From the Classics: Hebrew in the Eyes of a Hasidic Master

by: Levi Cooper

Levi Cooper is a rabbi in Tzur Hadassah and teaches Jewish Studies at Machon Pardes and other university level programs in Jerusalem.

Hasidic masters who actively supported and took part in the Zionist enterprise comprise a largely neglected chapter of the Zionist narrative.[1] Rabbi Yaakov Friedman of Husiatyn – Tel-Aviv was one of the unique personalities who belonged to this cadre.[2]

Rabbi Yaakov Friedman was born in the Romanian town of Buhuşi in 1878, the youngest son of Rabbi Yitzḥak Friedman (1835-1896) who was the oldest grandson of the famed hasidic master, the regal Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin (1797-1851). After marrying his second cousin, also a scion of the Ruzhin dynasty, Rabbi Yaakov moved to the home of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yisrael (1858-1949), in the eastern Galician town of Husiatyn. During the battles of World War I, much of Husiatyn was devastated and many of the inhabitants of the town fled. The extended Friedman family was in Frankfurt-am-Main when the war broke out and from there they moved to Vienna, where Rabbi Yaakov became active in Zionist causes.

In 1937 the family made the journey to the Promised Land. Rabbi Yaakov is remembered best for the final twenty years of his life, when he lived in Tel-Aviv. That period – 1937-1956 – was a critical era in Jewish history; a period of tragic destruction followed by miraculous rebirth.

When Rabbi Yaakov Friedman passed away in 1956 he was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yitzḥak Friedman (1900-1968). Rabbi Yitzḥak’s son who was named after the first Husiatyn Rebbe, Reb Mordechai Shraga, predeceased his father and when Rabbi Yitzḥak passed away, the Husiatyn dynasty ended. Today, what remains of this branch of the noble Ruzhin hasidic court is the Beit Midrash on Bialik Street in Tel-Aviv that continues to be used for prayer and study and the writings of Rabbi Yaakov and to a lesser extent those of his son Rabbi Yitzḥak.

Rabbi Yaakov’s discourses were collected under the title Oholei Yaakov[3] and he is commonly referred to by the title of this work. It is in these writings that the Oholei Yaakov’s positive attitude towards Zionism shines forth.[4] One facet of the Oholei Yaakov’s identification with the Zionist enterprise was his position regarding Hebrew. The first recorded reference to Hebrew appears in a discourse dated Shabbat 23rd Av 5698 (August 20th, 1938):

When the Berlin Haskalah began to spread to Russia, Poland and Galicia, early Maskilim conspired against the [G-d]-fearing youth to turn his heart from the path of faith and tradition, and for this purpose they used pure Ivrit and appealing florid style in order to ensnare the children of Israel by their heart (Ezekiel 14:5). They wrote books and articles in a manner that draws the heart, and they recruited many with their glib language. And because of this the Hasidim prevented their sons from studying and from speaking Lashon HaKodesh, out of fear lest out of love for the language and phraseology they come to read the books of the Maskilim. But that was just a temporary measure, today there are already those who are for the welfare of the faithful of Israel who have mastered Lashon HaKodesh and write beautifully, and the [G-d]-fearing child is no longer forced to drink from the evil waters.

Thus the Oholei Yaakov explained that opposition to Hebrew – valid as it may have been in a previous era – was no longer necessary. In saying that the opposition was a “temporary measure”[5] the Oholei Yaakov is suggesting that the relevant rule is one that encourages Hebrew use. As the Oholei Yaakov himself was aware, the significance of learning the Holy Tongue was not a new value; indeed he buttressed his claim with citations from undisputable sources and his analysis led him to wonder how others could disregard the language:

And if speaking in Lashon HaKodesh is such an important matter, it is surprising that most people denigrate it.

The Oholei Yaakov did not make mention of hasidic sources that speak in favor of the Holy Tongue, though those too abound.[6] Even the Oholei Yaakov’s older contemporary, the hasidic master and town rabbi in Munkatch, Rabbi Hayim Elazar Shapira (1871-1937) – the arch pre-State anti-Zionist who could never be “accused” of sympathy for the Zionist cause – wrote:[7]

Lashon HaKodesh is the choicest language from amongst the languages of the ancients…[8]

the Oholei Yaakov’s statement is nevertheless qualitatively different on a number of fronts.

