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!
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life – if you and your offspring would live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
העדתי בכם היום את השמים ואת הארץ החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך.
“Isaac’s servants, digging in the wadi, found there a well of living waters.” (Genesis 26:19)
ויחפרו עבדי יצחק בנחל וימצאו שם באר מים חיים.
“L’chayim!” is the well known toast that Jews make to celebrate special life moments and milestones. It means “to life!”
The entire Bible can be summed up in this one word, as its overarching value is the respect for and sanctity of life. For by respecting the lives of others, we respect the God Who created everything. In other words, if we truly respect God, we will naturally respect all other living things. “I have put before you life and death…choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:15,19).
Despite the great importance of each and every one of the Bible’s 613 commandments, one is permitted, even obligated, to violate almost any commandment in order to save a life. One is obligated to violate the laws of Shabbat or the kosher laws if one’s life, or someone else’s life, is at risk. The value of life is supreme.
Not only is following God’s will and word the best way to live one’s life, it is the only way of life that is truly considered “living.” The Talmud teaches that evil people are considered as if they are dead even while they are still alive, while righteous people are considered alive, even after they have left this world.
The Bible also uses the word chayim in regard to purification rituals for those who have become impure. Whether the impurity derives from a skin affliction or contact with a dead body, “living waters” that come from natural sources like rivers, springs and rainfall are required for the ritual to have its intended effect. Life is the source of purity.