75 words for 75 years of Israel – Aliyah/Go Up

April 28, 2023

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!





“My father made me swear, saying ‘Behold, I am going to die. In my grave, which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.’ So now, please let me go up and I will bury my father and then return.” (Genesis 50:5)

אבי השביעני לאמר הנה אנכי מת בקברי אשר כריתי לי בארץ כנען שמה תקברני ועתה אעלה נא ואקברה את אבי ואשובה

“Thus said King Cyrus of Persia: Hashem, God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and has charged me with building Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any one of you of all His people, Hashem his God be with him and let him go up.” (II Chronicles 36:23)

כה אמר כורש  מלך פרס כל ממלכות הארץ נתן לי יהוה אלהי השמים והוא פקד עלי לבנות לו בית בירושל͏ם אשר ביהודה מי בכם מכל עמו יהוה אלהיו עמו ויעל

We first encounter aliyah when Joseph asks Pharaoh for permission to go up to the land of Canaan to bury his father Jacob. “Please let me go up and bury my father and return” (Genesis 50:5).

Joseph uses the words “go up” not because the Land of Canaan (Israel) was at a higher physical elevation than Egypt, but because of its loftier spiritual status. For this reason, one who moves to the Land of Israel is said to be making aliyah, one who makes a spiritual elevation in his life.

Aliyah also describes the fulfillment of the commandment to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. This is called aliyat ha’regel, “going up for the festival,” for traveling to the city of Jerusalem is considered a great spiritual elevation.

The word aliyah also refers to one who is called up to make a blessing over the Torah scroll when it is read publicly. The platform from where the Torah scroll is read is usually a step higher than the synagogue floor, which helps the congregation better hear the Torah reading and reminds us that the Bible elevates us spiritually by bringing God’s word into our lives.

The very last word in the Hebrew Bible is ya’al, a form of the word aliyah meaning “Let him go up” (II Chronicles 36:23). Incredibly, the Hebrew Bible ends by highlighting the critical role that gentiles have played in helping the Jewish people go up to and return home to Israel!

The Israel Bible Team


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