The Aqademya

Academy_of_the_Hebrew_Language

By José Faur

See Section II, n. 24. It is for the reason given by Vico, that a free people ought to exercise “sovereignty over languages and letters,” that I oppose the establishment of a National Academy in Israel with the authority to impose meaning and to regulate the linguistic apparatus of a people, while at the same time, perversely denying legitimacy to their linguistic and literary tradition. As a regulatory body, the ‘Aqademya’ cares little about the language that it is supposed to watch over. Let me point out that it is hardly possible to find a single member of the Aqademya that could read a section of the Scroll of the Tora without making capital errors. In fact, they consistently confuse about one-third of the consonants of the alphabet, not to speak of grave and acute syllables, all forms of dagesh, etc. Children exhibiting similar reading impediments in French or English primary school are sent to remedial schools. Such an agency can acquire Orwellian dimensions when motivated by political ideologies, as in modern Israel, particularly when important segments of the media are state-sponsored. [A special tax called ‘igra’ is imposed on every house owning a radio or TV apparatus, to pay for the state-sponsored-media – regardless of whether the owner wishes to watch the state-sponsored media or not. As with the ‘Church-tax’ levied in Germany and in other Christian countries on members of communities, regardless of whether they attended Church or not]. On the danger of an agency with authority to manufacture words, see Martin Buber, “To Create New Words?” in Martin Buber, A Believing Humanism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967), p. 31. The rabbis noted than when people do not exercise linguistic autonomy, justice and law are inoperative. Given that the people in the Eastern Roman Empire were not fluent in the legal and political language of the state, the rabbis (Mishna Gittin 8:5) designated the Roman government and “unfair empire” (מלכות שאינה הוגנת). The reason for this is because the people of the area “have neither [their own] writing (ketab) nor [their own] language” (Gittin 80a; cf. Aboda Zara 10a). In such an environment, ‘law, justice, etc.,’ are matters of linguistic manipulation, rather than substance; see the humorous story in Shabbat 116a-b.

Let us consider, for the sake of illustration, one of the new terms sponsored by the ‘Aqademya.’ For reasons having to do with psychology rather than linguistics, it discarded the traditional nomenclature of personal pronouns, in favor of guf (גוף). Believing that this term is equivalent to ‘person,’ we have ‘first guf,’ ‘second guf,’ etc. Hebrew guf, however, is not a ‘person.’ It serves to indicate inanimate objects, such as ‘land,’ see Baba Mesi‘a 96a; ‘fruits,’ Holin 114b; ‘a beast,’ see Menahot 14b, Temura 9b; and an ‘amorphous fetus,’ see Tosefta Nidda 4:15, p. 645, Nidda 23a, b, 24a, b. In Medieval Hebrew, guf stood for ‘substance’ and ‘matter’ in general. A popular hymn sung at the Synagogue proclaims that “God is not a guf” – in the sense that He is not corporeal. The ‘oversight’ may be related to the anti-humanistic ideology dominating the Israeli élite, according to which, ‘human’ is a misnomer for a certain mass of chemical substances meant to serve the social and political machinery of the State; see Appendix 24. Another monstrosity, pointing to the dark and murky creeds lurking beneath the mind of this august institution, is using Hebrew ‘קרבן’ standing for ‘a sacramental or votive sacrifice offered to God at the Temple,’ to designate a ‘victim’ of a crime or an accident. It takes a profoundly sick psyche to confuse the fatality of a crime or an accident with an offering presented to God.

These points aside, it does not seem too much to expect that a minimal requirement to qualify for membership in such an august body would be to know how to say ‘Academy’ in Hebrew—rather than aqademya—a term never before used in Hebrew sources. Let us note that it does not appear in the first, and to a large extent still the best, Modern Hebrew Lexicon, by Eliezer ben Yehuda (1858-1922)—and for good reason! Cf. Section V, n. 61. An English reader may best appreciate the linguistic elegance of this august body, by considering that the exact translation of their title is, “The Academy to the Hebrew Language.” In fact, the title is nothing less than a linguistic oxymoron. ‘Aqademya’ being a Greek term unknown in Hebrew, used to designate a ‘Hebrew’ institution for the purpose of promoting Hebrew! That would be equivalent to something like, “The English Midrashiya for the study and promotion of English”—in an English speaking country! Rhetoric aside, the main purpose of this august institution is to alienate Israelis from the Scripture: people speaking Modern Hebrew cannot understand a single sentence from the Hebrew Scripture.

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From The Horizontal Society; Volume II, Appendix 7, “An Academy to Police the Hebrew Language,” p. 18 (Academic Studies Press, 2010).

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