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Haftarah Devarim: Why the cucumber belongs in the Israeli salad

14 0 20
05.08.2022

Learning a foreign language can make human existence feel both invigoratingly sacred and devastatingly artificial. The history of language is like an ellipse. Let us compare Hebrew and English as an example. English and Hebrew are not the same language. They evolved and came of age in disparate parts of the world separated by thousands of kilometers of land and sea. For this reason, they use different-sounding words for just about everything. In English we say “war,” in Hebrew—Milchama; in English we say “sky”, in Hebrew it’s Shamayim; in English, we say “blood,” whereas in Hebrew it’s Dam. These three words—war, sky, and blood—are unquestionably ancient words. Nevertheless, there are words which are even more ancient—father, mother, love. With these three words, if one listens softly, one hears the primordial camaraderie of the two tongues. Papa (English), Aba (Hebrew); Mama (English), Ema (Hebrew); Love (English), Ahava (Hebrew). If we compare the two alphabets—English and Hebrew—we find that they go back to the same, original source. Aleph, Bet—A, B. Lamed, Mem, Nun—L, M, N. Shin, Taf—S, T. In short, ancient, truly ancient words which have some specificity to them—words like sky and blood—are wholly disparate between the two languages. But the, perhaps, really ancient words, the pre-ancient words—Mama, AB, LMN—are linked. There is something profoundly moving about the idea that even after millennia have passed, children in the British Isles and in the Middle East are basically using the same word which some distant ancestor between both groups used to address their mom and dad.

However, neologisms from the last several centuries are also largely the same across vastly different cultures and regions. This likeness between modern words is the “evil twin” of the pre-ancient phenomenon. Across tongues, we all say the following words largely the same: Jeans, T-shirt, Pizza, Computer, Internet, E-mail, Banana, Selfie, and oh so many more. In short, hyper-modern words and hyper-ancient words are uncannily the same across nations whose languages are impossibly different. Why should this be? The answer is that, at the dawn of humanity, much of the human population was concentrated in the same place—probably in Africa—and therefore spoke the same language. Now, in 2022, we have once more found ourselves in the same place through globalization and the virtual universe.

Globalization is older........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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