In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!
Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו וירדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובבהמה ובכל הארץ ובכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ
“God formed the man from the earth, blowing into his nostrils the breath of life: the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
וייצר יהוה אלהים את האדם עפר מן האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה.
In the creation story at the beginning of Genesis, no names are given to the animals. Only human beings are named, as it is written, “Let us make man (Adam)” (Genesis 1:26). What does this name mean, and what does it teach us about the uniqueness of humanity?
The Hebrew word Adam shares the same root as adama, the Hebrew word for “earth.” The Bible teaches that the first human was made “from the earth,” as it is written, “And the Lord God formed man of dust from the earth” (Genesis 2:7).
Man, however, was not the only creature formed from the earth. Superficially, man and animal appear to be fundamentally the same, as both were formed from the adama. “God said, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature” (Genesis 1:24). But there is more to mankind than earth!
Adam was created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), and “blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Though our bodies come from the same earth as the animals, God created us with a higher level of soul and a loftier purpose.
Though the name Adam is linked to adama (earth), it is also linked to an entirely different word, edameh, meaning “I will be like.” As the verse in Isaiah states: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like (edameh) the Most High!” (Isaiah 14:14).
Mankind, Adam, must choose. We can choose to act like animals and be people of physicality, of the earth (adama). Or we can choose to control our desires and to emulate God and His holy ways (edameh). The choice is ours.