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!
“A fugitive brought the news to Abram the Hebrew, who was dwelling at the terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, kinsman of Eshkol and Aner, these being Abram’s allies.” (Genesis 14:13)
ויבא הפליט ויגד לאברם העברי והוא שכן באלני ממרא האמרי אחי אשכל ואחי ענר והם בעלי ברית־אברם.
“And say to him, the God of the Hebrews sent me to you to say, “Let My people go so that they may worship Me in the wilderness.” But you have paid no heed until now.” (Exodus 7:16)
ואמרת אליו יהוה אלהי העברים שלחני אליך לאמר שלח את־עמי ויעבדני במדבר והנה לא־שמעת עד־כה.
God’s chosen people have gone by many names. They are referred to as “Israelites,” the children of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. And they are commonly referred to as Jews, for after the destruction of the first Temple and their exile to Babylonia, most of the Israelites who did not assimilate and disappear descended from the tribe of Judah. But before they received either of these names, they were known as Ivrim, “Hebrews.”
What is the meaning of this name? Some explain that Abraham is referred to as an Ivri because he was a descendant of Eber. Others highlight the linguistic connection between ivri and the Hebrew word Eiver, meaning “side,” for Abraham immigrated to Israel from the other “side” of the Jordan River, having come from the East.
A deeper message emerges from the connection between Ivri and Eiver. From a young age, Abraham was unlike any other people of his generation. As it related to religious beliefs, morality and ethics, it can be said that the whole world was on one side, and Abraham was on the other. He was not afraid to be different and didn’t shy away from speaking out against evil. For him, living a life of truth mattered more than receiving the approval of others. This made Abraham worthy of bringing God’s message to the world.
God tells Moses to refer to Him as the “God of the Hebrews” when he confronts Pharaoh and cries out, “Let my people go!” For by using this name, Moses conveyed a critical message to Pharaoh: that Moses’ people were unlike any other nation! The Hebrews believed in God, and they would not be afraid to stand up against those who sought to oppress them, a strength they inherited from Abraham, the very first Ivri.