Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman: Was Hebrew the first language?


update:Guest post: YD Rosenberg Translation added November 13, 2013
 

“Therefore, [t]he[y] called its name Bavel, for there Hashem confused the language of the entire earth, and from there Hashem scattered them upon the face of the entire earth.”
Genesis 11:9

קָרָא [lit.] he called” means “they would call its name 'Babel'”  *(See Radak for similar peirush.)
שְׁמָהּ “its name” – i.e. the name of the city.
בָּבֶל – [to be understood as] מבלבל - confused. [i.e. With an added מ and ל] like the word קיקלון = מקלקלון in Chabakuk 2:16.
וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם “and from there He scattered them”.  This was an outcome of “there He confused”.
   
[i.e. This 'scattering' was an outcome of the mixing-up of languages related in the verse.]
The coming into being of different languages, then, was not an occurrence caused by an incidental "going of separate ways" of the people. Rather, it was an act of Heavenly Divine Providence that brought about this dispersion, which in turn bought in its wake the formation of different languages.

Now, Scripture is not relating to us the nature of the first language, i.e. the most ancient one to ever exist. The Authors of the Aggadah, however, do [express a definite view on this subject] in Br. R. 18:4, and maintain that this original language was L’shon HaKodesh

Yet, even if the modern researchers of linguistics maintain that this first language was a different one, we shall take no issue with it.

Furthermore, as a related point, even if the Babylonians would have constructed the name of their city from the words 'BaB' & 'BaL', or 'Beith' & 'BaL', or – according to [the sounds as they are] written – BaB - EL; behold, even then, the Scriptural explanation [that Bavel is named for the jumbling-up of languages] would be justified unequivocally. For so, too, is the name of the city an act of Divine Providence!  — in order that Yisrael remember the confounding of languages that took place there and the Blessed One’s intervention in nature, so as to educate humanity and save them for the future.
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Someone directed me to a section [see English translation above] from Rabbi Dovid Zvi Hoffman's commentary to Bereishis 11:9 where he says something along the lines of, "If someone will prove that Adom HaRishon spoke Sumarian, it will not be a problem." 

Here's how I understood his commentary:

Point #1: The formation of the multiplicity of languages comes from Divine providence and not from evolutionary happenstance.
Point #2: The baalei aggadah maintain that the original language was L'shon HaKodesh. Current academia maintains that the original language was something else (e.g. Indo-European), but this is insignificant.
(I understood this to mean that to prove or disprove the identity of the Original Language has no bearing whatsoever on the veracity of the Torah since the Biblical account deals only with the dispersion of languages at Bavel but never says anywhere that L'shon HaKodesh was that original language. My question on this is: Why isn't there a problem of casting aspersions on the baalei aggadah? [Perhaps I partially answered this in the e-mail?])
Point #3: The inhabitants of Bavel didn't necessarily have in mind the Torah's meaning of "Bavel" at the time they named their country. Rather, hashgachoh directed that they would give it this name.
Point #4: Rav Hoffman seems to hold that the mixing-up of language didn't have to be a one-time event or something that was noticeably a result of Divine intervention or retribution. (This point emerges from how he explains points #1 and #3.)
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Comment #1: I noticed one small typo. I put red parentheses around the letter that I think is a mistake —
עַל־כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמָהּ בָּבֶל כִּי־שָׁם בָּלַל יְיָ שְׂפַת כָּל־הָאָרֶץ וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם יְיָ עַל־פְּנֵי כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ:

קָרָא, פירוש היו קוראים. — שְׁמָהּ, כלומר שם העיר. — בָּבֶל מבלבל, כמו "קיקלון" מקלקלון. — וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם. זו היתה התוצאה של " שָׁמ(ה) בָּלַל"....

Comment #2: The following two statements seem to be a contradiction:
א] וּמִשָּׁם הֱפִיצָם. זו היתה התוצאה של " שָׁמ(ה) בָּלַל".
ב] ...אלא מעשה ההשגחה העליונה הוא שהביא לידי התפזרות זו, שבעקבותיה התהוו הלשונות השונות....
Statement א tells us that the dispersion was a result of the confusion of languages; statement ב says that it was the dispersion that brought about a multiplicity of languages. Statement א seems to fit better with the possuk:  כִּי־שָׁם בָּלַלthere the languages were mixed up. (i.e. it did not happen only after they were dispersed, but right there.)
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I know that Rav Hoffman, zt"l, was appealing to a specific audience, but it's definitely a point that the Torah doesn't identify the Original Language. To complicate matters, one opinion in the Yerushalmi holds that all 70 languages were spoken even before the Tower of Babel. Maybe I’ll try to send you more info on that soon. Would you like that?

update for additional information:  "The Holy Tongue and How It Changed the Course of History" by Benjamin Gross, PhD discussed the two approaches in the Rishonim on the issue of the Divinity of L'shon HaKodesh. (Chapter 4 [p. 45] continuing into Chapter 5) e.g. Kuzari, Rambam... Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Tongue-Changed-Course-History/dp/1934440019 

37 comments :

  1. When he says לית לן בה, does he mean we don't care if historians claim that there is an earlier language because we don't need to listen to them, or does he mean it doesn't matter if indeed there is an earlier language?

