וַיִּ֩צֶר֩ ה’ אֱ-לֹהִ֜ים מִן הָֽאֲדָמָ֗ה כָּל חַיַּ֤ת הַשָּׂדֶה֙ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיָּבֵא֙ אֶל הָ֣אָדָ֔ם לִרְא֖וֹת מַה יִּקְרָא ל֑וֹ וְכֹל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִקְרָא־ל֧וֹ הָֽאָדָ֛ם נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּ֖ה ה֥וּא שְׁמֽוֹ. וַיִּקְרָ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם שֵׁמ֗וֹת לְכָל הַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּלְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה

And Hashem formed from the earth every beast of the field and every bird of the skies, and He brought them to Adam to see what he would call it, and whatever Adam called each living thing, that was its name. And Adam named all the cattle and the birds of the skies and all the beasts of the field…

“Lashon Hakodesh,” A holy language, is what we call biblical Hebrew. We thank Hashem in our prayers for “giving it” to us, but what does that even mean? How can a specific jumble of sounds through which we understand each other be any better than a different jumble that others use?

Additionally, the Halacha (with slight variations, depending on which specific prayer you are saying) is generally that one may pray in whatever language they want, as long as they understand it, or the original Lashon Kodesh, even if it’s not understood. Why is this so?

Looking at this Shabbat’s parshah, we see a strange sequence where almost as if it was something special, the Torah records that Adam named all the animals. What do we care? I’d like to think that I would do a fine job of that myself if I was asked. How hard is it to make up some names?

The Ramban writes that what was so special here was that Adam named each animal according to what it intrinsically was. Letters and words in Lashon Kodesh have an intrinsic meaning that’s there no matter the speaker’s intent. (I think of the word “blubber” or the lesser-known “mushkabobble” as examples of words that seem like their meaning, they are self understood. That is what all of Lashon Kodesh is.) This means, for example, that if one would ask Hashem to create a “soos” (the word for horse) without it ever having existed, He would create a horse, because that is what that string of letters/sounds means.

If I were to pray in German, which I don’t understand, I would just be saying jumbles of sounds. In English, which I understand, every word has intent and meaning, but only because I put it there. In Lashon Kodesh that meaning is there without even understanding.

Shabbat Shalom

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