–81 (Jerusalem: Am oved, 2006).
Cited in Moshe Goldstein, Tikkun ‘Olam (Munkács: H. Guttmann, 1936), 122–23.
The words of Rabbi Salant are published in Om Ani Homah, Jerusalem, Thursday of Vayakhel-Pekudei, 23 of Adar 5713, p. 27; cited in Minhat Kenaot (Brooklyn: Yeshivat Torah Veyirah, 2006), n.p.
Such is, for instance, the prohibition against the erection of sacred pillars (Deut. 16:22). Rashi explains that such pillars were beloved by God at the time of the Patriarchs, but since the Canaanites turned it into a pagan practice, God hates it. See Rabbi Yitzhak Weiss, Sheelot Uteshuvot [Responsa] Siah Yitzhak (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute, 1998), 436.
For example, Rabbi Yitzhak Weiss, ibid.
Jacob Katz, The “Shabbes Goy”: A Study in Halakhic Flexibility (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 231–32.
The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayim, 85, 2), based on the Talmud (BT Shabbat 41a), rules that it is permit- ted to speak in the Holy Tongue even in foul places (the toilet or bathhouse), but the Magen Avraham (ad loc.) rules that ab initio one should refrain from doing so.
JT Shekalim, 47c.
By contrast, the central stream of Ultra-Orthodox society does not discuss this question. We may assume that since they do not consider Modern Hebrew to be the Holy Tongue, they feel no need to contend with this issue.
Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe (Brooklyn: Sender Deutsch Press, 1996), 421–22. For an analysis of his approach to Hebrew, see David Sorotzkin, “Geulah shel hoshekh vaafelah: Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Harebbe MiSatmar” [A redemption of dark and obscurity: Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe], in Hagdoilim: Ishim She’itzvu et Penei Hayahadut Hahredit BeIsrael, ed. Benjamin Brown and Nissim Leon (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 1996), 371–401. For an analysis of the Klausenburger Rebbe’s approach to Hebrew and Yiddish, see Granot, “Exile in the Land of Israel,” 376–77.
While there is no scholarly consensus on the extent to which Hebrew was used as a spoken language during the Second Temple and Mishnaic periods, many scholars today maintain that it was spoken among many Jews even then (Hever, That Which One Must Forget n. 3, 17–28). Ultra-Orthodox authors raise a more radical argument, stating that the Sages deliberately ruled that Hebrew should no longer be used as a spoken language and should, due to the decline of the generations, be reserved for the ritual sphere. The main advocates of this argument were Rebbe Sholem Dovber of Lubavitch and the Satmar Rebbe. Rebbe Sholem Dovber explains that there were three main periods in the linguistic history of the Jewish people. The first is the First Temple era, during which Jews spoke the Holy Tongue; the second extends from the Second Temple era to the end of the Talmudic period, during which only schol- ars dedicated to Torah study spoke Hebrew while the masses, engaged in mundane matters, refrained from doing so. The third is the post-Talmudic period, in which even scholars stopped using Hebrew, not because of the conditions in the Diaspora but because “the entire world had declined.” See Rabbi Sholem Dovber Schneerson, “Leshon hakodesh vehadibbur bah” [The Holy Tongue and speaking in it], in Migdal ‘Oz, ed. Yehoshua Mondshine (Kfar Habad: The Lubavitch Institute, 1980), 19–20. Rebbe Yoel of Satmar claims that even in the Talmudic period, Jews no longer spoke Hebrew, arguing that the fact that both Talmuds were written in Aramaic is proof of this. See Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 418–20. He further argues that even Abraham did not speak the Holy Tongue and, since his time, it was only used as a ritual language (see below).
Schneerson, “The Holy Tongue,” 17. In one of his letters, he warns against making any improper use of the Holy Tongue (ibid.,16–22). Based on Nachmanides (Commentary to Ex. 30:3) and Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed, III, 5), he writes that the Holy Tongue gained its sanctity by being the language of God and the angels, and the language used by God to create the world. Hence, he concludes, it must not be used for earthly matters, but only for holy ones.
Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 420.
Ibid. I will dwell on this point below.
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv (Netanya: n.p., 2004), Yoreh De’ah, 52.
Moses Maimonides, Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot, 1, 17.
Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 422.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 53.
In his commentary on the Shulhan Arukh, the Hatam Sofer expands on the ruling of the Magen Avraham—that it is forbidden to speak the Holy Tongue in a toilet and bathhouse—to places of idolatry. See more in Granot,“Exile in the Land of Israel,” 385–88.
This is cited by both the Klausenburger Rebbe (Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 53) and the Satmar Rebbe (Vayoel Moshe, 421).
