Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Speaking the Right Language

I just read an amazing news item about a Thai woman:
It was just a normal shopping trip when Jaeyana Beuraheng bade farewell to her eight children as she left to cross the border into Malaysia, but it would be 25 years before she would find her way home.

Now, at the age of 76, she has been reunited with her family and has finally told how her misfortune began when she boarded the wrong bus.

Jaeyana would almost certainly have made it home without mishap had it not been that she speaks only Yawi, a dialect spoken by Muslims in southern Thailand. But unable to write, read, or speak Thai or English she boarded a bus for Bangkok, about 800 miles north, by mistake rather than travelling back to her home in Narathiwat.

Bewildered by the noise and traffic of the capital she boarded another bus hoping it would take her home. It did not.

This one took her to Chiang Mai, close to the border with Burma and another 400 miles away. There she became lost and unable to explain her predicament. In Chiang Mai she spent five years begging and with her dark skin was taken to be a member of a hill tribe.

When police rounded up beggars in the northern capital in 1987 she was arrested on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. Unable to determine where she came from, officials sent her to a social services hostel where she has been ever since.

Jintana Satjang, a director of the center where Jaeyana made her home, said: “We thought she was a mute.” Jaeyana was referred to as “Mrs Mon” because staff thought her mutterings sounded like Mon, a minority language in Burma.

Jaeyana would probably have spent the rest of her life at the hostel had not three students from her home province who spoke her language arrived at the centre for training last month. They struck up a friendship and she was able to tell them how she became separated from her family.

The students made inquiries and found her youngest son, Mamu, who is now 35. They sent him her picture by mobile phone.

“I was shocked and overjoyed when I saw the picture,” said Mamu. He said he and his brothers and sisters had searched for years in Thailand and Malaysia until they were told their mother had been run over by a train in Yala.

“I remembered her face even though I have not seen her for 25 years,” he said.

We've been in exile for thousands of years, and yet, we are not fully home yet. What language are we speaking? Are we able to get home using the language of Torah, Tefilla, and Mitzvot or are we stuck in a hole we dug for ourselves by not being able to speak the right language? If we are lost, do we know the right people to ask for directions? Do we even know how to ask for directions? Are we associating with the people who speak our language?

לולא תורתך שעשועי אז אבדתי בעניי

This week's portion tells about the receiving of the Torah. What an amazing gift Hashem has given us! The Torah will bring us home. The Torah is the language we need to get to the next level. This includes all of the following: ללמד וללמד לשמור ולעשות ולקיים.

As we say in the blessing before the Keriat Shema in the morning (Sephardic Nusah):

והאר עינינו בתורתך ודבק לבינו במצותך ויחד לבבינו לאהבה וליראה את שמך לא נבוש ולא נכלם ולא נכשל לעולם ועד כי בשם קדשך הגדול והנורא בטחנו נגילה ונשמחה בישועתך ורחמך ה' אלקינו וחסדך הרבים אל יעזבונו נצח סלה ועד מהר והבא עלינו ברכה ושלום מהרה מארבע כנפות כל הארץ ושבור על הגוים מעל צוארינו והוליכנו מהרה קוממיות לארצנו

The Thai woman above was able to eventually come home. She was lucky though. People who spoke her language found her. We will also eventually come home. Wouldn't it be faster if we spoke the right language?


At Wed Feb 07, 05:13:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Neshama said...

Yaak, That is a very scary story. I really feel sorry for that woman. What an awful experience.

And, leave it up to you, turning it into a lesson for all Klal Yisrael. TU

At Thu Feb 08, 02:58:00 AM 2007, Blogger Cosmic X said...


What language do we speak? Do we speak the language of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi?

אתה תקום תרחם ציון כי עת לחננה כי בא מועד כי רצו עבדיך את אבניה ואת עפרה יחננו זאת אומרת ירושלים לא תבנה כי אם כאשר ישתוקקו אליה בני ישראל תכלית תשוקה עד אשר יחוננו את אבניה ואת עפרה

Perhaps we are speaking a different language.

At Thu Feb 08, 09:46:00 AM 2007, Blogger yaak said...

Believe me Cosmic, לבי במזרח but I appreciate the Mussar.

At Thu Feb 08, 12:34:00 PM 2007, Blogger Sabzi Aash said...

That poor woman! What a nightmare. I can't believe it took 25 years to figure out where she was from. I wonder how much effort was made. Did most people just write her off as a crazy, not worth paying attention to? I wonder if there are any other people in this terrible position.

At Sat Feb 10, 12:31:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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