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    1. It means, we have no part of it and don't care.
      & To Eddie,
      The language at creation was lashon Hakodesh only. Talmud calls Aramaic, Lashon haKodesh meshubeshta = with mistakes. See the the early names along with explanation translation, e.g. Adam min haadama. After the mabul, see Breishis10:5: Me'eleh nifredu iyei hagoyim beartzosom "ish lilshono" lemishpechosom begoyehem, having many other langugages. !n 11:1: Vayhi kol haaretz safah echos, see rashi, Lashon hakodesh for all those dwelling in eretz shinar, then H' mixed up their languages, to various existing languages that is. In the beginning of Breishis, it states many time "Vayhi", utilizing these three letters as an original, not added on by anyone.

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    2. The language of creation may well have been lashon ha-kodesh, but that doesn't mean it's the exact same language as that written in our chumash. Language changes over time. Unlike evolution, that is a cold, hard, provable fact verifiable by direct observation. Chazal say each navi had his own "signon," his own way of talking - dialectal differences. In Neviim itself differences between the tribes' dialects are discussed in the pronunciation of "shibboleth." The languages of Koheles and Esther are VERY different from that of Chumash, as one example. Chazal already noted that the language of the Mishna is VERY different from the language of Mikra. But we call all these dialects lashon ha-kodesh. The Torah was written for the generation of yetzias Mitzrayim. It was written in a language they could understand. Dibra Torah Kilshon Bnei Adam. It was written in their dialect, which is a snapshot in the long history of language change in Lashon HaKodesh. The Torah sometimes preserves more ancient forms of the language when quoting or discussing earlier events. Why is "oholo" spelled with a heh at the end in some places? This is not a kashe on the Torah - just as the Torah is written with different letter combinations for the malachim in shamayim, so too it was put in these specific combinations to be expressed to the generation of the midbar, in their own native dialect. But Adam HaRishon had no necessity of speaking that exact form of the language! How could he?? If you want to understand how much a language could change in 2,448 years, read works written in Old English, which is only 1000-1400 years old. It's unintelligible. What scientists call proto-Semitic, we can justifiably call Adam's Lashon HaKodesh. I could probably think of many reasons why Aramaic is called mishabeshta, including that it didn't have a standard corpus of literature like Hebrew does, leading to even more divergent dialects across much of the Near East. Perhaps Chazal felt it did not preserve the "taam," the nuance, beauty of expression, possibility of erudition, and sanctity of proto-Semitic in the way that Biblical Hebrew did. I don't think it's a strong kashe.

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    3. Migdal babble, before and afterNovember 6, 2013 at 8:16 PM

      See rashi Breishis 2:4: Behibaram, beHeh' baram. Hashem indeed created the world with the lashon kodesh letter 'heh', leaving no more room for the theory of y'h' v' was later added. 'Heh' is a G-d created letter of lashon hakodesh and never changed, as written in our torah, as written by Moshe Rabenu. Indeed, the world was created with the letter heh, as in uvoso klila in Akdomus milin, which gives you an idea that 'heh' existed in prior of creation. It is only the fonts that Ezra standardized to be Ktav Ashurit. The Torah has been written in stone in 70 languages. Mostly our chumoshim are written in square letters for practicality of printing. From my understanding, it so states in Avos, Assara dvarim nivreu berev shabat ... haktav, vehamichtav, vehaluchot..., in Shemot 32:16: vehaluchot maaseh E'lokim hemo vehamichtav michtav E'lokim hu chorus al haluchot, they were all written in one and the same. Furthermore, melamed shehayu metzuyonim sham, it states shelo shinu et shmam veet leshonam...indeed the names are of the same snapshot as of the Avot and in prior. Having said all that, it is unlikely that the luchot should be changed from lashon hakodesh into anything other than the Jewish spoken language, indeed at creation of ktiv and ktav it was at the same time of erev shabat in tandem with the luchot. Looking at the names which give the reason and meaning for it, jives ONLY if both is in lashon hakodesh. Otherwise, everything gets lost in translation. Dialects are still the same language, except for pronunciation and some customization of a certain region. Teimony, Sefardic, Ashkenazi, Israeli dialects are the same mother tongue lashon hakodesh in spite of minute differences using different terms only, they ALLLLLLLLL......... understand each other no matter their place of origin. In the Arabic language of which is Aramaic in origin, they also have many dialects, but still they remain the same. The mishnah and talmud have a mixture of Aramaic, since it was the spoken language in galut bavel. Signon is only style, as from one author and place to another, and that is ingrained in the neviim and ksuvim, outside of Daniel etc., that are all lashon hakodesh. SH-iboleth or SS-iboleth (with shin smoli or as in samach) was a lisping deffect for shevet Binyamin and not a different word at all. Indeed, it is how they verified of which shevet the person of interest might be, it was only a test, emor na shiboleth. The kri and ktiv of words that differ in spelling in some places, chasser and yesser have a masoret, to insert another drush, as yesh em lemasoret, yesh em lamikra, it is halacha leMoshe misinai, not man made. Although English and all other languages do evolve in place and time, since they are derivatives of mixtures and mergers of tounges and conquered nations of other languages having conflicting issues with the grammars of origin, they simply add, subtract, invent, and simplify as they see fit, and rightfully so, as opposed to the Jewish nation, hen am ledad yishkon, uvagoyim lo yischashov, yeshno AM ECHAD mefuzor umforad bein haamim vedasehem shonos mikol am, and that homogenizes the lashon hakodesh all the way from the begining till end of times. Languages consist of words, and the rules of grammar come in after the fact, it is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and must have many exceptions to the rule in order to have rhyme or reason, law and order. Lashon hakodesh is a G-d maketh and G-d giveth language of perfection, with the rules of grammar built in with divine architecture. It is very rich, has compact roots, is like an elastic dough, and having vowels changing nouns into verbs and adjectives as well as tense with the greatest of ease.

