Multi-lingual Torah

Multi-lingual Torah

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. -Nelson Mandela

languages2Different languages have different expressions; different concepts and even different ways of thinking that are not easily translated to other languages. Nevertheless, God spoke to Moses in Hebrew. The Torah is written in Hebrew and that is what our ancestors spoke. The modern world has witnessed the rebirth of Hebrew as a spoken language and the common tongue of the State of Israel.

Ideally, every Jew should understand Hebrew. There is nothing like reading our sources in the original. Much is lost in translation. However, the reality is that vast numbers of the Jewish people today don’t understand Hebrew. They need to rely on translations. They can only learn Torah in a foreign language.

The Sfat Emet on parshat Devarim in 5635 (1875) explains that the multiplicity of languages in which one can learn Torah is purposeful. He explains that there are certain aspects of the Torah, certain lessons, which can only be transmitted in a different language. While Hebrew is the main language of transmission, the main river that carries the knowledge of millennia, there are other distributaries, other streams that branch off from the main Hebrew one, with their own unique and important lessons.

May we learn those lessons, in whatever language we can.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Mr. Lenny Bolnick.


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