Holy Not-In-Hebrew Words

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The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Aharon of Karlin I (1736-1772) is commemorated on the 19th of Nissan. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

Holiness In Vernacular Words

One time, there were two Torah scholars who spent Shabbos at the house of Rabbi Aaron.

The guests were surprised when they heard Rabbi Aaron speaking vernacular words on Shabbos.

[NOTE: This suggests that some communities at the time spoke only Hebrew on the day of rest.]

When he sensed their surprise, Rabbi Aaron said to them:

“According to the Midrash, the meal Joseph made for his brothers in Egypt was on Shabbos. Now, can you tell me where in the Midrash it says this?”

They didn’t know what to answer. So he asked someone to bring him the Midrash volume and he showed them the reference. And then, this is what he said:

“For the text when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers:

‘For it was my mouth HaMiDaBer / that was speaking to you,’

“Rashi explains:

‘It was b’lashon hakodesh / in the holy tongue,’

“and notice that the word, ‘HaMiDaBeR‘ in this verse, is written in the past tense, referring to the time in the recent past, before this moment, when he had spoken with them in the Egyptian language.

“Thus, surely the truth is this:

“Joseph said to his brothers — (you can see where this is headed!) — that, ‘my mouth  was speaking to you,’ i.e., in the Egyptian language on Shabbos, (which is our subject at hand, i.e., speaking vernacular on Shabbos), which was, as Rashi says, ‘with a tongue of holiness’, i.e. with holiness and purity.

So we may conclude that the person whose tongue speaks with holiness, for such a person, it is permissible for him to speak even in the vernacular on Shabbos…

[NOTE: By couching this in the language of Rabbinics, Rabbi Aaron helped justify allowing the community to add to a sense of delight on Shabbos by removing this impediment for them. One imagines how difficult it must have been for those not fluent in Hebrew to withhold from their regular way of speaking. Thus Rabbi Aaron paved the way for communities to feel okay about speaking on Shabbos in a way that was more relaxed for them.]

(Some Heroes of Hasidus)

2 Responses to “Holy Not-In-Hebrew Words”

  1. M'nikkah Says:

    Joy is enhanced when relaxation is felt. Is this what Aharon of Karlin meant to say? Ya have yourselves a merry little… festival of Liberation now, yes?

    Sure thing, yes.

  2. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:


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