First, as apparent in the above passage, the Oholei Yaakov used the terms Ivrit and Lashon HaKodesh interchangeably: The term Ivrit can be translated as Modern Hebrew and refers to the resuscitation of a rarified language as part of the Zionist endeavor; Lashon HaKodesh, the Holy Tongue, denotes the biblical language of our ancestors used primarily for liturgical purposes. Early statements in favor of the language referred to Lashon HaKodesh because they predated Ivrit. From the beginning of the Zionist awakening the term for the language carried significance: Ivrit indicated a certain identity with Zionist efforts, while Lashon HaKodesh suggested a rejection of this enterprise. In this light, the interchangeable use of the two terms by the Oholei Yaakov is significant: Rabbi Yaakov felt that Ivrit was merely the modern version of Lashon HaKodesh and its natural offspring. The only reason to object to the use of the language – the allure of the Jewish Enlightenment – was no longer relevant. In the pre-State era, this was indeed a loaded issue.[9] Thus the assumed identity between Lashon HaKodesh and Ivrit lead the Oholei Yaakov to cite classic, pre-Zionist sources extolling Lashon HaKodesh as prooftexts for the value of Ivrit.[10]

The assumed identity between Ivrit and Lashon HaKodesh is far from obvious and many objected to the modern language on the grounds that it was desecration of the Holy Tongue. In a lengthy letter laden with sources, the leader of the Lubavitch Hasidim, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1860-1920) known by the acronym Rashab, opposed the language on these very grounds. The Rashab even saw this sacrilege in the very term Ivrit:[11]

But those who suggested making Lashon HaKodesh into a spoken language and who held this position are removing it from the holy to the mundane, and therefore they changed its name and they call it the language of Avar[12], since they removed it from its holiness. Israel was called by the name Ivri, before the Giving of the Torah … but after the Giving of the Torah there is no place in Torah where they are called Ivrim.[13]

The claim that Ivrit was a desecration or at least a de-sanctification of Lashon HaKodesh may have been well founded; this old-new language was part of the secular Zionist movement to create a new Jew that had at one time roots in the biblical past but was not obligated by Jewish law as it developed during the vicissitudes of the Diaspora years. Yet the Oholei Yaakov chose to ignore this secular goal, lauding the language on its own merits much as he extolled the virtues of the Land of Israel and later the nascent State of Israel despite the stated secular ambitions and visible tendencies.

Less than a year after his first recorded mention of Hebrew, the Oholei Yaakov returned to the theme, once again praising the virtues of Hebrew usage and explaining the opposition as no longer relevant. In this passage, dated 20th Adar 5699 (March 11th, 1939), the Oholei Yaakov went further lauding the use of Hebrew in Torah institutions and questioning those who continued to oppose Hebrew:

Indeed during the period of the Haskalah the Hasidim stopped themselves and their offspring from studying Lashon HaKodesh properly and from conversing in it, for the Maskilim used lucid Lashon HaKodesh with an evil intent: To introduce improper ideas in the hearts of those who read their books. But this censure was merely a temporary measure, now there is no longer any reason for concern. The children speak Lashon HaKodesh in their Talmud Torah’s [elementary schools], in the Yeshivot it is the language of instruction. [G-d]-fearing rabbis preach in Lashon HaKodesh. And if there are people who follow the path of Torah and wish to introduce Lashon HaKodesh while learning Torah, in synagogues and in houses of study, and others come with concerns stemming from “fear of sin” – this fear must be examined, lest there is some personal bias to this.

The Oholei Yaakov acclaimed educational settings where Hebrew was used as the language of instruction.[14] The Oholei Yaakov continued reporting a comment from his revered father-in-law, suggesting that he too was in favor of the renewed use of Hebrew:

My teacher and master, my father-in-law, the righteous rabbi, may he merit good and bountiful days (may the memory of the righteous be a blessing)[15] told me that he heard that in one of the houses of prayer (Yavneh[16]) there is a certain wise scholar who publicly teaches [Talmud] Yerushalmi in Lashon HaKodesh, and there are those who question this out of “fear of sin” – his honorable holiness[17] was surprised by this.

In the continuation of this passage the Oholei Yaakov casts further aspersions on the integrity of this so called “fear of sin”. The Oholei Yaakov never fully defines this “fear of sin”, though it would appear that he is referring to a concern that the use of Hebrew would lead the speaker from the path of Tradition. Characteristically, Rabbi Yaakov avoids identifying by name the persons who made this claim.

