Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 12 March 2016 / 2 Adar II 5776

Hebrew and Humanity

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Lisa

Dear Rabbi,

Was Hebrew the first language spoken by mankind? If so, how did Adam and Eve know how to speak it? And what was the origin of the other languages? Why didn’t G-d want all peoples to speak the same language? If Hebrew was the first language spoken by all, is there any possibility that one day it will be restored as such?

Dear Lisa,

Hebrew, the “Holy Tongue”, is the “language of G-d”, and therefore preceded Creation. Our sources teach that G-d actually created through the venue of language — “speaking” all of existence into being through the mystical power of the Hebrew letters and vowels.

G-d, who imparted within mankind, Adam and Eve, the Divine power of speech, placed on their tongues and infused within their hearts the ability to speak His language, Hebrew. And Adam used this power and knowledge to complete Creation by conferring precise Hebrew descriptions, i.e. names, for all living things.

Initially, the early generations following Adam and Eve spoke Hebrew, and it was Gd’s intention that the holy language would unite and empower humanity to realize the purpose of Creation, namely to serve Gd as one.

However, when mankind united with the power of Hebrew not in order to serve G-d but to rebel and “dethrone” Him, referred to in the Torah as their attempt to build a tower that would reach to Heaven to war against G-d, the Creator saved them from bringing destruction upon themselves by confusing their language and thereby foiling their plans.

No longer privileged with the holy language on their tongues and in their hearts, humanity became confused, muddled and mundane. In this way their ill-used unity was undone, their language became babbled and they dispersed across the earth.

Since G-d did intend that mankind be unified, elevated and empowered by Hebrew in order to attain perfection and to perfect Creation, eventually the Holy Tongue will again be spoken by all.

Interestingly, many of the early founders of America — inspired by Biblical themes of servitude and redemption, meriting the Promised Land, and building a perfected society — actually favored making Hebrew the language of the great nation they envisioned. Considering how ubiquitous English is today, the consolidation of communication and the major role the United States has had on the world, just imagine how many people would be speaking Hebrew worldwide if Ben Franklin had gotten his way.

Perhaps G-d Divinely deflected this outcome in order to prevent the Holy Tongue from being babbled by “unfit” people and about topics to which the modern world has digressed. But when Mashiach will inspire and guide humanity back to Gd, and people will be speaking less about less and more about more, Hebrew will be restored among all people who choose to be thereby elevated and united as one nation, under G-d, indivisible, with spirituality and G-dliness for all.

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