This is manifest in a number of ways. For instance, our incorrect accent and the fact that“we do not correctly differentiate between certain similar letters.” Hence, he concludes that “we do not know how to speak the Holy Tongue” (Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 53).
Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 421; Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 53. See also Granot, “Exile in the Land of Israel,” 390–92.
Aviezer Ravitzky, “Eretz hemdah vaharadah: haya- has hadu-erki leeretz Israel bimekorot Israel” [A land of desirability and anxiety: the bivalent attitude to the Land of Israel in Jewish sources], in Eretz Israel Bahagut Hayehudit Ba’et Hahadashah, ed. Aviezer Ravitzky (Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi, 1988), 11–48.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreah De’ah, 52-53. See also Granot, “Exile in the Land of Israel,” 385–89.
Bereshit Rabbah, 18, 4; ibid., 31, 8; ibid., 93, 10; Shir Hashirim Rabbah, 4, 25.
Zohar, Noah, 75b. The idea already appears in Sefer Yetzirah, chap. 1.
Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 423; see also ibid., 427. 56. Ibid., p. 423.
Ibid., pp. 426–27.
Rabbi Aharon Roth, Shomer Emunim, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: n.p., 1978), 403b.
Rabbi Menashe Klein, “Ba’inyan leshon hakodesh, leshon Aramit ushear leshonot” [Concerning the Holy Tongue, Aramaic and other languages], in Sefer Hazikkaron LeRabbi Sh. B. Werner, ed. Rabbi Yosef Buchsbaum (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Institute, 1996), 498–507; reprinted in his book Mishneh Halakhot, vol. 13 (Brooklyn: n.p., 1998), 507.
Sefer Yetzirah, 1:3.
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, Shefa’ Hayim— Divrei Torah, 8 (1980), issue 504 (Shmot). See also Granot, “Exile in the Land of Israel,” 392–93.
Rabbi Yesha’ayah Horovitz, Shnei Luhot Habrit (Warsaw: n.p., 1930), Pesahim, sermon no. 3.
This opinion is shared by Rabbi Hananya Yom-tov Lippa Deutsch, an American Ultra-Orthodox rabbi of Hungarian descent, who writes: “…the Devil contrives various schemes to sneak the venom of lawlessness into the hearts of the Children of Israel, and the latest one […] is to deform our holy tongue and use it for every wicked purpose, Heaven fore- fend. […] And this causes sexual sins, for the two have one and the same [spiritual] source. […] And the same people who commit sexual sins breach the [sanctity] of our holy tongue—foreigners have come and violated it” (Rabbi Hananya Yom-tov Lippa Deutsch, Taharat Yom-tov, vol. 8 [New York: Sender Deutsch Press, 1957], 119). Immediately after these words, he cites the Satmar Rebbe’s words on the Holy Tongue.
Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 417.
Ibid., 433, 436–37. For a detailed analysis of the Satmar Rebbe’s position on young women’s Torah study, see Iris Brown, “Women’s Torah Study.” It is important to add that in the Toldos Aharon educational frameworks, young women are not allowed to speak Hebrew as part of the strict observance of “clean language.” Barring women from learning Hebrew allows stronger control over the possibility of influence from the street. See Sima Salzberg, Olaman shel Neshot Hasidut Toldot Aharon: Ma’amadan Kifratim VekhiKvutzah [The World of the Women of the Toldot Aharon Hasidism: Their Status as Individuals and as a Group] (PhD diss., Bar-Ilan University, 2008), 179–80.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 52.
The prohibition to “walk in the statutes of the Gentiles” is a flexible category that can be used to prohibit any undesirable human behavior. However, halakhic sources did not interpret it as a sweeping prohibition but rather applied it only to those customs related to obscenity or to rituals lacking rational explanations. Practices that bear some utility, on the other hand, are permitted (Rema to Shulhan ‘Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 178, 1). In halakhic terms it is difficult, therefore, to judge the use of a local language as falling under the category of “statutes of the Gentiles.”
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 52. The term “days of seeing” refers to the period of menstruation, in which the menstrual blood can be seen, in contrast to the week that follows it, which is also considered part of the halakhic menstrual period. For a detailed analysis of the Klausenburger Rebbe’s views on menstruation and its place in their religious status, see Iris Brown, “Tumat niddah uma’amad haishah: pesikato shel haadmor miSanz Klausenburg kemikreh mivhan [Menstrual Impurity and the Status of Women: The Halakhic Ruling of the Rebbe of Sanz-Klausenburg as a Case-Study], Da’at: Journal of Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah 61 (2007): 113–35.
BT Sanhedrin, 19a.
Rashi ad loc.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 52.
Brown,“Women’s Torah Study.”
Uriel (Max) Weinreich,“Der YIVO un di priblemen fun undzer tzeit,” YIVO Bletter 25, no. 1 (1945): 13.
