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Section: Halacha   Category: Tshuvos
Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg: Davening in English?
In 1954 a Rov in New York sent a question to Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg the Baal Sridei Eish in Montreaux, Switzerland.  He wanted to know if it was permissible to allow saying the “Mizmorim” from davening in English as a congregation.

The Sridei Eish (OC 9) answered that the question is a very sensitive one.  Min HaDin there is no issur since L’Halacha, Tefila can be said in any language.  Even according to the opinions that a Yochid must use Lashon Kodesh when davening alone, the Mishna Brura (101:18) says that for women it is permissible to use other languages. Nevertheless he says, this act will cause an uproar among the “frummer” and they will slander the Shul.  Why he asks, should you cause great pain to the pure and innocent people to whom any change in religious practice causes so much grief.

In addition he says, the Mishna Brura (OC 101:13) says that Chasam Sofer holds that davening in any language besides Lashon HaKodesh in only permitted on occasion and not on a regular basis.

Lastly he said since the “Shul” is the last remaining bastion of Yiddishkeit it is imperative to make sure that Lashon Kodesh is the language of use there.  Its impact on the Kedushas HaTefila and of the Bais HaKnesses is dramatic.  Moreover, our religion is deeply rooted in Mesora and the tradition of forefathers and any change this drastic, is not good.

In summation he says that while women can look at the English translation while davening, he strongly recommends not to implement any change in the way we daven and to steadfastly make sure that all Tefilos are conducted in Lashon Kodesh, our Holy language that is soaked with the blood of our hearts and tears of our eyes.
Important Note: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.
RELATED ARTICLES:Chasam Sofer  halacha  lashon kodesh  mesora  Sridei Aish  tefila

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Visitor Comments: 2

YM, 2010-07-28 11:18:37
In shul the other day, I heard someone davening out loud in Russian! Is that not allowed or is it considered an isolated case.
RD, 2011-09-20 15:05:49
L'halacha, there is no issur for a yochid to daven in the vernacular. The operative issue here is maintaining the integrity of the shul by only having communal prayer, tefilla b'tzibbur, in Loshon HaKodesh. The Chasam Sofer was pasening the way he did because the need presented itself for poskim to repudiate the reforms proposed by the Reform Movement, which include tefillah b'tzibbur in the vernacular. Chasam Sofer, Likutim 84, paskens that " [Even though Tefilla may be recited in any language] this refers to a TEMPORARY situation, however to do so permanently, and to appoint a shali'ach tzibbur to always pray in the vernacular [is prohibited]. If so, the members of the Anshei Kenesset Ha-gedola, who established the Tefillot in the pure and holy tongue they should have written the prayers in Persian, as that was the common language in the time of Ezra "

The Tiferes Yisroel, in Sotah 7, says that "However in our days, those who love innovation have arisen, and they want to prove from our Mishna that they may pray in their synagogues in German We are embarrassed by their new ways, as their primary intention is to make us similar to those who we cannot become similar to (i.e. the Christians). And even if this wouldn't be prohibited by the injunction 'And you shall not follow in their paths since the majority of Torah scholars are opposed the Torah commands us in the prohibition of 'lo tasur' to listen to their voice"

Therefore, the Seredei Esh is noheg that there cannot be public prayer in English or any language other than Hebrew, under most circumstances.

R' Doniel Sayani

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