Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is one of the most exciting and intellectually stimulating books I and the other reviewers at Frumjewishbooks.com have read in a long time. Everyone here insisted on having a chance to read it.
Not to be blunt, but you should, too.
Rabbi Klein takes what seems like a mundane topic – the Hebrew language – and in this ground-breaking work, blasts it open with questions that leave the reader reeling Why didn’t I ever ask that?
Here’s a sampler:
- What language did Adam speak in Gan Eden? Out of Gan Eden?
- What language were people speaking before the Tower of Babel? At Har Sinai?
- Why was Avraham Avinu called an Ivri? What was the original Hebrew script?
- Does Lashon Hakodesh borrow from other languages or is it the other way around?
- Are Arabic and Aramaic separate languages, or just corruptions of Lashon Hakodesh? Does Aramaic have kedusha?
For many of the questions, there are no definite answers. In fact, it’s shocking just how many different opinions and theories there are.
The sefer explores them in depth, occasionally reconciling them, sometimes not. It begins at Creation and moves on through history, contemplating what happened when Eliezer Ben Yehuda met Lashon Hakodesh, exploring how Modern Hebrew fits in, and considers “derivative” languages such as Judeo-Arabic and Yiddish.
Rabbi Klein takes a systematic, academic approach in the presentation of his material, with careful documentation of sources, while remaining firmly grounded in Torah sources. The writing style is clear and accessible. As an added bonus, the book is clearly laid out, with a beautiful cover, which makes the experience of studying it a really joyful experience.
When discussing foreign languages, Rabbi Klein even looks at why the Mishna chose the word afikomen rather than other possibilities.
There’s no doubt this remarkable sefer makes a fantastic afikoman gift for grownups.
Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is currently a fellow at the Kollel of Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.
Published by Mosaica Press.
We received a review copy of this book.