The Oholei Yaakov’s claim that previous dangers of the language were no longer relevant, however, was by no means an accepted position. We saw how the Oholei Yaakov lauded the use of Hebrew in educational settings. Some twenty years prior to the Oholei Yaakov’s discourse the pioneer of women’s Jewish education in Eastern Europe – a slightly younger contemporary of Rabbi Yaakov – Sarah Schenirer (1883-1935), made a principled decision to use Yiddish as the language of Torah instruction asserting that Yiddish would serve as an effective barrier to assimilation. To be sure, Sarah Schenirer, who was not fluent in Hebrew and even had difficultly accessing texts that did not have accompanying Yiddish translation, was probably faced with the choice of Yiddish or Polish. Nevertheless, her principled decision reflected the widespread view that Yiddish was a linguistic safeguard of Tradition.[18]

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the Oholei Yaakov discourse appears in his interpretation of a statement attributed to the mishnaic sage, Rabbi Meir:[19]

Whoever lives in the Land of Israel, and reads the shema in the morning and in the evening and speaks Lashon HaKodesh, behold he has a portion in the world to come.

The Oholei Yaakov commented:

See that Rabbi Meir enumerated three things: The Land of Israel, reading shema, Lashon HaKodesh. Whoever lives in the Land of Israel acknowledges the first and the last [of the enumerated items], but with regard to the middle [item] – accepting the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven[20] which is the primary value, the central point – this is acknowledged only by those who are for the welfare of the faithful of Israel. And we should pray before God: And they will all accept the yoke of your sovereignty[21] and then the redemption will surely be.

Rabbi Meir’s statement enumerates three items that serve as entry passes to the world to come. The Oholei Yaakov’s nuanced reading sees Rabbi Meir as presenting a troika of values, albeit with an internal hierarchy.[22] Giving primacy to the yoke of Heaven is understood; indeed the Oholei Yaakov often lauded Zionist achievements only to lament the lack of an accompanying fidelity to Tradition. It is however surprising that the value of speaking Hebrew ranks so near the Land of Israel and the yoke of Heaven![23]

A final aspect of the Oholei Yaakov’s thought that bears highlighting is his approach to the goals of Hebrew instruction. In his earliest comment on Hebrew, the Oholei Yaakov opened by quoting Maimonides commentary on the Mishna:[24]

And be as careful with a light commandment as with a weighty one, for you know not the reward given for the commandments.

Seeking to identify the “light” and “weighty” commandments, Maimonides gave examples:

One must be careful regarding a commandment that people think of as “light”, such as rejoicing on festivals and learning Lashon HaKodesh, as with a commandment whose weightiness has been expounded such as circumcision and tzitzit and slaughtering the Paschal lamb.

All the commandments mentioned by Maimonides have a clear biblical source bar one: Learning Hebrew. The Oholei Yaakov – following other super-commentaries – cites a possible source[25] which leads him to an interesting conclusion about Maimonides:

That which Maimonides said – “such as learning Lashon HaKodesh” – the meaning of “learning” is in order to speak Lashon HaKodesh.

At first blush, Maimonides never spoke about using Lashon HaKodesh as a spoken language; he may have advocated studying Lashon HaKodesh for entirely different ends.[26] It is the Oholei Yaakov who draws the conclusion – wholly in line with Zionist priorities – that the goal of studying the language is that it should be spoken.

Let me conclude by sharing an anecdote that I imagine sounds familiar to many of our generation: Growing up in Australia, I was urged by my great-grandfather, Jonas Pushett, a native of pre-World War II Warsaw, to study his mother tongue. “You can travel the world on Yiddish,” he would tell me. He would regale me with tales of how he perchanced upon fellow Jews in distant lands – my native Australia being one of those “distant lands” – and was only able to communicate with them in Yiddish, the international language.[27] Today the Jewish landscape is clearly different and the Holy Tongue of Ivrit is the vehicular language of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Thanks to my father, Hersh Cooper, who with much enthusiasm first brought the Oholei Yaakov to my attention.

I would also like to acknowledge the students of my biweekly chassidus class 2007/8 in the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem. Together we dedicated the year of study to the writings of Rabbi Yaakov Freidman and while preparing for class I discovered the passages presented herein.