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    4. Migdal babble, before and after Part 2November 6, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      Personally, I have been always fascinated with lashon haKodesh, so much to say in so few words, so descriptive and expressive, so beautiful like in no any other language. Look at Shir Hashirim, Mishlei, all the verses, David's kino al yonatan ben Shaul, Shaul ben Kish and on and on and on.That in and of itself is the proof of being the Mother of ALL languages, and misham Bolal kol hasafot.
      Meshubeshta is exactly what it is. If you look in your targum of the words, i.e. of echad, shtayim, shlosha, they are chad, tnan, tlasa, and in Arabic as wachad, tnen, tlata, warbah, chamsa, sita, sibah, tmanye, tisah, ashra, ashrin, talatin... etc. You can figure it out pretty much on your own. What yaakov called GAL ED, Lavan called Yegar Sahaduso, that is in hebrew maagar a pile or reservoir if you will, sahaduso as ED or witness, in talmudic usage, sahadei bamromim. You can see Yiddish as germanic in origin, meshubeshta with vowels changed, local words added, with different dialects for chasidim, misnagdim, and everything in between. And so it goes.

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    5. I got dizzy reading and rereading Migdal babble's (Rabbi I. M. I presume?) response looking for coherence and a well-reasoned argument. I didn't find anything he said to logically contradict what I have posited. I don't have time to address even his arguments which I do understand, but here are some points:

      "Heh existed prior to creation."
      In what sense? Does Hashem have a mouth with which to form His lips into the proper shape and lungs to expel the air to make this sound? Is there a gigantic form of black ink in the shape of a heh in the heavens that somehow contains this world? Or is this midrash explaining a deep metaphysical and theological truth?

      "lo sheenu es leshonam"
      Right... they didn't adopt the Egyptian language. Just like Britons have not en masse adopted any language other than English over the last 400 years. Despite that, it is impossible for a speaker of contemporary English to properly understand Shakespeare's semantics and vocabulary without annotation or special training.

      "Dialects are still the same language, except for pronunciation and some customization of a certain region."

      Dialects and languages are largely political constructs. Mandarin and Cantonese are two totally distinct languages and speakers of one cannot understand speakers of the other. Politically they are unified under the banner of "Chinese" since they are the same ethnicity and it's politically convenient to consider them one language. Hindi and Urdu, on the other hand, are the SAME language and are mutually intelligible, but are written in different scripts and for political reasons considered two separate languages. I could go on. Not all speakers of different Arabic dialects understand each other...

      "yeshno AM ECHAD mefuzor umforad bein haamim vedasehem shonos mikol am, and that homogenizes the lashon hakodesh all the way from the begining till end of times."
      Makes no sense at all.

      "Languages consist of words, and the rules of grammar come in after the fact, it is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and must have many exceptions to the rule in order to have rhyme or reason, law and order. Lashon hakodesh is a G-d maketh and G-d giveth language of perfection, with the rules of grammar built in with divine architecture."
      Are you claiming that lashon ha-kodesh has no exceptions to its rules of grammar? How about the plural of the masculine noun "shulchan"?

      "It is very rich, has compact roots, is like an elastic dough, and having vowels changing nouns into verbs and adjectives as well as tense with the greatest of ease."
      Arabs make the same claim as to why their language is divine.

      I think we are suffering from a stifling literalism here. My contention is that proto-Semitic and Hebrew are the same language in Chazal's definition of language. Migdal is using a very ill-defined concept of the term.

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    6. Part 1 Ben bli shem ben bliyaalNovember 8, 2013 at 3:07 AM


      Wrong on all scores including your presumption I M, unless you meant I am.
      Your dizziness might be one reason why you cannot follow coherent iron arguments, see a Doctor ASAP. Another reason is that you are not familiar with Torah MiSinai, Neviim uKsivim. Sibolet was a giveaway.
      Please do spare your time, do not attempt to address even what you think you understand, because you don't., therefore, there is no point.

