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Here are the promised Igros Moshes. They are not the exact one quoted in the Jewish Observer, but they say the same points. So I view myself as having been mekeyeim my word.

The first one is in Orach Chaim 5, 10. It’s a further elaboration of the Jewish names thing.

1. French Rabbis taught in French. Spanish Rabbis taught in Spanish. Arab-area rabbis taught in Arabic. That’s why we find names in the Rivash like “Vidal”, “vivente”, etc foreign ways of saying “Chaim”.

2. The Rambam wrote his Moreh Nevuchim and Peirush al hamishnayos in Arabic (later translated by Ibn Tobbun), the common tongue of his day. He wrote his Mishneh torah-yad chazakah in Loshon Hakodesh (lashon hamishna dialect)because he didn’t want to depart from the lashon hamishna.

3. German rabbis (ie most of the baalei tosfos) wrote in loshon Hakodesh but taught their talmidim using German. Elsewhere he explains this as because in Ashkenaz they all knew loshon hakodesh. So teaching in the vernacular is a minhag hakadmonim.

4. He then offers a theory why Loshon Ashkenaz, ie German (albeit modified) became the language of all Jews, even in Poland and Hungary. He says that we see in Parshas noach the possuk of “Yaft elo-him LeYefes veyishkon be’ahalei Shem”. So Ashkenaz being a son of Yefes, his language became the “mamaloshon”.

5. He does NOT, however, ascribe any kedusha to Yiddish. He goes out of his way to point out that when the Jews first started adopting German names, undoubtedly the rabbonim protested. Once the names became fully accepted, the Rabbonim stopped protesting. But names like “Leib”, “Anshel”, etc aren’t holier than Leo or Harold. The only difference is that the German Yiddish names have already passed the point of no return. Giving an English name is a davar meguneh, but it’s muttar.One shouldn’t do it though. But there is no reason in halacha to be mechaleik between yiddish and english in terms of Gittin, and there is no halachic nafka mina between Yiddish and English. both are the lashon chol of their respective places.

6. This probably shouldn’t be too publicized, but Hebrew names like Aryeh, Zev and Dov aren’t holy either, as not mentioned as names in the possuk. (Actually, Zev is mentioned in Yehoshua I believe, but not as a Jewish name). So they’re no more Jewish then Leib, Ber, Herschel, etc. Names from the pesukim are holy.

7. He then mentions his teretz as to why the Chazal make a big deal about the Jews in mitzrayim keeping their names and language, but the Jews in golus clearly did not. He says that this hakpada was only before mattan torah, when the Jews didn’t have any mitzvos to distinguish themselves.

We now flip to the second half of this volume of the igros to Yoreh Deah 4, 35.

The main point of learning is to have understanding of what you’re learning, not to turn pages and cover ground. It should be lilmod al menas laasos, which cannot happen if you don’t understand. If learning in Yiddish holds you back from full understanding, then it is pashut that one should not learn in Yiddish. This explains why the minhag hakadmonim was to teach in the vernacular- because the ikkar was the havana.

The final Iggeres on our tour is YD 4, 38. Very long piece. Fascinating halachos on what can and cannot be translated to English.

1. He begins by stating that any sefer that doesn’t fully explain the reason behind it does not have the same authority as one that does, which is why the Igros Moshe always wrote the reason. He has a proof from the Gemara of nimuko imo, where they explain that rabbi Yose could always provide a full explanation for his psak.

2. He then continues with a long discourse on writing in English, and what sefarim can and cannot be written in English. I get the feeling he would argue on Rabbi belsky’s publishing of his psakim in English, but I’m sure rabbi Belsky explains why he did it that way. Either way, he says that there is no issur in publishing torah and speaking in the vernacular, like he said in the piece quoted above.

3. At one point, he refers to Lashon Hakodesh as “ivris”. I’m not going to hang tilei tilim of halachos on one word, but it was interesting.


“Chashmal” is a major perversion of Ben-Yehuda. I’m trying to remember what my Hebrew-speaking chareidi cousins did when they referred to electricity. But when I was in Eretz yisroel, I communicated with various gedolim in Hebrew. One doesn;t have to speak words like “branja” and “jorba”. I saw something on the maharil diskin that he changed the language of yerushalayim from Lashon Hakodesh to Yiddish once the secular “ivrit” folks moved in, to avoid people being swept up in the secular ideology. But lashon hakodesh was viable beforehand. could still be viable now. mishna brurah in siman 85 says that one can think about divrei chol in the bathroom in Lashon Hakodesh. I will say that Rav Moshe Sternbuch holds it’s better to speak English than Ivrit. I’m sure it’s not a universally held opinion, though. He’s from the eida chareidis, which is more extreme in their anti-Zionism than other gedolim. Stop in the Mir Yerushalayim and you’ll hear Yiddish, English, and Hebrew. The ikkar is havana, and it overrides ideology.

Ad kan. Feel free to continue this thread without me.