A Collection of Book Reviews
In Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew (Mosaica Press ISBN-10: 1937887367545), author Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein takes a historical and linguistic look at Lashon Hakodesh and its derived languages. The title conveys the message that Lashon Hakodesh and Hebrew are two different languages. In fact, the author dedicates a chapter showing that Modern Hebrew, while connected to Lashon Hakodesh, is clearly not identical to the elemental Lashon Hakodesh language.
The book is a fascinating and engaging reference to the topic. For the traditional reader who wants to know the origins of the Divine language they are using for sacred purposes, the book will likely answer most of their questions. For the reader who simply wants to know the history and development of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, the book will also be extremely rewarding.
I can't wait to explore this more. I have to hand it to Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein for the intense and through footnotes and diversity of sources he has to offer on this topic (and others throughout the book, of course). My brain sparks are flying off in dozens of directions with every page turn.
…In his recent book “ Lashon Hakodesh : History, Holiness and Hebrew” (Mosaica Press 2014) Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein affords Lashon Hakodesh the attention it deserves. Of particular importance is Rabbi Klein’s use of the academic method to provide an impressive survey of rabbinical commentary throughout the ages. The book addresses some basic and important questions concerning the language. Did Adam speak Lashon Hakodesh? What about our forefather Abraham? Did the letters of Lashon Hakodesh appear the same way throughout the centuries? How did the rabbis resolve Talmudic sources referring to the Ashuri script (which we use today) as the original with sources which indicate that the Ivri script (found in many archaeology sites and depicted on the State of Israel’s one shekel coin) came first?
The book also addresses the question of what distinguishes Lashon Hakodesh from other languages. Rabbi Klein cites prominent sources concerning the essential rather than arbitrary nature of the language as discussed above. He similarly provides a synopsis of the main interpretations as to why the language is called “holy”… (Click here to read the full article. Rabbi Baron adds many more interesting and fun facts about Lashon HaKodesh and language in general.)
Rabbi Reuven Klein’s Lashon Hakodesh is an outstanding work that traces the history of the Hebrew language, and by extension, the many languages that Jews have used over the centuries. In addition to Hebrew, much attention is given to Aramaic, including discussions on the many prayers that are recited in Aramaic. The book is replete with reference to the entire body of Torah literature, such as Tanach, Talmud, rishonim, achronim, midrashim, along with halachic material where relevant. History, archaeology, and other sciences also make an appearance where relevant.
Rabbi Klein has done an admirable job of presenting the multi-faceted history of the Hebrew language within Jewish tradition and culture. The discussion of any of the topics in Klein’s book is comprehensive and filled with a copious amount of sources from traditional Jewish literature ranging from the Talmud and Midrash, traditional parshanut (interpretation), halakhic and responsa literature, and works of Jewish thought and philosophy. All throughout the book Klein also brings modern scholarship about Hebrew, referring to the research of such scholars as Gilad Zuckerman and Gary Rendsberg.Batya Medad of me-ander writes:
Rabbi Klein has put together an amazingly deep, well-researched book about Hebrew.
A book of this nature, in English, is long overdue for the traditional Orthodox reader. I hope it inspires more interest in the history of the Hebrew language.
Rivka Levy over at Emunaroma writes about my book:
Spanning from the beginning of time, right up to the use of modern-day Hebrew and the State of Israel, the book packs a lot of information and material into its pages, but it’s not in the least overwhelming... an interesting read even if you’re not a language ‘nerd’, and full of fascinating facts about the Jewish use of biblical Hebrew that you probably never knew before.
The Frum Jewish Books blog also has a nice review about my book. They write:
Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is one of the most exciting and intellectually stimulating books I and the other reviewers at Frumjewishbooks.com have read in a long time. Everyone here insisted on having a chance to read it... Rabbi Klein takes what seems like a mundane topic – the Hebrew language – and in this ground-breaking work, blasts it open with questions that leave the reader reeling Why didn’t I ever ask that? ...Rabbi Klein takes a systematic, academic approach in the presentation of his material, with careful documentation of sources, while remaining firmly grounded in Torah sources. The writing style is clear and accessible. As an added bonus, the book is clearly laid out, with a beautiful cover, which makes the experience of studying it a really joyful experience.
The author of “Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew” (Mosaica Press, 2015), is Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein, a native of Valley Village, California... In this work dealing with the origins and theological base of the Hebrew language, we learn many little known aspects of a language that has served as the base of our religious faith and a source of linguistic traditions going back to the very beginning of human history....
Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, and Hebrew, examines the Hebrew language from an analytical perspective that brings to light little known facts to help people gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the language. It delves into the use of Aramaic in biblical writings, and what languages were spoken during different time periods in the Bible. Rabbi Klein’s analysis provides fuel for the reader who will gain a great passion and understanding of the distinctiveness of the Hebrew language.
This book presents the traditional approach to the development of Hebrew and Aramaic, from Genesis to the modern era. Of particular interest to JBQ readers are the sections regarding the language that Adam spoke and how did he learn it, the language spoken prior to the Tower of Babel, the language spoken by the Israelites while in Egypt, the development of Hebrew script and possible Egyptian influences on Biblical names. The author is a frequent contributor to this journal, and as in his articles here, the book is meticulously researched with extensive footnotes and sources.
There is an author out there whose combined erudition in Torah research as well as secular research is quite formidable. This is readily apparent in the revised edition of Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness and Hebrew... The book is true to our Mesorah, yet it finds a way to include the archaeological evidence behind various theories too. - I have no doubt that anyone who reads this remarkable work will be be thoroughly taken with it. This author looks forward to further works by Rabbi Klein.
Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein, in his new book on the development of the Hebrew language, finds himself having to maintain a delicate balance. The purpose of the book is to take a serious look at the origins, development and current state of Hebrew as well as its influence on other languages through the ages. The balance comes between presenting the opinion of Torah sources on the subject and those of academics... Overall I recommend this as a good read and one that will deepen the reader's appreciation of what Lashon Hakodesh truly is.