      ** "Heh existed prior to creation.

      " Kivyachol has no shape or form, mouth, lungs, see Yud Gimmel Ikrim of the RAMBAM (Maimonides). It something you cannot fathom.
      The Torah was composed many generations before creation. HASHEM gave the asseret HADIBROT AL HAR SINAI to all the Jews, present and future,( without any physical attributions ) of which I suspect you are not one of them. I wouldn't put it past you, that you are not even Jewish. You deny something beferush in Torah. With one big swoop you did away with the 24 Sifrei Kodesh called TANACH. You did away with Avraham Avraham, and all Hashems communications with the Neviim.


      **"lo sheenu es leshonam"

      All names since creation are active today, the same language is active today, even after 6 millenium, unlike British , or any language for that matter. Same applies to Lashon haKodesh. Anyone taught understands lashon hakodesh, anytime, anywhere, forever and ever since dawn. Arabic is a runner up except that its creation as an ofshoot was created with mistaken L. Hakodesh. Yes, most arabs do understand each other, see their conferences spoken language at their summits.
      **"Dialects are still the same language, except for pronunciation and some customization of a certain region."

      Dialects and languages are largely political constructs. See Google dialect:
      Dialect - Merriam-Webster Online
      :that is spoken in a particular area and that uses SOME of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations. I used Dialect in this manner, all within the spoken lashon hakodesh anywhere on the globe since dawn of time.


      **"yeshno AM ECHAD mefuzor umforad bein haamim vedasehem shonos mikol am, and that homogenizes the lashon hakodesh all the way from the beginning till end of times."
      Makes no sense at all. You probably have no clue what it means or entails. They have one G-d, one Torah, one language, and you happen to be not one of them.

      **"Languages consist of words, and the rules of grammar come in after the fact, it is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and must have many exceptions to the rule in order to have rhyme or reason, law and order. Lashon hakodesh is a G-d maketh and G-d giveth language of perfection, with the rules of grammar built in with divine architecture."
      Are you claiming that lashon ha-kodesh has no exceptions to its rules of grammar? How about the plural of the masculine noun "shulchan"?
      All exceptions are also within the rule of grammar in the original package. Everything is halacha lemoshe misinai. Have never seen a MALE table outside their avodah zara, only two tablets, shnei luchot habrit.

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    7. Part 2 Ben bli shem ben bliyaalNovember 8, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      **"It is very rich, has compact roots, is like an elastic dough, and having vowels changing nouns into verbs and adjectives as well as tense with the greatest of ease."
      Arabs make the same claim as to why their language is divine. THEY NEVER HAVE.

      **I think we are suffering from a stifling literalism here. My contention is that proto-Semitic and Hebrew are the same language in Chazal's definition of language. Migdal is using a very ill-defined concept of the term.
      And I think you are suffering from "orange juice for yeshu". Had you not come as a wolf in sheeps clothing, I would have had more respect for you. But I can smell the Apikorsus from here all the way to Denmark.


      In lashon haKodesh if you fathom, tasim et haraglayim al haktafayim vetauf mikaan. In brute British they say, take two eggs, put in your shoes, and BEAT IT. kappish. Pretty please, take your garbage, or as they say in the British dialect RUBBISH, and peddle it elsewhere. Over and out. I don't want to hear from you ever again, not in English nor in any other dialect.

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    8. I protest the repugnant tone and baseless accusations of the aptly named Ben Bliyaal who has attacked me. I challenge any intelligent reader to find one word of apikorsus in what I wrote.

      "Sibolet was a giveaway." As if my pshat in the posuk makes less sense than yours. You contend that the entire shevet had a lisp? give me a break. Just like we know that in Medieval France and 19th century Lithuania the "shin" was pronounced like an "s", because of the dialect, not because they had collective lisps, it was the same thing in that time.

      "Kivyachol has no shape or form, mouth, lungs, see Yud Gimmel Ikrim of the RAMBAM (Maimonides). It something you cannot fathom. "
      Ben Bliyaal was not aware that I was making a rhetorical point with sarcasm. Let me put it simpler: "G-d doesn't speak with physical words... Duh."

      "I wouldn't put it past you, that you are not even Jewish."
      That's a new one. Never been accused of that before. Guess I better ditch this black hat.

      "You deny something beferush in Torah. With one big swoop you did away with the 24 Sifrei Kodesh called TANACH."
      Where did I do this?

      " "Arabs make the same claim as to why their language is divine." THEY NEVER HAVE."
      From the Yemen Observer (http://www.mafhoum.com/press8/249C34.htm):

      If any Arya or other opponent is not convinced by our research, we wish to inform him by means of this announcement that we have set out in detail the reasons in support of the superiority, perfection and excellence of Arabic which fall under the following heads:
      1. The perfect pattern of the roots of Arabic words.
      2. Arabic possesses an extraordinarily high degree of intellectual connotations.
      3. The system of elementary words in Arabic is most complete and perfect.
      4. In Arabic idiom a few words convey extensive meanings.
      5. Arabic has the full capacity for the exposition of all human feelings and thoughts.

