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September 3, 2015 | 19th Elul 5775

Jews who study and use Hebrew as the language of the Jewish people

Rabbi Judah said: A man should never pray for his needs in Aramaic. Rabbi Yochanan said: When a man prays for his needs in Aramaic, the ministering angels, who do not understand Aramaic, will not respond to him (Babylonia Talmud, Shabbat 12b)

"If a language which has stopped being spoken, with nothing remaining of it save what remains of our language – (if there is such a language) can return and be the spoken tongue of an individual for all necessities of his life, there is no room for doubt that it can become the spoken language of a community." (Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, from the introduction to his dictionary).

The Hebrew language... is the only glue which holds together our scattered bones. It also holds together the rings in the chain of time...It binds us to those who built the pyramids, to those who shed their blood on the ramparts of Jerusalem and to those who, at the burning stakes, cried Sh'ma Yisrael! (Isaac L. Peretz, Alle Verk [Wise Words, p.215])

*The Goals of the Arbeter Ring Folks-Shul
  1. To teach the children to read, write and speak Yiddish well.
  2. To acquaint them with the best specimens of Yiddish literature.
  3. To acquaint them with the life of the worker and of the broad Jewish masses in America and other countries.
  4. To acquaint them with the history of the Jewish people and with episodes in general history of the struggle for freedom.
  5. To develop within them the feelings of justice, love for the oppressed, love of freedom and respect for fighters for freedom.
  6. To develop within them the feeling for beauty and physical and moral discipline.
  7. To develop within them idealism and the striving to perform noble acts, which are necessary for every child of the oppressed class in making his way through life toward a better order.

(Program of study adopted at the Workmen's Circle, Meeting, 1918)


Micah Lapidus

January 17, 2012
02:24 PM


The first passage resonates but also troubles. Talmud Sotah teaches, "Say the Shema in whatever language you can." I am a passionate devotee of Hebrew and believe that my Jewish life is immeasurably enriched through my connection to the language. What troubles me is the rejection of Aramaic in the previous quote. Having had the chance to study a bit of Aramaic, it too is a beautiful (and Jewishly relevant language). I know that's not the point of the passage, but I am ultimately unwilling to reject any language because it negates the value of the meaningful constructs that are specific to that language.


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