Book Review: Lashon Hakodesh – History, Holiness, & Hebrew

 

By Gideon

Lashon Hakodesh by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is a fascinating journey into Jewish history just as much that it is a linguistics book and a philosophical interpretation to biblical events. It connects between historical events, the language which was spoken at the time of the event, the impact of the language on the event, and the impact of the event on the language.

Lashon Hakodesh is the communication link between the Jewish people and G-D. It is the language in which the Hebrew Bible was written. The Modern Hebrew language is based on Lashon Hakodesh. However, the religious Jewish community makes a distinction between the two: Modern Hebrew is used for general communication. Lashon Hakodesh is dedicated for prayer and study.

I had certain assumptions when I opened the book for the first time. I assumed that it would be about the Hebrew Bible and that it would be about the Hebrew language. To keep an open mind, I didn’t read any reviews for the book. The book caught me by surprise. I expected a dry factual linguistic book, which I hoped to learn from. I didn’t know that I’d enjoy it , learn from it, and be challenged by it as much as I did.

The enjoyment – The book is well written. It is aimed at readers who have no previous knowledge of the topic and the various conflicting interpretations of well-known biblical stories. It makes the reader look at these events from a different angle. It reads more like a story than a research paper, which makes the reading enjoyable and interesting.

The Learning I grew up in Israel, so when I read the Bible, I read it in Hebrew. For me, reading the Bible and conversing in Hebrew is the same thing. True, there are certain sentences in the Bible, written in Aramaic, that I don’t understand, and some Hebrew words are so ancient that they are not typically used in daily conversations. However, as a whole, the transition from daily activity to reading the Bible is seamless.

I was educated in the Israeli public system, which for most students, is a secular education system. Bible study is mandatory in Israel. However, it is taught as a history lesson in most Israeli public schools. Reading the book opened my eyes not only to the conflicting interpretations, but also to the significance of this topic in Judaism, and to the evolution of the discussion throughout history. I learned the Bible in school, however, until reading this book, I was not aware of the significance of Lashon Hakodesh to the Jewish religious community. I had no idea how much time and effort was dedicated, by some of the greatest minds of the Jewish people throughout history, to answering questions such as where Lashon Hakodesh came from, who spoke it, when it was spoken, and why it was spoken. Reading the book opened a window into a part of Judaism I didn’t know existed.

The challenge I believe in the All Mighty. I also believe in the special relationships between G-D and the Jewish people. However, as an engineer, I need data and facts. It is difficult for me to accept a theory based on faith alone. As I read the book, I constantly examined statements against known historical events and archaeological findings. In some cases I found the connections, in other cases there weren’t scientific evidence.

What helped me navigate was that the author, when discussing conflicting interpretations, presented without bias more than one point of view. Something that I found extremely helpful. It gave me the freedom to make my own choices and bridge the gap between available archaeological data, logic, and faith. I must admit that in some cases I remained skeptical. However, other explanations, even when not supported by scientific data, made sense and reflected on the greatness of the Jewish rabbis who explained them.

To view / purchase the book on Amazon click here: Lashon HaKodesh – Amazon

 

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