Thursday, December 17, 2015

mother tongue

Yosef tells his brothers, “Re’u ki pi ha’medaber aleichem.”  Last post I mentioned that Rashi writes that Yosef was trying to prove to the brothers that he was the real deal and not an imposter, so he spoke lashon kodesh to them.  Ramban disagrees and says this would not have proven anything.  Egypt was right across the border from Eretz Yisrael, so there would have been people who knew both languages.  I saw the Chasam Sofer writes that even in galus Bavel, which lasted only 70 years, we find that lashon kodesh was forgotten.  (Even in Sifrei Tanach, Sefer Daniel is writted in Aramaic, as well as parts of Ezra/Nechemya.)  How did they forget their mother tongue so quickly?  Chasam Sofer answers that the lack of kedusha in galus is a block to lashon kodesh.  The two are incompatible.  Since Yosef was able to speak lashon kodesh fluently to his brothers, it proved that he maintained his kedusha throughout the years away from home -- he was the same Yosef haTzadik.  (Maybe it's called lashon kodesh not because the language itself is holy, but because it demands holiness of the speaker.)  Chasam Sofer doesn’t say it, but in light of this maybe we can better appreciate the Chazal that hroughout the galus in Mitzrayim “lo shinu es lishonam,” Klal Yisrael did not change their language.  It’s not just a matter of how they spoke, but it shows a  level of kedusha that was retained.  I would look at it like this: the language you speak is like your passport.  The Jew who went into galus Bavel surrendered his Israeli passport and became a citizen of galus.  That's why lashon kodesh was lost.  The Jews in Mitzrayim may have been in galus, but they still had their passports -- they were citizens of Eretz Yisrael just stuck for an extended stay.  Am I wrong to think that the rebirth of Ivrit as a spoken language in our time is another sign that we are in reishis tzemichas ge’ulasainu?  I wrote this to my daughter in Israel in seminary to encourage her to her to appreciate hearing and seeing Hebrew all around her.  It's enough of a shame that kids go through 12 years of yeshiva and then go to Israel, come down with a cold, and go to the drugstore and say "Ha'af sheli ratz - yesh li kar," if they can even manage to say that much.  While they are there they hear all their shiurim and classes in English, speak to friends in English, and remain foreigners in a foreign land.  It's time to trade in the passport, even if they need to (hopefully only temporarily) come back to galus. 

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