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    Shema in anyone’s language – Va’et’channan

    Parashat Va’et’channan is the source of the Shema Yisra’el, the first Hebrew words a Jew learns, the last words we hope to be able to say before departing this life on earth.

    One may recite the Shema in English or any other language. The sages say, Shema, “Hear” – b’chol lashon she’attah shome’a – “in whichever language you are able to hear”.

    But I don’t think I have ever known a Jew who said their Shema in anything other than Hebrew. The original flavour of a word is lost when it is translated, especially words with the emotional power of these.

    Try making motzi or saying the b’rachah for wine in translation. Technically you have said what you want to say, but it isn’t the same. True, some people hardly know an aleph from a bet. It is never too late to regain the capacity to read basic Hebrew.

    But regardless of this, every Jew should learn a hundred words of Hebrew, not simply in order to cope in the street in Israel, but so as to become equipped with the fundamental vocabulary of Jewish life.

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