Nathan G. Fishman
Nathan G. Fishman

Let’s Talk About Hebrew

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27 KJV)

So I was reading Michael Knowles’s new book “Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds”, which not only is now available for purchase, but was also snubbed by the New York Times Best Seller list, and he spoke about how proponents of political correctness, wokeness, or Critical Race Applied Principles (you can call them whatever you like) use language to control the narrative and shift the Overton Window on what is acceptable to say, and it got me thinking about how around a couple of weeks ago, the Student Union at the Hebrew University posted a word salad to Facebook. Specifically, they used some sort of new grammar system where, when addressing a crowd of both men and women, they use both forms of words, where they will use the masculine form, and then a period followed by the feminine suffix. Of course, anyone who only speaks English will probably be scratching their head right now wondering what I am referring to, but not as much as I was when trying to read it. Granted, part of it was that Hebrew is not my first language, but I think part of it was also that all of a sudden, there were a bunch of periods in the middle of words and sentences, and it makes reading such a thing so bizarre.

Of course, I was taught Hebrew as a very little boy, and back in the day I was taught that when addressing a character whose gender is unknown (God comes to mind), or a group that includes both men and women, you are supposed to use the masculine form of words. It’s hard to give an example without it devolving into a straight-up grammar lesson, but for anybody who has experience with gendered language, you will understand immediately how it would work. Then, when I got to college, they switched to using a slash to include both genders. And I would be remiss if I excluded the class I took where the teacher would address us in the feminine if our class was 51% female. Now, I am pretty famous for doing absolutely no research (just ask my professors), but my friend told me that they switched to the period in order to avoid implying that there are two genders. Needless to say, the usage of Hebrew has changed since I was a little boy.

Maybe I spent too much time in Tel Aviv over the past couple of months, but I have met too many teenagers who told me they wish to “transition” as soon as they hit the requisite age (for those of you not in the loop, transitioning means injecting hormones into oneself and undergoing painful surgeries in order to imitate the opposite sex) (also, don’t ask me how this happened, because quite frankly I regret meeting normal teenagers, much less the looney ones). This woke ideology is threatening your kids (I say that because I don’t have any), but a lot of damage can be avoided by simply keeping your kids off the internet. However, your efforts to protect your kids from sexual predators will be for naught if the language that is taught at your child’s school includes these progressive assumptions. On a side note, you should read Abigail Shrier’s “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” if you want any additional information regarding the topic.

Language is the lens through which we look at the world, and this has been proven true time and time again through many studies of societies across time and borders. For example, researchers have found that people can’t see certain colors if their language doesn’t have a word for those colors. Another is how the Eskimo people have around one hundred different words for snow (don’t quote me on that). Language is so fundamental to our understanding of the world and the people around us, and weirdos at the Hebrew University (and I assume others) are trying to normalize certain assumptions about the world, some of which you may not be happy about.

Of course, I am sure there are native Hebrew speakers who could go into great lengths about the changes certain words have undergone over the years since the revival of the Hebrew language as a mass spoken street language, and there are other linguists and experts who would love to talk about the lost sounds of the Hebrew alphabet, and I am definitely all for those conversations, but I think we need to have a reckoning about what radicals are trying to do to the Hebrew language right now with the way they are treating the masculine and feminine forms. Simply put, the changes that have happened since I was a child are not good for us as a Hebrew society, and I think those of us who care about the future of Israel or have any sort of conservative or traditional bone in our bodies should be taking note and fighting back now, before the assumptions that come with these changes become any more entrenched in our culture. If you want your kids understanding that there are are only two genders, or you just want written Hebrew to look more like a language and less like some sort of technical manual, now is the time to fight these changes.

As someone who spent most of his life not being able to put together a Hebrew sentence, I can’t really tell you about the intricacies of gender in the Torah, or about the assumptions about humanity one makes when choosing to address a mixed group in the masculine (after all, I am no Rabbi), but what I can tell you is that the assumptions one makes when choosing one gender over another (in regards to language, you will never be able to choose your biological sex) says many things about the way you will think about the subject. Depending on whether I choose to use the masculine or feminine forms of words, different neurons will fire off in my brain. I might choose to be more assertive when dealing with another man, or use softer language when addressing a woman. Regardless, the gender of the language will help my children understand their relationships with men and women, and I look forward to them learning it through the language itself, with me only having to fill in certain gaps of information along the way.

But more importantly, the Hebrew language is the most ancient tongue of the Western tradition. You can have your Septuagint, your Onkelos, and your Vulgate; the Hebrew Bible is the progenitor of all of those, and people of the Western tradition have historically studied the Hebrew language to gain a greater understanding of the will of God.

While some make the argument that Lashon HaKodesh and Hebrew are two different languages altogether, I would have to respectfully disagree; you can say that the spoken Hebrew is the mundane version of the language, but the connection is there. And while it might be tempting for some to make the argument that we add new words all the time (many of them in English these days), I would argue that the need to add new words to a language to describe new phenomena is not unique to any language, and that it would be necessary in any language one hopes to use to speak in the everyday vernacular. Imagine having to use Hebrew without a word for “telephone” or “car”. We can argue until the cows come home about whether those words should be transliterated English words or someone should come up with a Hebrew word that describes a new phenomenon, but the important thing is that a spoken language must be able to describe certain things.

What makes this change different is that it is unnecessary and it changes the fundamental assumptions the Hebrew language tells us about the world. And there is no assumption more fundamental to the human experience than the sexual dimorphism of humanity. Sexual dimorphism is not only present in the entirety of the Animal Kingdom, but also in many plant species. Male and female are some of the oldest categories on this planet, and all languages make some sort of reference to it, even if it only changes the third-person pronouns. I’m not interested in changing the Hebrew language based on the whims of an ideology that will pass with the flow of time. Our ancestors obviously decided that sexual dimorphism was so important that they decided to bake it right into the language. They must know something that we in 2021 do not, and maybe we ought to learn it again.

This speaks to the sort of liberal imperialism that is taking over the Western world as we speak, from the pride flag flying at US embassies across the world, to the word “Latinx”, which Spanish speakers mock derisively as some sort of progressive virus imposed on the Spanish language by American college students. While many who know me are aware that I make appeals against “imperialism” very sparingly, I have to concede that nothing says “English supremacy” quite like the de-gendering of an ancient, local, gendered language.

But on an even more basic level, the language is easier to read when the words don’t have random punctuation marks everywhere. Not only that, but it makes the language feel less robotic and less manufactured. And on top of all that, the most basic assumption this new system of gendered language teaches us is that it is important not to cause offense. In my experience, when you are telling the truth, somebody will be offended. And somebody will need to be offended, since there is no middle ground between “there are only two genders” and “there are more than two genders”. Those are unique and exclusive worldviews, and the two cannot coexist forever. Eventually, one has to give. There will be standards; the question only is who gets to set them.

So I don’t know where this needs to go, or who needs to hear this, but we need to get up and demand a more traditional Hebrew language. If you care at all about where Israel is going to be in ten to twenty years (and believe me, it doesn’t take that long), it’s time we started defending the Hebrew language from these radicals, wherever they are coming from, before it’s too late. Also, go get Michael Knowles’s new book.

About the Author
Born in New York, raised in New Jersey, and operating out of a rickety apartment in Jerusalem, Nate Fishman left his parents' house while he still knew everything. Support his misadventures by reading his blog. Or don't.
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