      Now everyone is at liberty after mentioning these reasons to try, if possible, to prove these qualities in Sanskrit or any other language.
      In order to clear this more is to take a neutral look into the Holy Quran.The Holy Quran is such a brilliant ruby and a glorious sun that the rays of its truth and the flashes that indicate its Divine origin are being manifested not only in one aspect but in thousands of them.

      End quote, afra lefumeih (the arab), I was just making a point.

      "In lashon haKodesh if you fathom, tasim et haraglayim al haktafayim vetauf mikaan."
      כל הקיצונים שבעולם לא יכולים להשתיק אותי. אבל לאידך ודאי לית הכא אתריה ומוטב ליה השתיקה מן הדיבור וכמאמרו דר' שמעון בנו של רבן גמליאל עיין אבות פרק א' בסוף

      With that, I think I'll now excuse myself from further "discussion."

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    9. Update: Amazingly, the Radak (Shoftim 12:6) says befeirush like I said, down to the example of Frenchmen! Wow. (Maybe years ago I saw this and it was in my subconscious?) However, since Rashi's peirush could be read to mean something like what Ben Bliyaal is saying, I will retract my statement, "Give me a break." That is all.

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  2. As far as Eretz Yisrael is concerned, the language that the Canaanites, Hitties, Phonecians spoke, and wrote, was proto- or paleo_Hebrew. An academic who has written on the history of Hebrew language, makes a very interesting hiddush. Dr Joel Hoffman, says that the Hebrews, or Israelites added 3 vowels to the existing alphabet, these are upper case not niqqud. The letters were: Yod; Heh; and Vav.
    This is quite amazing, since the Tetragrammaton is written with these letters, with the Heh being used twice.

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    1. Very very shvach. He offered no evidence that the Israelites innovated matres lectiones.

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  3. You mean Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman right?
    Any chance you will take a stab at a translation?

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  4. Raffi, I have seen this peirush before it was posted here, and I've had the exact same question for the past year or so. My inclination is that he means the second option.

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  5. This would beg the question on how the Torah itself would define what a language is halachicly. Were there any defined grammarical parameters at Har Sinai?

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    1. Dvarim haporchim beavirNovember 6, 2013 at 12:32 AM

      The Torah defines a language by the ability to communicate with. Even a wink is considered a language, as any sign language. Hen Tzedek, as in hinhen berosho, koretz ayin etc. It was also one of the causes how the choma of Jerushalayim fell, by the Greeks using sign language, of which brought on issur of lilmod chochma yevanit. It is only dvarim shebelev einan dvarim, since ein adam yodea ma sheblev chavero.

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    2. Bartleykulp

      Very good question. Your question has many hallachic consequences, such as what type of tefila and krias hatorah is acceptable... Even more importantly - which type of נדר is valid?

      See:
      מנחת יצחק ח"ד ס' מ"ז-ג, ואגרת משה ח"ג ס"ה והליכת שלמה בשם הג"ר שלמה זלמן אויערבאך זצ"ל בפ"א ס"ו ופ"ה סכ"ב.

      Basically, they say that any dialect widely accepted is considered language, This is based on a Ran in Nedarim Daf 2a that הסכמת אומה ואומה is what gives any language is legal standing.

      Here's the Ran:
      ואפי' לר''ל נמי דאמר שהם לשון שבדו להם חכמים הרי הם ג''כ כנדר גמור מדאורייתא שהרי כל הלשונות אינן אלא הסכמת אומה ואומה ולא גרעה הסכמת חכמים ז''ל מהסכמתם הלכך הוו להו מדאורייתא.

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    3. Notwithstanding what I wrote in an earlier post - that any widely accepted dialect has a din of "language" - there is still a disagreement in the achronim concerning the exact parameters,

      (Thiis is in או"ח ס' קכ"ח סל"ג ט"ז ס"ק ל', שו"ע הרב סמ"ח, פסקי תשובות סקע'):

      What happens if 1) Most people in a community make certain mistake (ע-א, Shin-Sin, etc.) but not ALL - is that mistake acceptable?

      2) A certain person is davening in a community that speaks a different dialect, for example a Sefardi in an Ashkenazi congregation or visa versa.

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    4. In the Torah itself, there are many different ways of expressions that sound foreign to the rest of Torah. Mostly they are poetic. The Brachot of Yaakov avinu to his chlidren, the Az yashir Moshe, segments in Parshat balak, brachot of Moshe rabenu to Bnei Yisrael, vezot habracha, Shirat Devorah hanviah, of which TANACh is full of. They are even more condensed, compressed, and zip coded, like none other. It is more beautiful than anything you might find in nature. It is pure Divine.

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  6. He wasn't "appealing to a specific audience." He WAS the audience. He was one of the leading Wissenschaft scholars of the 19th - 20th century. And a traditional rav and poseik.

