Saturday, August 15, 2009

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Hebrew

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

These questions come from a weekly class of nine-year-old Jewish boys in Australia.

Question:

What is the origin of the Hebrew language? Did Adam speak Hebrew with Chava (Eve)? At what point was the Hebrew alphabet created?

Answer:

Your questions are actually very deep questions. The Torah records a number of conversations in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Chava spoke, the Serpent spoke, and G-d spoke to all three of them. So obviously, there had to be a common language.

The source and history of this language goes back even earlier than the Garden of Eden. Before G-d first created the universe, there was nothing physical existing for Him to make the creation out of. This means that not only is the entire creation made out of nothing, but also that G-d continually creates the creation, or else it would revert back to what it was before it first began, i.e. nothing! The underlying substance that He created (and creates) it out of is the same underlying substance that it is being made of today.

What is this most basic building material that G-d uses to make His creation? Look at the beginning of the Torah and see. Genesis 1:3 tells us that when G-d created the universe, He did so with words. He said, “Let there be … .” and with these words the creation came into being. So we see that the universe is actually being made out of words, and words are made out of letters.

This also means that when we look at an object, we only see its physical exterior. Just like a physical microscope can show us that all matter is actually made of molecules, atoms, and so on, so too, a “spiritual microscope” could show us that all matter is actually being made out of the letters of G-d’s words.

But it is even more amazing that the history of language goes back still further. The Zohar tells us that before G-d created the universe He created the Torah. Then, when He chose to create the universe, He looked into the Torah, and created the physical creation through the Torah.

As we all know, the Torah is written in Hebrew. This is the source of the Hebrew language. Even today, the letters of the Torah are the underlying, fundamental building blocks of all creation.

8 comments:

Jesterhead45 said...

Forgive me for being a bit dense here Reb Gutman as while I’ve heard concepts from the above article before in the past, at the same time I personally find the notion that G-d continually creates creation every day otherwise it returns to nothing a bit “limited” then one would expect from an unlimited being that can create anything and everything.

If possible could you explain it to me in a way that I can better digest it? Or perhaps refer me to some sites where I can get a better grasp of it?

Anonymous said...

The above question calls to mind two aspects about the Creator. The fact that the "sound" of His "voice" continues to create daily reveals his deep love for his creation. Since we are created in the image of G-d, it seems that we are at our best when we are constantly active on behalf of others---in the way that He is (for He is continually active and enjoys it in a way we can never fathom). I don't see it limiting at all but a demonstration of His amazing love. Then there is the unique creative character of that "voice" that shapes the honeycomb and splits the egg in the womb. This occurred to me when I placed sand in a pie plate, held it over a guitar and strummed it...the sand takes on distinct geometric shapes.

joshwaxman said...

there is also the gemara in sanhedrin 38b that Adam spoke Aramaic.

kt,
josh

Gutman said...

The concept, that Hashem is continually exerting His words in order to sustain the creation, is well known, and is discussed in many places. Look, for instance, in Shaar Hayichud, Chapter 3. This is a basic teaching in Chassidus, with its source in none other than the Baal Shem Tov, and the Ari. The importance of this teaching is to recognize that Hashem is involved in every detail of creation at all times.

This opposes the belief that Hashem created the creation and then, so to speak, stepped back and allowed it to somewhat run on its own.

The Baal Shem stressed that not even a blade of grass blows in the wind without Hashem doing it.

It is not hard to see the tremendous difference in one's life that these opposing opinions produce. The Chassidic view is that Hashem is right here and totally involved with our daily lives. While the opposing opinion views a world (G-d forbid) without G-d actually being here! Do not be surprised at this statement as a great number of "learned" Jews believe that G-d has created the world, and then withdrew.

This does not limit G-d in any way, as you seem to suggest. In fact, it shows that He is truly unlimited, and is actually doing all.

As for Hebrew being the language that the world was created through, was spoken in the Garden, and in fact, was the spoken language by the entire world until the Tower of Babel, see Rashi on Genesis 11:1. Also, see the ArtScroll commentary on that line where they also mention Mizrachi's statement that the world was created with the Hebrew language.

joshwaxman said...

this contrast between all or nothing, the chassidic view vs. total absence, seems overdrawn.

those who might take issue with the "every blade of grass" approach in all aspects may well include Rambam, Ramban, and Ibn Ezra.

indeed, the differing approaches may yield vastly differences in one's life, but perhaps this is arguing from impact as opposed to truth.

kt,
josh

josh said...

It's like a modern fighter jet or the B2 bomber. Without the computers and electronics to guide it, it would not be able to stay in the air.

As for the Hebrew letter being around at the time of creation. There is one comma missing in this pasuk:

" בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת "הָאָרֶץ.

between et, and hashamayim.

"בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת, הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ."

'In the beginning', God created
1) 'Et' = aleph -> taf (the alphabet from the first letter to the last),
2) the skies,
3) the land.

Sara Rosenbaum said...

I feel that G-d's creating the world with words relates to the tremendous power of words in speech. We can either create or destroy with what we say...

Zvika said...

Linguistically, Aramaic makes much more sense than Hebrew as it is similar to both Hebrew and Arabic. Aramaic also seems to have phonologic and morphologic variations on Hebrew and Arabic that are older and possibly where Hebrew and Arabic (and by extension Hausa and Amharic) derive from. All are part of the same language family.

However, on the other hand, there is Rashi's statement that post-flood, everyone Hebrew through Dor Haflaga, so who knows?

Just something to think about.

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