[1] For the relationship between the hasidic movement and the Land of Israel and later the nascent State, a good starting point is the collections of essays in הרב ד”ר שמעון פדרבוש (עורך), החסידות וציון, ירושלים תשכ”ג (herein: “Federbush, Hassidut”). A most significant study of hasidic responses to Zionism appears to be: יצחק אלפסי, החסידות ושיבת ציון, תל-אביב תשמ”א.

[2] Biographic material on Rabbi Yaakov Friedman (and indeed on the entire Husiatyn branch of the Ruzhin dynasty) is incomplete and primarily exists of encyclopedia entries. On Rabbi Yaakov see Yitzhak Goldshlag’s entries in Yitzhak Alfasi’s encyclopedia: אנציקלופדיה של הציונות הדתית, ירושלים תשל”ב, חלק רביעי, עמ’ 420-423 ואנציקלופדיה לחסידות – אישים, ירושלים תשס”א, עמ’ רמד-רמו (herein: “Goldshlag, Tziyonut” and “Goldshlag, Hassidut”). See also Alfasi’s recent entry in his תורת החסידות – תולדות, דברי תורה והגות, כרך ראשון: ירושלים תשס”ז, עמ’ 75-76 .

See also: מאיר צבי גרוזמן, אמרו צדיק – קובץ סיפורי מופת על אדמו”רי בית הוסיאטין, רמת-גן תשס”ו 2006 this collection offers wonder stories of the leaders of the Husiatyn dynasty. A brief biography of Rabbi Yaakov is offered on pp. 312-314 followed by four tales (pp. 315-333). A significant contribution to understanding Rabbi Yaakov’s thought has been made by Rabbi Dr Yehuda Brandes whose father grew up in Husiatyn. Brandes published an article and later an accessible survey of Rabbi Yaakov’s roots, history and thought as reflected in his writings: יהודה ברנדס, “‘אהלי יעקב’ – דרשה חסידית עם הקמת המדינה”, בתוך: שמחה רז (עורך), קובץ הציונות הדתית – מוקדש לכבודו של ד”ר זרח ורהפטיג, ירושלים תשס”ב, עמ’ 623-631; יהודה ברנדס, במלכות הקדוּשה: ביקור בהיכלו של האדמו”ר מהוסיאטין – אדמו”ר ציוני בתל אביב, אלון שבות תשס”ו (herein: “Brandes, Husiatyn”). See there footnotes 4 and 8 for additional references.

Most recently in 2007, in commemoration of 50 years since Rabbi Yaakov’s passing, a 24 page booklet was published in Tel Aviv, with the title: אדמו”ר הקדוש והטהור רבי יעקב מהוסיאטין זיע”א – תולדות, אמרי קודש, שיחות, אגרות וסיפורים לזכרו. במלאות חמישים שנה להסתלקותו. י”ח במרחשון תשי”ז – תשס”ז. For the English reader, two volumes that contain histories of the Ruzhin hasidic dynasties, relate, inter alia, to Husiatyn and Rabbi Yaakov: Yisroel Friedman, The Golden Dynasty, Jerusalem 1997, pp. 224-242; Menachem Brayer, The House of Rizhin – Chassidus and the Rizhiner Dynasty, preview edition 2003, first edition 2008, pp. 419-426. Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. Ruzhin, Israel, vol. 14, pp. 531-532 outlines the lineage and Tzvi M. Rabinowicz (editor), The Encyclopedia of Hasidism, New Jersey and London 1996 (herein: “Rabinowicz, Encylopedia”), p. 139 gives a concise biographical sketch.

[3] This work is a collection of Rabbi Yaakov’s notes from discourses he presented after his arrival in the Land of Israel in 1937. We have no record of his talks prior to his arrival in the British Mandate of Palestine.

This work was first published posthumously in 1968 and again in 1984 with corrections and an index. A second volume of Oholei Yaakov was also printed in 1997. A new edition of the first volume was recently reprinted in 2006. Despite being recently reprinted, the first volume is unfortunately not widely available. The second volume – which is currently unavailable – includes discourses from Rabbi Yaakov’s son and successor under the title Siaḥ Yitzḥak. Recently more material from Rabbi Yitzḥak has come to light and the publication of a more complete volume of Siaḥ Yitzḥak is planned (communication from Rabbi Yaakov Schreiber of Jerusalem, publisher of the latest edition and son of the publisher of the previous editions, June 2008). The writings of the Oholei Yaakov have yet to be rendered in English; all translation presented herein are my own.

