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Should I pray in Hebrew, even if I don't understand the language?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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If you feel more comfortable praying in your vernacular--go right ahead.

If you wish to pray in Hebrew, you may do so provided that you understand the translation of the first section of the Shema and the first blessing of the Amidah. If you do not know the meaning of these sections, then they must be recited in a language which you understand.

Although G-d understands all languages, Hebrew is the "Holy Tongue," and thus it is the optimal language in which to converse to G-d
Although G-d understands all languages, Hebrew is the "Holy Tongue," and thus it is the optimal language in which to converse to G-d. It is worthwhile to invest the necessary time and energy to join a class to study this special language -- the language spoken by our ancestors, the Patriarchs, Moses, and all the prophets. The original can't be beat!


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Lashon "juste"

Posted by: Moshe, Fresno, CA, United States on May 28, 2007

If I waited until I understood most all of the Hebrew before I could pray in Hebrew, I would be waiting a long time. If I prayed in English because I was not yet familiar with the literal interpretation of prayers, I would never have reason nor motivation to learn Hebrew. Would it not be ideal to learn to pray in Hebrew while at the same time studying the language?

Editor's Comment

I often advise people to do just that. One method of learning the Hebrew meaning of the prayers is to choose a prayer to begin with and when you read that prayer recite one line in Hebrew, then read that line (with your eyes only) in English. Alternatively you can write little translations on top of the Hebrew words so you see both simultaneously.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs
Miscellaneous » Hebrew / Languages » Hebrew
Miscellaneous » Hebrew / Languages » Other Languages

Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Shema
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.