In every Yom Tov Shemoneh Esrai and Kiddush we add the paragraph of Atah Vechartnau in which we recite ורוממתנו מכל הלשונות that You Hashem have elevated us above all the languages. Apparently this phrase begs to be interpreted. We already said just prior to this that “You chose us amongst all the nations” thereby making the gratitude of being “above all the languages” seem trivial as an afterthought and therefore superfluous?
One explanation for this phase is that language is a medium through which we communicate and are given the ability to describe people, objects, situations, feelings, etc. Yet there are certain existences that cannot be described in any language, such as Hashem. We can describe the attributes that He manifests in the universe and also what He is not. However, we cannot describe who and what He is. So too, Am Yisrael whose essence is their neshama which is a part of Hashem, is likewise indescribable. This is the meaning that Hashem elevated us by raising us beyond any language for there are no words that exist that can describe the makeup of a Yid.
We would like to suggest a novel interpretation to understand our special gratitude of raising us above all the nations through our language. A businessman from Kelm was once asked how he successfully travels to Danzig and Leipzig to the trade fairs when he is not fluent in the German language. He responded and said that he learned the German language to its barest requirements in order to enable him to have a basic conversation with other German businessmen. For instance, he did not study at all German grammar. After all, he is not a German and he doesn’t reside in that country but rather in Lithuania. He only needs to know the barest necessities of the dialect in order to successfully make the sales and purchases. More than that would take him away from his essential life and language.
The term language goes beyond the simplistic understanding of verbal communications. There is an entire science of Body Language how one communicates through gestures, expressions, and physical movements even without saying a single word. A slumped posture can demonstrate a lack of confidence or boredom. Averted eye contact can be an indicator that a person is uncomfortable, self-conscious, or even lying. Crossed arms can signal defensiveness or disagreement.
Similarly, following a lifestyle is also a language and an expression of one’s outlook on life, and how he is feeling. Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah also possess a language of their own. The language of this world Olam Hazeh is the drive to derive the maximum physical and sensuous pleasure from everything you can. Cross all boundaries if need be and break all rules regulations and traditions. In contrast, the language of Olam Habah is not one of drinking or eating, only taking pleasure from the rays of the Shechinah. Just as our Kelmer Yid had to learn the German language in order to make a living, so too we have to learn the language of this world in order to exist, make a livelihood and support our family. However, since our essence is neshamah, our final destination is a different place altogether than the one we find ourselves in. Therefore we need not waste time on learning German grammar and waste precious time in the pursuit of the very costly glittering stuff and fluff of this world. Getting too involved in a foreign country with all its nuances will distract us from and cause us to neglect our true home and family. Parnassah, which is meant to serve only as a means, tends to become an end in itself if not watched properly. Such a distraction can, unfortunately, cause us to depart from this world without completing our real mission.
Chazal relate (Berachos 17)
מרגלא בפומיה דרב לא כעולם הזה העולם הבא] העולם הבא אין בו לא אכילה ולא שתיה ולא פריה ורביה ולא משא ומתן ולא קנאה
ולא שנאה ולא תחרות אלא צדיקים יושבין ועטרותיהם בראשיהם ונהנים מזיו השכינה
The habitual saying of Rav was that unlike Olam Hazeh, in Olam Habah there is no eating and drinking, no business transactions, no jealousy but rather the basking in the rays of the Shechinah. Rav was on the caliber of a Tanna and therefore one must question why did he feel the necessity to repeat over and over again to himself and to others this simple insight concerning the language of Olam Habah? The answer is that even the saintly Rav was fearful that he might even momentarily forget his homeland which is his essence and become lax in his prior obligation. As the Gemara says in Niddah 30b that before a neshamah descends into this world he takes an oath to be a tzaddik and not to be influenced by his surroundings. The lure of this fleeting fantasy that surrounds the neshamah in this world is blinding and has the capability to completely rob one from all the precious eternal reward that is awaiting him in Olam Habah, the light of the Shechinah.
The Ben Sorer uMoreh of our parsha is deaf to the language with which his parents talk to him. They speak of a world of spirit the neshama, of a Yetzias Mitztayim and a Matan Torah, of Hashem’s revelations to His people and of our obligations to our creator. They speak a language of discipline and self-control, a language that fosters the acquisition of virtues, values, and righteousness. This rebellious son איננו שומע בקול אביו ובקול אמו is a non-listener to their language and meaning of life which describes the inner purpose of his being. This son is mesmerized by eating and drinking, becoming intoxicated, partying with irresponsibility all day, זולל וסובא which led him to be an Apikores. By doing so he has left the authentic language of Olam Habah and chose instead to indulge in a foreign land where his soul will languish in a body that is a sure dead end. What a tragic waste of life and opportunity granted to him by the kindest benefactor whoever was and whoever will be.
This is what it means when we daven ורוממתנו מכל הלשונות. As we explained there are different levels of expressing and using language. Hashem elevated us amongst all the nations with the fact that our unique language is Olam Habah and not Olam Hazeh. We are called a Yid, Yehudi, for Chazal tells us that the Next World was created with the letter Yud. This is what distinguishes us from the Israeli Law of Return, established in 1950, which states that “every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh [immigrant].” We are not immigrants to Olam Habah but rather born citizens there. We really have the Right to Return there since it is our natural place of residence. The Chassidic Masters said that it is a mistake to think that tzaddikim dwell in Olam Habah but rather Olam Habah dwells in tzaddikim even in this world. Every Shabbos we too can get a taste of our future residence.
ברוך אלקינו שבראנו לכבודו והבדילנו מן התועים ונתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו