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!
She conceived again and bore a son, and declared, “This time I will praise God.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.” (Genesis 29:35)
ותהר עוד ותלד בן ותאמר הפעם אודה את־יהוה על־כן קראה שמו יהודה ותעמד מלדת.
“Give thanks to God, for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal.” (Psalms 118:1)
הודו ליהוה כי־טוב כי לעולם חסדו.
Hodaah, the Hebrew word for “thanks,” is also the root of the Hebrew word Yehudi, which means “Jew.” In turn, Yehudi comes from the name of the tribe of Yehudah, “Judah”, who was given this name by his mother Leah after she gave birth to more sons than she expected to have. She immediately expressed her deep gratitude for this gift, saying “This time I will praise God.” In fact, the Rabbis teach that Leah was the first one to truly give hodaah to God.
She instilled this trait in Judah, who then passed on this trait to the Jewish people who, today, mostly descend from his tribe. As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach taught, to be a Jew literally means to give thanks and express gratitude for all the blessings that fill our lives. In fact, one of the most important Jewish values is hakarat hatov, recognizing the good that others, including God, do for us. This is why King David writes over and over again through the Book of Psalms, “Give thanks to God, for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal” (Psalms 118:11).
Hodaah also means to be modeh, to “admit the truth,” which Judah so humbly did in the story of his relationship with Tamar (Genesis 38:26). What is the connection between giving thanks and admitting the truth? The Sages teach that both giving thanks and admitting the truth require authentic humility before God. When we understand that everything comes from God, we will thank Him for all that we’ve been blessed with and will not allow our egos to stand in the way of admitting the truth.