Noam Chomsky, “Explaining Language Use,” in New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 19–45. See also: http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/her- mann.moisl/sel1007/lecture8.htm and the references there.
Rabbi Brach was a leading Hungarian rabbi. At first, he, too, took for granted that Modern Hebrew is the Holy Tongue, bemoaning the “robbers [who have] entered it, defiled it [following Ez. 7:22], and deprived it of its splendor.” However, shortly after- wards he writes: “Indeed it is not the Holy Tongue at all,” since the Zionists plan to invent a new gram- mar for the language that will distance it from the original Holy Tongue. He therefore refers to it as“the bastard language Hebrew” (Brach, Children to Their Fathers, 208–9).
Rabbi Ya’akov Yehizkiyahu Gruenwald, Vayagged Ya’akov ‘al haTorah (Brooklyn: Balshan Press, 1960), 208–9.
Rabbi Ben-Tzion Halberstam, Kedushat Tzion, vol. 2 (on Festivals) (Brooklyn: Shlomo Halberstam, 1967), 88.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson, Likkutei Dibburim, vol. 3 (Brooklyn: Kehos, 1989), 594–95.
Rabbi Avraham Yosef Wolf, Hatekufah Uve’ayoteha [The Period and Its Problems], vol. 1 (Education) (Bnei Brak: Foundation for the Publication of Rabbi Y. A. Wolf’s Books, 1981–85), 196–207 and elsewhere.
Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe, 428–31. His main argu- ments were summarized by Solomon Poll, “The Sacred-Secular Conflict in the Use of Hebrew and Yiddish Among Ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem,” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 24 (1980): 109–25.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 53.
A third, “historical” explanation was that Hebrew and the Holy Tongue have always been two separate languages and that this is not a modern innovation. The Satmar Rebbe, who is the main advocate of this claim, argues that “Hebrew” is the language of the Transjordanians and that it was spoken already in Abraham’s time (Vayoel Moshe, 421).
Moses Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, III, 8.
Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (Nachmanides), Commentary on the Torah, Exodus 30:13.
Maimonides’s claim that the uniqueness of the Holy Tongue lies in its being “a clean language” appears in an article by Rabbi Simcha Elberg, editor of Hapardes. See Rabbi Simcha Elberg, “Leshon hako- desh—‘Ivrit veYiddish” [The Holy Tongue: Hebrew and Yiddish], Hapardes 67, no. 6 (1993): 2–6. Elberg lauds the Holy Tongue and deems it more sublime than all other languages. He does, however, emphasize that he is not referring to Modern Hebrew: “Modern Hebrew can by no means be considered as the Holy Tongue; it threw off its holy garment and created a whole lexicon of obscenities. Such a Hebrew has no relation to the Holy Tongue. We admire the Holy Tongue and reject Hebrew” (ibid., 3). Hebrew, he claims, is not “clean” but rather full of “abominations.”
Rebbe Yosef Yitzhak of Lubavitch wrote in 1943 that modern Hebrew created so many new words that it is no longer the Holy Tongue, adding: “I wish they would add even more words, until not one word of the Holy Tongue remained, and then the klippah [force of evil] would cease to suckle from the Kedushah [the divine light that nourishes it].” (Schneerson, Likkutei Dibburim, 594).
Wolf, The Period and Its Problems, 204.
Ibid., 204–7. Of course, this test itself is not unequivocal and is open to interpretations.
Rabbi Shlomo Cohen et al., Peer Hador: Hayei HaHazon Ish [Splendor of the Generation: Life of the Hazon Ish], vol. 2 (Bnei Brak: Netzah, 1969), 172. See also Benjamin Brown, HaHazon Ish: Haposek, Hamaamin Umanhig Hamahapekhah Haharedit [The Hazon Ish: Halakhist, Believer and Leader of the Haredi Revolution] (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2011),
Interestingly, the Hazon Ish’s Hebrew integrated a mixture of rabbinic and maskilic features. In this sense, his Hebrew can be considered a linguistic variant in its own right (ibid., 13, 22).
Wolf, The Period and Its Problems, 205. He further adds a few examples of linguistic “distortions” made in and by Modern Hebrew.
Rabbi Hayim Shaul Karelitz, “Hahayim vehamavet beyad halashon” [Life and death are in the hands of language], in Hashkafatenu, vol. 3 (Bnei Brak: n.p., 1980), 53.
A second edition of this booklet appeared in 2009.
A sarcastic pun: `ABAM (מ"עב) is the acronym that Kahana coined for ‘Ivrit Meduberet (spoken Hebrew), but is commonly used for ‘etzem bilti mezuheh, that is, UFO. In contemporary Hebrew slang, it also denotes a“weirdo.”
