The Rambam states that one may recite the Shema in any language, but one must choose his/her words carefully (Laws of Shema 2:10):

A person may recite the Shema in any language he understands. One who recites it in another language must avoid erroneous words in that language and be as scrupulous when using that language as if he was reciting it in the Holy Tongue קוֹרֵא אָדָם אֶת שְׁמַע בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מְבִינָהּ. וְהַקּוֹרֵא בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן צָרִיךְ לְהִזָּהֵר מִדִּבְרֵי שִׁבּוּשׁ שֶׁבְּאוֹתוֹ הַלָּשׁוֹן וּמְדַקְדֵּק בְּאוֹתוֹ הַלָּשׁוֹן כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּדַקְדֵּק בִּלְשׁוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ:

The Raavad disagrees with the Rambam:

2:10 אין זה מקובל על הדעת לפי שכל הלשונות פירוש הן ומי ידקדק אחר פירושו: "This is not acceptable on the mind because all [other] languages are explanations [of Hebrew] and [thus] who will be scrupulous when dealing with an explanation..."

Preliminarily, both the Rambam and Raavad agree that one must utilize a bona fide language/lashon. Uttering Morse code - is this a halachik language?

Assuming that the Rambam meant that one must use a bona fide language such as English, FE, AND one must use the most expert/fitting translation possible of that authentic language and avoid any corruptions/unclear and ambiguous terms (see Kesef Mishna), AND assuming that the Raavad understood the Rambam to mean such, is the Raavad nonetheless positing that no particular word choice in that credible language trumps any other? And that as long as he/she understands what he/she is saying in that bona fide language all is well!?

If so, does this suggest per the Raavad, that one may one read the Shema in rap or slang? FE, instead of "Hear, Israel," can one recite "Check it Out, Israel?" Or is a rap or slang rendition of the Shema no longer merely a question of substituting and swapping out normative, choice English words for those that are more loose and casual, but a matter of attempting to recite (as is evident from the rest of the words chosen for that recitation) the Shema in a wholly as-of-yet unacceptable non-language? Or, perhaps, is such a version an expression of God's Oneness in a newly acceptable language and thus the issue of word corruptions is moot?

Languages morph; new words and phrases appear and others fall into disuse. Sublanguages exist too. For purposes of Shema, what is a language (Raavad and Rambam presumably agree that the Shema must be read in a language), what is a non-language (both presumably agree this is unacceptable), and what are words or phrases that are corruptions within a credible language (a potential machlokes Rambam and Raavad)?

And so FE, one begins the Shema with words 'Check it Out, Israel.' 1) This isn't the best English word choice - Rambam would disapprove and Raavad would approve. 2) the phrase "check it out" as used by that reciter and as becomes evident from the rest of the words used for that Shema are derived from a newly accepted urban dictionary-like hipster 'language' - (all agree there is no problem.) 3) same as 2 but this newly created language does not meet the halachik requirements of language/lashon (whatever those are!?)(all agree there is a problem with the recitation).

  • "Check it Out, Israel" - I don't think the Raavad is meaning this to be honest
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 14 at 13:01
  • See also the Mishnah Berurah, which strongly urges not to use any other language than Lashon Kodesh
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 14 at 13:27
  • 2
    Even within a language, there are different registers, conveying formality or the lack thereof. It is a different thing to say Shema in a respectful register of English than in a slangy one. Similarly, there are pidgins and creole languages that might not some correct to us, but which are intended to be used with respect. Rambam might countenance using those before using a true slang.
    – Mike
    Commented Jan 14 at 17:26


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