A different language is a different vision of life. -Federico Fellini
Joseph, in a most unpredictable set of circumstances, goes from being an imprisoned slave, accused of accosting his master’s wife and rotting in prison, to being the Viceroy of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh in controlling the Egyptian Empire, if not the world. Pharaoh and his ministers are so impressed by Joseph’s dream interpretation skills and intelligence that they give him the keys to the kingdom.
There is an ancient tale, a midrash, that states that the angel Gabriel, in order to assist Joseph with his royal promotion, teaches him the seventy core languages known to humankind. The Sfat Emet in the year 5635 (1874), wonders as to the need and the symbolism of teaching Joseph seventy tongues. He goes on to explain that it was necessary in order to rule this world power. Furthermore, the seventy tongues are all an outgrowth of the one original language: Hebrew.
Hebrew, the holy tongue, is the source of all languages and it is the Torah that gives life to the spoken word. Languages merely clothe the holy tongue, though they have different forms and aspects. Joseph needed to understand all the languages and associate them to their Hebraic source in order to rule the world. The Sfat Emet then gets into more Kabbalistic reasons for Joseph’s intense and comprehensive language immersion course, among them the ability to connect other languages to the innermost meaning at its Hebrew source.
There is a hidden strength and power in language, and particularly the Hebrew one. Let’s use them with care.
To Dr. Gustavo Perednik, who lectured on exactly this theme a few months ago in Montevideo and demonstrated, from academic sources, how Hebrew is one of the first languages, if not the first language, and its pervasive, yet unappreciated influence on languages of the world.