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Is Hebrew the Original Language

Sunday, 18 October, 2020 - 10:43 pm

 

Question of the Week:

I was very disturbed by something one of my professors said in a lecture. Here it is: 

"There was a Hebrew King a long long time ago, who was interested in discovering the basic human language. There are over 6,000 human languages on the planet at present. He wanted to find the original language.  

So he got a newborn, and he locked the newborn away in his castle with no human contact. The newborn developed Hebrew. So therefore Hebrew was the basic human language, of which all other human languages arose. His assumption was Hebrew was biologically defined, and everything else was a variant on that. I think that a few of the people who used to take the food to the little kiddy might have been talking to him or something. If it's a true story at all."

I can't imagine a Jewish king did this. If indeed this is not the case, I would love to bring that to my professor's attention so he won't repeat this story erroneously again. Do you know of such a story?

Answer:

The idea that Hebrew is the original language is true. The idea that this was proven by a Hebrew king's cruel experiment is absolutely false.

Several stories of babies being locked away have been recorded in various times and places. An Egyptian Pharaoh did it two and a half thousand years ago, a Roman Emperor tried it in the 13th century and a Scottish King gave it a go in the late 1400's. The results varied. Some of these stories end with the babies speaking Hebrew. Others end more tragically. But none of these stories involve a Jewish king. Your professor has (innocently?) mixed up his sources. 

But the conclusion remains correct: Hebrew is the original language. The world was created with the Holy Tongue. When G-d said "Let there be light" He said it in Hebrew: "Yehi Ohr". Adam was given his name because he was made from the ground (Adama), and Eve (Chava) because she was the mother of all life (Chai). These word plays only work in Hebrew. 

All other languages are translations of the original, their vocabularies a series of made up words. A cow is called a cow in English because we all agree to call it a cow. But it is called a Parah in Hebrew because it really is a Parah. The Hebrew word for things is their actual name. 

There could be scholarly backing for the concept that it all started with Hebrew. Linguists have been able to trace words in multiple languages back to their Hebrew roots. For example, the Hebrew word Derech (way/road), can be found in Daroga (Russian), Derecho (Spanish), Durch (German) and Doro (Japanese), as well as our own English word, Direction. Some offer this as evidence that all roads lead to Hebrew. 

But whatever the scholars may say, the Torah is our ultimate source. And the Torah teaches that Hebrew is G-d's language. This is why we still pray in Hebrew. We are using the very words that G-d used to create the world. The very words have power. Even if we don't understand what we are saying, our soul does. Hebrew is the natural language, the underlying vibration of the universe, the code that G-d spoke into creation. 

So would an untaught baby speak Hebrew? Maybe. Your soul definitely does.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

Sources:
Midrash Bereishis Rabba 18:4 (See Rashi to Bereishis 2:23)

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