    Ibn Ezra also writes that language is created by man. And the gemara doesn't conclude if Hebrew or Aramaic was the original language. This isn't a dogma.

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    1. May I suggest that, in fact, we agree regarding Rav Hoffman’s view? i.e. I also think he believes exactly as he writes -- that it would not pose a problem to Torah if research would indicate that a different language was the first. In other words, I didn’t mean to exclude him from ‘the audience’! Rather, I meant that, quite likely, Rav Hoffman would not have found it necessary to say this if he were addressing an audience that had unshaken, steadfast emunah in divrei Chazal.
      2 questions for you: The Ibn Ezra to which you referred – Do mean the Ibn Ezra on this possuk? I see where he says that each nation may have ‘made up its own language’ at the time of the Dispersion as a result of the hatred between them, but (a) he doesn’t say that this applies to the ‘first language’ and (b) he does mention a ‘first language’ there.
      Secondly, you wrote that the ‘gemara doesn’t conclude if Hebrew or Aramaic is the original language.’ I don’t think the Gemara comes to a conclusion because I don’t think it discusses it. However, I would be happy to know if I am wrong. Do you mean the Gemara in Sanhedrin 38b which states that Adam HaRishon spoke in Aramaic? Even the meforshim who hold that he only spoke Aramaic explain that he just didn’t have access to it, but that it did exist in Shomayim and was spoken by the malachim. Or did you mean the machlokes in the Gemara as to whether the Torah was given in L’shon HaKodesh or in every language? (e.g. Bruchos 13a, Megillah 17b) This is also not discussing the original language (see Rashi & Tosefos there), so I’m not quite sure what you mean.

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  7. The Tanchuma (Noach 19) maintains that the first language was לשון הקדש and indeed that this was the language with which the world was created:

    שהלשון הראשון היו מדברים בלשון הקדש ובו בלשון נברא העולם

    Interestingly, however, elsewhere (Devarim 2) the Tanchuma assumes the existence of 70 languages already in the time of אדם הראשון:

    והרי אדם הראשון שלא למדו בריה, מנין היה יודע שבעים לשון? שנאמר: ויקרא להם שמות (בר' ב כ). שם לכל הבהמה אין כתיב כאן, אלא שמות

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    1. The Tanchuma also says that Anshei Knesses Hagedola changed words in the Torah. So whatever your explanation of that, you can't bring absolute proof of a theological obligation from there.

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    2. Come again? I wasn't (consciously) trying to bring any time of proof, absolute or otherwise, for a "theological obligation" (though we could have a theological discussion about whether "theological obligation" is a tautology!)

      Perhaps what you mean is that I was trying to adduce proof for a FACT (the existence of 70 languages before דור הפלגה) from a work of Chazal, and religious Jews are obligated to believe Chazal - so I am in effect bringing proof for an obligation. OK.

      Against this you counter that nobody can prove ANYTHING with conviction from the Tanchuma, because elsewhere it makes a statement which it is difficult to take literally, and must therefore be interpreted in a non-literal sense. If so, here also there may be a different explanation of what the Tanchuma means.

      Am I understanding you?

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    3. This is an example of me writing a comment without putting in the proper thought first. My mistake. I think all I meant to say was that the Tanchuma's statement that LHK was the first language does not necessarily have to be taken as "authoritative" or literal. Maybe the AKHG was a little bit of a non sequitur. But it reinforces the notion that not every statement in midrashim can be taken as authoritative and/or at face value.

      "MUST ...be interpreted in a non-literal sense." No.
      "there MAY be a different explanation" Yes.

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    4. To 'Monseyite': You mentioned that Medrash Tanchuma says AKH"G changed words in the Torah. Where is it? I'd like to look it up. Thanks.

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    5. i think it is beshalach

      http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=44272&st=&pgnum=62

      http://seforim.blogspot.co.uk/2007/07/marc-b-shapiro-response-to-rabbi-zev.html

      . I quoted sources that indicate that the notion of tikkun soferim is to be taken literally. Among these sources are Midrash Tanhuma and Yalkut ha-Makhiri (as well as the Arukh and a number of other texts which R. Leff does not mention, leaving the reader with the wrong impression).

      He writes: “What Dr. Shapiro fails to mention is that those portions of the Tanchuma and Yalkut are not found in most early editions.” Let’s assume that this is correct (although to prove this one would need to actually examine the manuscripts, not simply refer to two apologetic comments found in the standard rabbinic commentary to Tanhuma). This would make perfect sense, as later copyists would be inclined to leave out that which they regarded as controversial or even heretical. What then does this prove?

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  8. Veda ma shetashuv leapikorus : AlefNovember 8, 2013 at 7:54 PM


    *I challenge any intelligent reader to find one word of "apikorsus" in what I wrote.

