The Holy Tongue

There have been many books and stories that mention magical languages. In the legends of King Arthur and Merlin, Latin is often used, occasionally in a lengthy incantation. In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien called on his immense skill as a linguist to create not one, but many languages which could be used to manipulate the forces of nature, each language with a different magical potency. More recently, the Eragon series has a very interesting take on the idea, where words of the Ancient Language do not merely control nature and its forces, but also describe their essence, and, on a deeper level, are their essence.

א ב ג ד ה
ו ז ח ט י
כ ל מ נ ס
ע פ צ ק ר
ש ת

There are kernels of truth in all of these.

Actually, all languages contain spiritual power. A friendly word, a prayer, an expression of gratitude - all these have the power to affect the higher realms and draw down Divine Light into this world. By the same token, the opposite can also be accomplished, Heaven forbid.

Some languages are known to be more powerful than others, however. Chaldean, or Aramaic, is one of these. The Talmud notes that this language was widely used for black magic and witchcraft, and it was such a dark, polluted language that the holy angels could not understand it. There is still an imprint of this language in our culture today; "Abracadabra" was originally "Avra kedavra", which means "I will create as I speak." Similarly, in Harry Potter, Rowling said in an interview that her killing incantation was derived from Aramaic, and she is correct; it means "I will destroy as I speak." Therefore, I beg you, in the name of the G‑d of Heaven and Earth, do not even speak such an incantation! If used improperly, its consequences can be extremely dire.

Through unstinting efforts of the Jewish sages and prophets of old, the negative aspect of Aramaic was tempered with holiness. Parts of the Tanach were originally written in Aramaic, and Aramaic is also the primary language of the Talmud itself. All these efforts imbued the Light of holiness into the language, and even "A little light dispels much darkness." In fact, the holy Zohar (lit. "Radiance") is primarily in Aramaic. So, too, is the traditional Jewish prayer known as the Kaddish:

Magnified and sanctified
Be His great Name
In the Universe that He created as He desired!
May His Kingship be established,
May His Salvation sprout,
And may His Moshiach draw near
In your life, and in your days,
And in the lives of all the House of Israel,
Speedily and soon;
And let us say "Omein!"
May His great Name be blessed,
Forever and ever and ever.
Blessed, praised, beautified,
Exalted, uplifted,
Glorified, elevated and lauded
Be His holy Name, blessed be He;
Beyond all blessing and song,
Praises and consolation
That are said in the Universe;
And let us say "Omein!"
Yis-gadal v'yis-kadash
Sh'meih rabo
B'öl'mo di v'ro chir'üseih.
V'yamlich mal'chuseih,
V'yatzmach purkoneih,
Vikoreiv m'shicheih,
B'cha-yeihoin uv'yoimeichoin
Uv'chayei d'chol beis yisroëil
Baäigolo uviz'man koriv,
V'ïm'ru omein.
Y'hei sh'meih rabo m'vorach
L'ölam ul'öl'mei ol'mayo.
Yis-boreich, v'yish-tabach, v'yis-poëir,
V'yis-roimom, v'yis-nasei,
V'yis-hador, v'yis-ale v'yis-halol
Sh'meih d'kudsho, brich hu.
L'ëilo min kol bir'choso v'shiroso,
Tush-b'choso v'nechemoso
Daäimiron b'öl'mo,
V'ïm'ru omein.

However, despite the holiness and beauty of these languages, only one is the language of Creation. That language is Ancient Hebrew.

In the Holy Tongue, each of the twenty-two letters indicates a channeling of the Divine Energy used to create and sustain the Universe. The Baäl Shem Tov said that if the Utterance that creates and enlivens the Heavens and the Earth were to be retracted, G‑d forbid, the Universe would simply cease to exist, as if it never were. The Alter Rebbe, known as the Master of the Tanya and the Shulchan Oruch, says that these letters originate in Chochma Ilaäh, Supernal Inspiration, from which came the initial Divine Breath that gave rise to the Alef-Beis, the Hebrew alphabet. Through the science of exchanges based on phonological groupings and numerology (Gematria), the Divine Light was filtered, refracted and reflected to an infinite degree before giving life to such things as the sun, water, rocks, and mankind.

Being a holy language, it is particularly suited for conveying holiness. For instance, there are no vulgarisms in the Holy Tongue. Also, there are only words for things that convey truth. Romance, being ephemeral, has no word in the Holy Tongue, while the more permanent idea of love does. There are no words for doubt or certainty, because these only have meaning where truth can be contested (such words were added later by the sages for the purpose of dealing with court witnesses and other such scenarios, because only from the human perspective do doubt and certainty have significance). In the Holy Tongue, all things simply are, or are not; there is no doubt or certainty. It just is, or is not; it is True or False.

Emes: אמת
Sheker: שקר

But the wondrousness of the language goes even beyond the vocabulary. Words in Hebrew can be broken down to "roots" of two, three or four letters, which truly indicate the essence of the idea. For example, the root-word for truth, emes, is spelled alef-mem-tes. These are the first, middle, and last letters of the Alef-Beis, which indicates that Truth is all-encompassing and permeates through everything, through all times and places. Furthermore, it is difficult to find, compared to falsehood. The word for falsehood is sheker, shin-kuf-resh, which are adjacent to each other in the Alef-Beis. This teaches that falsehood can be found easily. Also, the letters of emes stand on a stable base of two legs or a flat bottom, because truth is stable and does not change. In contrast, the letters of sheker stand on one foot, or a point, because falsehood is easily toppled.

Ish: איש
Ishah: אשה

The way the words relate to each other is significant as well. For example, the words for man and woman, ish and ishah, respectively. They are spelled similarly; ish is alef-yud-shin, while ishah is alef-shin-hei. The both words have alef and shin, while only ish has a yud and only ishah has a hei. This teaches that when man and woman come together in divine marriage, G‑d's presence is immanent, because yud and hei spell one of G‑d's holy Names that may not be erased. If, however, G‑d is "removed" from the marriage by removing the yud and the hei, all that remains is uncontrolled, destructive fire, eish, which is spelled alef-shin. Furthermore, a man's role is to provide a seed, a point, which is the shape of a yud, while woman's role is to expand the point so that it has breadth and height like the hei.

And yet, despite the depth and holy characteristics of the language of Creation, G‑d gave permission to reveal the Torah through the 70 languages, in order to elevate them and reveal G‑d's Light in the world. And so I have revealed a ray of a reflection of a reflection of that Light. Go forth, and illuminate the world.