This second benefit has its limits. When Rashi is quoting a passage of Talmud, we have the privilege of looking it up and studying the various commentaries such as Tosafos, Maharsha and even Rashi himself. However, when Rashi is quoting the Midrashic sources we are at a loss. There is very little commentary on the Midrashic material and there is much less on the Halachic Midrash - (Mechilta, Toras Kohanim, Sifri, and Sifra) than there is on the Aggadic Midrash (Mirash Rabba and Tanchuma). Thus, I had a bit of a struggle in my book in defining the ameilus b'Torah that is sourced in Toras Kohanim. Thankfully, there is Pirkei Avot, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch and a host of other sources to rely upon.
Yet, numerous other statements do not come with so many accessories and we are mainly left in the cold. Oh, if only there was Rashi on Rashi (although Sifsei Chachamim, RE"M, and Gur Aryeh give us a lift)!
With this in mind, let us look at a Sifri that Rashi quotes in last week's Parsha - Parshat Eikev - and examine what it says to us.
The pasuk says:
יט ולמדתם אתם את בניכם לדבר בם בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך ובשכבך ובקומך
And Rashi explains the words לדבר בם with the words of the Sifri (in English) :
...From here they (the sages) have said that as soon as an infant begins to speak, his father converses with him in the Holy Language and teaches him Torah...
What does it mean that "his father converses with him in the Holy Language"?Well, the plain understanding is that he must teach him what we call Lashon Kodesh which is the language of Tanach so that the son can study its words. This is why many "Torah" Jews make a big ceremony when their three year old boy is first ushered into cheder and begins learning alef-bet.
There are those who even take this more literally and make it their business to speak to their children in Hebrew (though there is difference of opinion as to the "holiness" of Modern Hebrew) or, alternatively, to speak in a distinctly Jewish dialect which could be Yiddish, Ladino, or even today's American "Yeshivish" (it's takkah the heintiga shnit).
Yet, in addition to these two basic connotations, I would like to suggest an additional, more profound "Chareidi" interpretation. At first glance, it seems that "conversing with him in the Holy language" and "teaching him Torah" are two related but independent activities. I don't see it that way. I see them as as a single activity. How so?
From my forays into the Blogosphere (that has only spanned a few months) and from the norms and rules of socio-political debate that it comprises, I have learned some prevalent expressions and idioms that I was not apprised of when I wrote the book. Would I have known them, I could have employed this terminology in applicable parts of the book and perhaps made it a bit clearer to the Blog oriented readership. Two of my favorites are: apologist and triumphalist.
Apparently, an apologist is anyone who defends a position you do not support no matter how sound his defense is. As such, I am a Chareidi "apologist" in general and specifically in the Miriam Shear controversy despite the fact that so far, nobody has effectively refuted my premise that (a) if one can judge the accused (in absentia), one may judge the accuser - who has presented a first hand account and (b) that each Human being has bechira and is responsible for the decisions that they consciously make and what comes out from them. So I am an apologist, yet, I have never seen any Miriam Shear supporter being called a "Miriam Shear Apologist".
The Blogosphere is full of one-way streets.
On the rare occasions that someone like me can present a strong debate that cannot be deemed "apologetic", then I am a "triumphalist".
There is a Murphy's Law edict that reads: Win or lose, you lose!
But what is relevant to our discussion is the term that I have seen - promoted primarily by the scant chareidi writers - called: Halachic Language. This means that when we make our case for our viewpoint, we support it with the pasukim and maamarei chazal that underwrite the viewpoint. The term "Halachic Language" is what I have seen most frequently but since it implies "Halacha based" it seems a bit inadequate to me. This is because it may miss ideas that are scripture based (which would be called "Scriptural Language") or Aggadic based. As such, I would prefer a more comprehensive term which encompasses the whole chulent: Talmudic Language. Either way, it implies a way of speech and thought that conveys Torah values.
As an application, a true Torah Jew (what I call Chareidi) does not say to his little son: "Don't tease your sister." He says: "Don't tease your sister, it is onaas devarim." He doesn't say, "Help your brother clean his room." He says, "When your brother cleans his room, you do azov taazov and help him out." And, of course, not, "Doing that is a waste of time" but "Doing that is bitul zman and/or bitul Torah." I believe that this is what the Sifri means when it speaks of "talking to your son in Lashon Kodesh" and "teaching him Torah". You must speak to your son in the language of the Torah. In Talmudic Language, whether English, Hebrew, Yiddish, or what. From the chareidi perspective, there can be Torah in everything we say because there is Torah in everything we do.
This is the message that I was marketing on page 223 of my book when I wrote that the chareidim speak Isaiahish and that it is a foreign language to most consumers.
Shortly after my book came out, a young blogger - an idealistic RYBS apologist (hey, two can play the same game) - came out with a critical review. Because I felt that the review totally missed the target and did not address or refute the main mission of the book, I did not feel that it is worth my time (excuse me, I mean that I thought it is bitul zman and/or bitul Torah) to invest in a protracted response. But so as not to leave the antagonism totally unneutralized, I submitted the following statement:
The mission of One Above and Seven Below is to promote understanding. It is meant to enable those who do not understand how chareidim think and who would like to understand how chareidim think, to do so. To point out that non-chareidim (or even non-conventional charedim) think differently does nothing to infringe upon the thesis about the conventional way of chareidi thinking. If you are interested in learning about how chareidim view Judaism, read the book. If you are not interested or if you already know about how chareidim think, then do not waste your time or money on this book. Learn Chumash and Rashi, instead.
What I wrote is indeed the main mission but I want to elaborate a bit on this mission statement and rephrase it as follows:
The mission of 1A7B is to promote understanding (as above). It is meant to counter those who denigrate the chareidim without justification by presenting the chareidi perspective using Talmudic Language.
Talmudic Language - is very powerful. As long as it is not misused and manipulated, it is rock solid. Just as only a diamond can cut another diamond, a statement of Talmudic Language can only be refuted by other statements of Talmudic Language. That is why I use it in my book and I use it in my posts.
But it comes at a price. Many people in the Blogosphere do not relate to Talmudic Language. This is because they are not fluent in it. And accordingly, they are intimidated by it. And so, for want of refuting the substance of the hashkafa, they present a vague brush-off using choice terms such as "condescending" or "arrogant". Thus, in general one who pushes an argument using Talmudic Language is commonly accused of being "condescending". Numerous times I have stood on the receiving end of this epithet transmitted by people who had nothing to say about the points expressed. So, although it may in fact be condescending (if they say so), I am far from convinced that I am the one to blame for it.
My most confrontational post was the one wherein I reviewed the Miriam Shear incident using Talmudic Language. How do this woman's actions match up to what the Torah and Chazal and Shulchan Aruch tell us is the way for a Jew to act? The way Chazal explain Kedoshim Tihiyu, the way they explain Chillul Hashem, and the way they explain Din v'Cheshbon? I chose to dramatize it in a setting that would measure the case solely by this criteria. I had to rely on a Heavenly court because I found that these criteria were not being employed anywhere on Earth.
It was not surprising that a number of readers took me to task for the temerity to predict such celestial procedings but almost nobody (minimal exceptions) had anything to say about the points couched in Talmudic Language except that it is condescending.
Yet, a true chareidi will always speak his mind in Talmudic Language. And we will teach our sons to do it when they sit at home and when they journey on their way and when they lay themselves to sleep and when they arise. Why?
למען ירבו ימיכם וימי בניכם על האדמה אשר נשבע ה' אלקיכם לתת להם כימי השמים על הארץ