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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
You Owe It To Your Kids
I don’t mean to be rude. If you were to meet me in person, you would probably say that I am a very nice guy. But there are certain things that are so antithetical to common sense and healthy Jewish thought that a blogger has to speak out.
Can anyone imagine a Puerto Rican kid not speaking Spanish? Or a Japanese kid not speaking Japanese? Of course not. This is the natural, healthy, common-sense order of life.
But when it comes to the Jews, something gets very screwed up. You would think that, like in the above examples, every Jewish kid should know how to speak Hebrew. Just the way Spanish is the language of Puerto Ricans, and Japanese is the language of the Japanese, Hebrew is the language of the Jews.
Nothing could be simpler, right?
That’s the way it is in Israel. That’s the way it should be. Jewish children grow up speaking Hebrew. They also may know Yiddish, or English, or French, but they all speak Hebrew fluently.
But in the Diaspora, things get screwed. In the Diaspora, there are millions of Jews who don’t know Hebrew at all! Instead of speaking their own language, they speak an assortment of foreign tongues that are totally alien to their souls and their brains.
This alone should make everyone realize how damaging, mind warping, and insidious Diaspora life is for a Jew.
In the “Shema Yisrael” prayer, we say, “And you shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you walkest by the way, and when you lie down and rise up” (Devarim, 11:19). Rashi explains this verse by saying: “When the infant begins to speak, his father should speak with him in the Holy Tongue and teach him Torah, for if he doesn’t, behold, it is like he buries him, as it says, ‘And teach them to your children to speak of them.’”
Rashi is coming to tell us that if a father speaks to his child in a foreign language, it is as much as burying him in a foreign culture, alien to Jewish thinking, values, concepts, understandings, and traditions. If a Jewish child grows up with a foreign language as his main tongue, he will come to have a foreign identity, a distorted understanding of who he is, a goyisha kop, so to speak, meaning he will think like the gentiles around him and approach Torah learning with the headset of a foreign mentality. This is like feeding one’s child poison and leading him astray from his true life as a Jew.
Thank G-d, in Israel, this sick and tragic state of affairs is being healed. Immigrants come to the Holy Land from Russia, Morocco, America, Argentina, and a dozen other countries, all speaking foreign languages, and presto! Their children grow up speaking Hebrew! The way it should be. The way G-d intended Jews to speak. It’s a miracle!
Sure, the wise and saintly Yosef, and members of the Sanhedrin, knew 70 languages. No problem with that. But Hebrew should come first.
So if you don’t know Hebrew yet, start learning. It’s your language. It’s who you are. It may say on your passport that you are a Canadian, or Frenchman, of Englishman, or American, but that’s only a piece a paper. You are really a Jew. So start speaking Hebrew and be who you really are. Why live a life imitating others when you can be yourself?
It’s fun. It’s healthy. Besides, you owe it to your kids.