Rabbi Ephraim Kahana, Binyan Shalem—Safah Berurah (Zikhron Ya’akov: self-published, n.d.), 11.
In contrast to the author of Tohar Halashon, whose author states explicitly that Hebrew and the Holy Tongue are not identical, Kahana focuses on an “academic” identification of words from the Holy Tongue whose meanings have been distorted in Modern Hebrew. For extensive analysis of this topic, see Dalit Berman-Assouline, “Bein tahor letame: hahavhanah haharedit bein leshon hakodesh le’Ivrit [Between the pure and the impure: The haredi differentiation between the Holy Tongue and Hebrew]” (forthcoming).
Berman-Assouline, Those Who Did Not Change.
Maimonides, Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot, 1, 17.
Rema believed that Aramaic is a holy language, and that the Torah was also given in it, while Rabbi Yehudah (Mahari) Mintz contended that it is a corrupted form of the Holy Tongue. See Moshe Isserlish, Sheelot Uteshuvot [Responsa] HaRema (Warsaw: Yitzhak Goldman, 1883), sec. 126–30.
Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, “Teshuvah lahalakhah,” Otzrot Yerushalayim 11 (1957): 200. See a similar position in Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 53.
For a similar statement made by a non-Orthodox Israeli linguist, see Zeev Galili, “Hasafah Bah Anu Medabrim Einah ‘Ivrit Ela Yisraelit” [in Hebrew; “The Language We Speak Is Not Hebrew, but Israeli”], accessed March 15, 2018, http://www.zeevgalili. com/2011/02/13889.
JT Shabbat, chap. 1, halakhah 4, p. 3c (no parallel in the Babylonian Talmud).
Ibid. This set of edicts was enacted in the attic of Ben Geron in a rare event in which “Beit Shmmai surpassed Beit Hillel” in number.
This midrash appears more than ten times in different places. See, for example, in Shmot Rabbah, 1, 28; Vayikra Rabbah, 34, 5; Bamidbar Rabbah, 20, 22.
Rabbi Moshe Sofer, “Last Will and Testament (from manuscript),” in Sneh Bo’er Baesh, ed. Shmuel Eli’ezer Deutsch (Bnei Brak: Mayim Hayim Institute, 2002), 413. The Hebrew word for intact—shalem—is an acronym of the words for name, language, and dress.
Jacob Katz, A House Divided: Orthodoxy and Schism in Nineteenth-Century Central European Jewry (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 1998), 70–74.
The Hatam Sofer was asked about the halakhic status of a get (bill of divorce) that had been handed to the wife by an emissary but contained several flaws. He criticized the rabbinic judges who wrote the get and who transcribed the name of the city, Pest, not only in German and Hungarian, but also in Latin (Pesta). The rabbis of old, he claims, purposefully refrained from doing so: “The ancients knew foreign languages very well, but purposefully changed those languages, because of the Eighteen Edicts.” The Rebbes of Satmar and Klausenburg learn from this source that since use of the Holy Tongue is precluded due to its sanctity and the use of foreign languages is precluded because of the Eighteen Edicts, the Jews “had no other choice but to corrupt a language” (Teitelbaum, “Teshuvah lahalakhah,” 183).
See, for example, Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 52, 53.
Roth, Shomer Emunim, vol. 2, 404b.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 52 refers to the fact that the Sifri mentions the father’s duty to teach his son the Holy Tongue, while in the parallel of this text in the Babylonian Talmud, this obligation is omitted.
Halberstam, Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah, 52.
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, “Last Will and Testament,” in Aharon Sorasky, Lappid Haesh [The Fire Torch] (Bnei Brak: Mishor, 1997–2003), vol. 2, 856.
Rabbi Hayim Elazar Shapiro, Divrei Torah, vol. 2, Munkács 1929, 7. See also Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, Sheelot Uteshuvot [Responsa] Shevet Halevi (Bnei Brak: n.p., 2002), vol. 10, 237.
Katz, The “Shabbes Goy,” 231–32.
Maoz Kahana, “HaHatam Sofer: haposek be’einei ‘atzmo” [The Hatam Sofer: the posek as viewed by himself], Tarbiz 76, nos. 3-4 (2007), 519–56.
Was the prohibition on Modern Hebrew indeed non-halakhic? If not, at what point does a norm become “halakhic”? Is it only its integration into the halakhic textual discourse that fixes its status as law? These questions clearly require an in-depth theoretical discussion, but the premise I have adopted for the purposes of this study is that the very use of categories such as“forbidden” and“permitted”(rather than other categories, such as “good” and “bad,”“proper” and“improper,” etc.) indicates that the issue at stake is being incorporated into halakhic discourse.
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