75 words for 75 years of Israel – Avodah/Service

April 29, 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!

עֲבוֹדָה

AVODAH

AH-VO-DAH

SERVICE

And Hashem God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden, to work it and tend it. (Genesis 2:15)

ויקח יהוה אלהים את האדם וינחהו בגן עדן לעבדה ולשמרה.

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” (Exodus 20:9)

ששת ימים תעבד ועשית כל מלאכתך.

Depending on the context, the word avodah can mean either “work” or “service.” 

In Hebrew, worshiping God is called avodat Hashem and implies serving God through one’s actions and choices. One who serves God is known as an eved Hashem, which means, literally, “a slave of God.” The Israelites in Egypt were forced to be avadim (slaves) to the Egyptians but, upon being freed, became “slaves” to God. Slavery to God, however, is a blessing, for it is only by giving ourselves to God that we can truly be free. This “slavery” entails being tasked with the important mission of bringing knowledge of God and His word to the world.

The religious rituals performed thousands of years ago by the priests and Levites in the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem were also referred to as avodah.

The two meanings of the word avodah, “working” and “serving,” are closely related. For it is through our physical work that we serve God and bring Him honor.

When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, He placed Adam there l’ovdah (Genesis 2:15). This is the verb form of the word avodah, teaching Adam that he was created to both work and serve and that true service of God is accomplished through the sanctification of one’s work.

This is a great lesson for all of us. By infusing our everyday work life with awareness of God, with thoughts about God, and with desire to connect to God, we will fulfill our purpose of serving God in every moment of our lives.

The Israel Bible Team

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