    Breishis 1:3: "Vayomer elokim", "Vayhi or", which language is it if not lashon haKodesh, and was this before the birth of theJewish nation? What means Vayomer? that is in reference to H' speaking and letters Yud, Heh, Vav.
    Do you believe in pshat of rashi in chumash, or anywhere in Tanach for that matter, then see in same Rashi :6 mageres hkb"h, 22:1:" Vayomer elav Avraham, vayomer hineni", Shmot :20:1 Vaydeber Elokim, :20: vechol haam, 16:veal yedaber imanu elokim pen namut, 19:min hashamayim dibarti imachem, 24:4: vayichtov moshe, :7: vayomru kol asher diber H' naasse venishma. Dvarim :4:33: hashama am elokim medaber mitoch haesh kasfer "shamaata" ata vayechi", 5:4: Panim befanim diber H' bahar mitoch haesh, just for intro. Did Hashem not speak, and speak in lashon hakodesh, and Moshe wrote it as G-d giveth? Didn't Hashem call Avraham and Avraham replied hineni? Hashem pronounced Yud, Heh and vav the same way and manner as ALL the other letters of the alef bet, and that is exactly where Alphabet stems from. Breishis 3:23: lezot yikore isha ki meis lukacha zot see Rashi,"
    mikan shenivra haolam b-e-l-a-s-h-o-n kodesh, don't you see the letters yud and heh, huh? what about the numerous names in lashon hakodesh before the Jews became a nation? If after all this it isn't divrei bela, then I don't know what is.

    Furthermore:
    It so states in Breishis no less than three separate and distinct times after the Dor hamabul and in prior of Dor haflagah,
    1) for bnei YEFETH 10:5: ish lilshono lemishpechotam begoyehem.
    2) for bnei CHAM 10:20: lemishpechotam lilshonotam beartzotam begoyehem.
    3) for bnei SHEM 10:31 lemishpechotam lilshonotam beartzotam legoyehem.
    10:32: umele nifredu hagoyim baaretz achar hamabul. So there you have it. Numerous languages even before Dor Haflaga.
    11:1: Vayhi kol haaretz safa echot udvarim achadim, if you believe in Rashi, he states safa echat - lashon haKodesh. In order to reconcile the many languages of many families, only later to say one and to be Lashon haKodesh, Lashon haKodesh was a universal mother tounge and a root language for all those that gathered in that region for the same idea, in addition to their derived spoken language as individual groups. Hashem had them forget lashon hakodesh, and whatever remained from previous, was mixed up so, that they couldn't understand each other. Similar, like we can't understand each other, in spite of same English, Dialect and all!
    And there you have your Apikorsus galore.

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  9. Veda ma shetashuv leapikorus : BetNovember 8, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    *"Sibolet was a giveaway."

    For their life of them in order to save their own skin, they were UNABLE to pronounce the shin correctly, it states befeirush in Shoftim :12:6: "vayomru lo emor na SHiboleth vayomer "SSSibolet VELO YOCHIN LEDABER KEN", Rashi states shehayu megamgemim bilshonam (LISPING BEL"AAZ), targum - in your so called DIALECT, "velo metaken lemalolo ken". Even if you substitute their differences of pronounciation for your alleged DIALECT,
    1) How in the world would one not save their life to pronounce it in the REQUESTED dialect?
    That is to say, hachayim vehamavet beyad halashon.
    2) Even if granted whatever the reason be, that is yet a far cry calling it a whole different language.
    The same give away they slipped on, so did you. Did you ever learn in a YESHIVA, that is an ortho outside of YU? Are you by any chance a Priest with a black hat? huh? Duh...

    *I was making a rhetorical point with sarcasm. Let me put it simpler: "G-d doesn't speak with physical words... Duh."

    Let me put it to you in your so called dialect, see as in the above, 22:1:" Vayomer elav Avraham, vayomer hineni" etc. etc. etc. and many many more. Vekoroso et shmo Yitzchak, rashi al shem yitzchok, no matter how you slice it, the name together with the meaning is intertwined in LASHON HAKODESH.The communication in whichever way it was conveyed, it was confirmed, understood, and responded to as in "hineni", of which lashon haKodesh is in its purest form. And that same lashon haKodesh applies, all the way from adam min hadaama, down to the Avot Av lehamon goyim, To Moshe rabenu, to yetziat mitzrayim, to har Sinai, Yehoshua, Zkenim, Neviim, Anshei Kneset haGdolah, Bizman Habayit and after, ad hayom hazeh. It is the same language spoken and understood by teimonim, Sfardim, Ashkenazim, no matter their country of origin, miyom briat haolam ad hayom haze, veAchrit hayamim. This is a fact writen in stone, in blood sweat and tears, fire and whatnot. Short of this, is kofer beikar, divrei bela, apikorsus and hevel havalim, as well as "DUH", the spoken dialect after migdal blah blah babble.

    * "Arabs make the same claim as to why their language is divine."

