War of the Languages > Humor and The War of the Languages: "Bava Technika"

Humor and The War of the Languages: "Bava Technika"

Bava Technika
​"The War of the Languages" was a very serious matter. It placed the Hebrew language at the center of public discourse and was the first time students, intellectuals, public leaders in the Hebrew Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora were recruited to defend the Hebrew language and give it the status that they felt it deserved. The outcry was great, and the argument produced a large amount of writing and an abundance of opinions.
Bava Technika​Humor was also present. Study partners arguing, defending themselves, quibbling, making claims and objecting to opposing opinions has always been the material for fine Jewish humor. "The War of the Languages" was not an exception. When the great national-cultural fight was still fresh in the minds of many in Eretz Yisrael, a small pamphlet, just 24 pages long, called "Bava Technika" was published.
 
The author of the pamphlet was Kaddsh Yehuda Silman, a teacher, writer, translator, Hebrew scholar, and one of the founders of Tel Aviv. Silman was one of the heads of the "Hebrew Committee" and was a prominent figure in "The War of the Languages".  Later, he taught in the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa, the Hebrew incarnation of the high school meant to train prospective Technikum students.
 
Based on materials from "The War of the Languages", Silman composed "Bava Technika" in the Purim tradition of humorous tractates: meaning, he wrote a text impersonating a Talmudic tractate in language, style and in page format. Silman depicts a polarized fight in the style of the famous Talmudic argument, "Two [persons] hold" which here becomes "Two [languages] hold": Hebrew and German. He builds a funny Talmudic text with claims, proofs and counterarguments.
 
Bava Technika"Houses of study in Eretz Yisrael are required to be torn and buttoned and of many languages which were not created by the Children of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, rather they pander to the lands outside [of Eretz Yisrael], as it says, outside wisdom is Torah these are the words of R. Ephraim. R. Eliezer b. Judah says: Israel was only created in Eretz Yisrael to serve their creator, and just as He is one, so is their language one. [This is] too little for R. Ephraim  as he says, the tearing and multitude of languages is an obligation!" 
 
Silman continues in his humorous style against the smears and extreme positions that proliferated during the "The War of the Languages". He responds to the whole issue with sarcasm when he says, "…an egg that was not laid on a holiday, or the Sabbath or on a week day  is it forbidden to take pleasure in it?" He then continues: "Hebrew says, it is all mine, German says, it is all mine. And there are those who say, the words of Beit Ahad Ha'am disagree…"