[4] See Federbush, Hassidut, pp. 227-229 on the Zionist activity of Rabbi Yisrael Friedman and of his son-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov (the entire chapter in Federbush’s collection was penned by the aforementioned Rabbi Dr Menachem Brayer (d. 2007) son-in-law of the previous Boyaner rebbe and father of the current Boyaner rebbe. In this article he explores the attitudes towards Zionism of scions from the Ruzhin dynasty); Goldshlag, Tziyonut, p. 421-423; As the title to Brandes’ volume implies, a central theme of his work is highlighting the Zionism of the Oholei Yaakov.

[5] The Oholei Yaakov uses the Hebrew term הוראת שעה which has a legal connotation of a temporary regulation that is contra to normative law; see, for instance in the writings of Maimonides (רמב”ם, הלכות סנהדרין כד, ד), and similarly (רמב”ם, הלכות ממרים ב, ד).

[6] For example: Rabbi Levi Yitzḥak of Berdychiv wrote (קדושת לוי, פ’ דברים א, ה):

“כי הלשון של כל האומות הוא החיות מן האומה ולשון הקודש הוא של ישראל לבד”

[7] This statement appears in his commentary to the Torah (חיים ושלום, פ’ ויגש מה, יב) which is peppered with vehement accusations against all form of Jewish political organization, in particular Zionism.

[8] The Munkatcher Rebbe recorded a dream from the night of 9th Shevat 5683 (January 25th-26th, 1923) in which he received an insight into the mystical pedigree of Lashon HaKodesh as opposed to [Aramaic] translation (דברי תורה, מהדורא תניינא, אות סב):

[9] The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel refers to “the revival of the Hebrew language” as one of the events in the chain of national reawakening and return to the Land of Israel. The prominence given by the Zionist movement to the Hebrew language was enshrined in the first statute enacted after the establishment of the State of Israel that repealed any law that required the use of the English language (Law and Administration Ordinance of 1948, Section 15(b)).

[10] This is akin to employing expressions of pre-Zionist yearnings for a return to the Holy Land in rhetoric relating to the modern Zionist endeavor; a topic that is beyond the scope of this paper.

[11] This letter has been published in two places: יהושע מונדשיין, מגדל עֹז, כפר חב”ד תש”מ, עמ’ טז-כב and from there in: אגרות קודש מאת כ”ק אדמו”ר מוהרש”ב נ”ע, ברוקלין תשמ”ב, אגרת תנט, עמ’ תתטז-תתכד (herein: “Rashab, Letters”). The letter was penned in the final years of the Rashab’s life around 1916. The Rashab was a strong opponent of Zionism and from the end of the letter, it is clear that in his mind the two issues – Zionism and the use of Hebrew as a spoken language – were inseparable.

[12] Meaning crossed over, transgressed or referring to the past. Ivri or the feminine form Ivrit is the adjective of the noun Avar.

[13] In a letter dated 20th Tammuz 5677 (July 10th 1917), the limits of the use of Lashon HaKodesh according to the Rashab are clarified (Rashab, Letters, letter 482, pp. 853-854):

“לפ”ד אין זה נכון מה שעושים הפרוגראמא בל’ רוסי’ והי’ צ”ל הכל בלה”ק ויהי’ גם העתקה רוסית. וכבודו יבין שאין כוונתי ח”ו משום שפת האומה, וכמו שדורשים בזה הדרשנים. רק מפני שכל עניני אחינו היראים צריכים להיות נכתבים בלה”ק, וכמו שאנו כותבים מכתבים בלה”ק ולא בל’ אחר

During Pesah 1943 – only a few years after the Oholei Yaakov’s statements – the Rashab’s son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950) offered a harsh formulation that echoed his father’s position on both Zionism and the use of Hebrew.

A unpredictable aspect of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s position is that he lauded the introduction of new words that were not of taken from Jewish sources, expressing the hope that the new language would one day contain no words from Lashon HaKodesh.

Interestingly, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s statements were recorded in the original Yiddish, though they was later made available in Lashon HaKodesh (ר’ יוסף יצחק שניאורסאהן, לקוטי דבורים, ברוקלין תשנ”ב, בימי חג הפסח ה’תש”ג, סדר שני, אות לג, עמ’ תיט-תכ; ר’ אברהם חנוך גליצנשטיין (מתרגם), ליקוטי דיבורים – שיחות קודש של כ”ק אדמו”ר רבי יוסף יצחק נ”ע שניאורסאהן מליובאוויטש, כפר חב”ד תש”נ, עמ’ 594-595).

I was unable to find similar statements in the writings of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s prolific son-in-law and successor as leader of the Lubavitch Hasidim, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994). In a letter from 1953 Rabbi Menachem Mendel advised against changing the language of instruction from Yiddish (אגרות קודש, כרך ח, עמ’ כז). Approximately one year later he also spoke out against the method known as Ivrit BeIvrit, primarily on educational grounds, although he mentioned the non-Traditional roots of the method (אגרות קודש, כרך י, עמ’ כט).

[14] Rabbi Yaakov himself was a renowned orator who spoke a number of languages (Goldshlag, Tziyonut, p.421 and Goldshalg, Hassidut, p. 255; Brandes, Husiatyn, note 2). His discourses were delivered in Yiddish, though as per accepted custom he wrote his notes for posterity in Hebrew (on writing in Hebrew see also below footnote 11).

[15] This talk was originally delivered and transcribed in 1939 when the Oholei Yaakov’s father-in-law and predecessor as Husiatyn Rebbe was still alive. Later when it was printed the original text – שליט”א – was retained and the appropriate appendage for the deceased righteous – זצ”ל – added in brackets.

[16] This appears bracketed in the original text and like other bracketed words may have been added later (see above note 15). If this assumption is correct, it would appear that the name of the synagogue was added later since Rabbi Yisrael was lauding its efforts.

[17] This honorific – כבוד קדושתו – is used to denote a leader of a hasidic court.

[18] The comparison with Sarah Schenirer is fascinating for she, like Rabbi Yaakov, spent time in Vienna during World War I. Like Rabbi Yaakov, her time in Vienna was formative: In her memoirs, Sarah Schenirer recounted how she was inspired to her calling while in Vienna. At that same time in Vienna, Rabbi Yaakov was becoming active in Zionist causes.

For more on Sarah Schenirer generally, see my earlier article: “The Rightful Heirs of Sarah Schenirer”, Jewish Educational Leadership, Vol. 6:3, Spring 2008, pp. 58-63; particularly footnote 9 – Sarah Schenirer’s memoirs regarding her time in Vienna, and footnote 25 – the issue of language of instruction.

[19] Yalkut Shimoni, Haazinu, section 1046; Isaiah, section 439. Slightly different versions of this statement appear in earlier sources: Y. Shabbat 3c, 1:3; Y. Shekalim 47c, 3:4. These earlier sources contain a fourth element, which is not relevant to our current discussion – scrupulously eating even unconsecrated food in a state of ritual purity.

[20] The twice daily reading of shema is considered a declaration of acceptance of the Almighty’s singular dominion.

[21] This is a paraphrase from the prayers recited before the morning shema describing the angels’ conduct before the Almighty: “וְכֻלָּם מְקַבְּלִים עֲלֵיהֶם עֹל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם זֶה מִזֶּה”.

[22] Other commentators understood the three to be linked by a common factor, not as three sterling values. See, for instance, the commentary Berit Avraham to Yalkut Shimoni, Haazinu, section 1046:

[23] Rabbi Meir’s statement enumerates three (or four, see above note 19) items that serve as passes to the world to come. The Oholei Yaakov reads the statement as presenting three values that despite an internal hierarchy reflect a triumvirate of values.

[24] M. Avot 1:2. Maimonides, Commentary to the Mishna, loc. cit.

[25] Sifrei, Eikev 46 (11:19):

… כשהתינוק מתחיל לדבר, אביו מדבר עמו בלשון הקודש ומלמדו תורה …

The Oholei Yaakov quotes a slightly different version.

[26] Thus, for instance, a common approach was that passages advocating learning Lashon HaKodesh were talking about for the purpose of studying Torah, not for speaking. In the hasidic milieu, this position was voiced by the Rashab (Rashab, Letters, p. 483; 821-822) and later by Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum (1888-1979) the Satmar rebbe (ויואל משה, מאמר לשון הקודש, סימן א).

[27] A popular quip describes the Esperanto conferences of the late 19th century. The first session of the conference would be dedicated to the importance of an international language that defied borders. The second session would deal with the success in disseminating the new language. In that vein the day would continue, until the lunch break when the participants would gather to eat and chat in the real international language, Yiddish!

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