    I would grant you that, and stand corrected, only to add, that all their claims is only because it is a derivative of the original lashon haKodesh as already said, it is meshubeshta at best, but not yet even close. The proof is in the pudding. Look in the chumash, count the words and letters of any pasuk, then do the same for Targum Unkeles, it will never count less, mostly more, and much more verbose. It is only a crooked and distorted mirror image with much smoke to it. Lashon hakodesh is the Champion in brevity, grammar, original in all its glamour and beauty, often imitated, but never duplicated.
    Anyone trying to differ, Afra lepumei.
    עיין אבות
    Vedah ma shetashuv, I am still not convinced that you are of Jewish origin. You sound more like of the Gilgamesh type of thing, versed in Aramaic, some of them claiming to be in or from Israel, but definitley don't believe in Torat Moshe Misinai as we know it. Not even worth a Shiboleth as in the English dialect. And please your honour, you are excused from any further discussion, I did refute any and all of your answers with an answer And a question or two, and I shall not hold my breath. veshalom al YISRAEL

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  10. As to Rafi's original question "does he mean we don't care... or does he mean it doesn't matter if indeed there is an earlier language"?

    I believe that according to the מהריץ חיות the latter explanation is correct.

    See the אמרי בינה סימן א' מהרי"ץ חיות (available for free download at hebrewbooks),
    He deals at length with the issue of אין למידין מן האגדות, and with tremendous בקיאות arrives at the resolution that we CAN NEVER BE SURE ABOUT THE VERACITY OF AGGADA, since אגדות were transcribed in writing already from the time of רבינו הקדוש so that until the time of the מסדרי הגמרא there were many transcription errors and in addition many were lost, SO WE NEVER KNOW FOR SURE IF THE VERSION WE HAVE IS CORRECT.

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  11. Migdal babel wrote about Loshon Kodesh: " It is very rich, has compact roots, is like an elastic dough, ". Some other posters here have questioned the statement.

    The שיח יצחק (who was the the older brother and Rebbe of the Taz), says pretty much the same in the פתיחה to his Sefer:

    ברור וידוע שלשון הקדש הוא המסודר ויותר קצר וכולל מכל הלשונות אומר מעט ועושה הרבה, בעבור שהוא מקושר באור העליון אשר הוא הולך ומתרחב וניתוסף באופן שאור היותר עליון הוא יותר כולל מהאור המסובב ממנו כידוע למשכילים

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    1. I, for one, did not question or deny that statement, however poorly-formed it was grammatically. I simply pointed out that it's not a rigorous logical argument for either the antiquity or divinity of loshon ha-kodesh, since Arabic is purported to share those very same qualities. I do believe LHK is superior to other languages, because it is the language in which G-d chose to communicate with man. That still does not constitute absolute proof that as it is in its present form it was the original language, nor is it a proof that we are chayyav to believe that (which was R' DZ Hoffman's point).

      I would also point out that, if I recall correctly, R. Yehuda haLevi in the Cuzari said that Arabic is a superior language to write poetry in, but that is not the judge of the superiority of the language as a whole. (He also said there is much of LHK which has been forgotten and lost to us which made it a much more complete and perfect language.)

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  12. "1) How in the world would one not save their life to pronounce it in the REQUESTED dialect?"

    Most speakers of one language from birth cannot 'for the life of them' pronounce foreign sounds without much training. I have witnessed Americans who have studied French for years unable to pronounce the French 'u'. Cambodian words differ in meaning whether you pronounce your 'b' at the beginning of a word aspirated or not, which Americans cannot do. Studies have shown that Americans cannot even hear the difference between a Chinese aspirated and non-aspirated 's'. Etc.

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    1. And THAT is exactly my point. Had shevet Binyamin's pronounciation been because it is of a different dialect, klomar, a different language, they were not in seclusion so as not to hear it pronounced like the rest of the shvatim. How else did they execute dinei nefoshos without a siman muvhak. And I have seen children while growing up acquire a vast amount of languages with greatest of ease, why would shevet Binyamin be any different than the other shivtei Yisrael. They had the same Torah, said the same tfilot, the same nation, the same country, why would it be foreign to them?

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  13. Al ken koro shma, refers to hashem, how else were they able to use their previous language. It was after the facts that hashem already bolall. Having acquired new mixed up languages, the new languages spread along their trails. vezehu haikar

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  14. Ata stam mebalbel bamoach. There is no contradiction of any kind. It is as smooth as baby's skin. Just stop twisting like a pretzel and follow the psukim in a straight order. Safah echat udvarim achadim, one language one idea to offset H' from dispersing them. HASHEM said, #1 let's mix up their language so they cannot communicate with each other, note the mixing of the unified language was a direct act of H',


    #2 following that H' dispersed them, the intent and dispersion of - was a direct act of Hashem and not an evolved as a consequence -

    AND in that order. If you notice, all this is Hashem speaking, and therefore called her name bavel, since H' mixed their languages (first) into various languages, consequently HASHEM dispersed them all over (second). RASHI explains that the mixing of language caused chaos and when one asked for brick he handed over mortar, thereby killing him. That tells you, that the miscommunications was before the event of dispersion and not a result of. If it sounds somewhat redundant, I followed the psukim, first intent, then the execution of. Veze kol hatorah kula. That was easy.

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