75 words for 75 years of Israel – Etzem/Bone

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!

עֶצֶם

ETZEM

EH-TZEM

BONE

“This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called woman, for from a man was she taken.” (Genesis 2:23)

ויאמר האדם זאת הפעם עצם מעצמי ובשר מבשרי לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה־זאת

“And He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of God!” (Ezekiel 37:4)

ויאמר אלי הנבא על העצמות האלה ואמרת אליהם העצמות היבשות שמעו דבר יהוה

Upon encountering Eve for the first time, Adam declares that she is etzem m’atzamai, the “bone of my bones,” for Eve was literally taken from the physical body of Adam. For this reason, etzem also means “essence,” as Adam and Eve’s unified state meant they shared a common essence. And so the Bible says in the very next verse, “Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh,” returning to their original unified state in the Garden of Eden.

In one of the most vivid prophecies in the entire Bible, Ezekiel sees himself standing in a valley full of dry bones, where speaks to them and brings them back to life. These bones represent the “essence” of the Children of Israel, which is eternal and indestructible, and their coming back to life symbolizes their return to the land of Israel which, as we know, eventually takes place. 

It’s fitting, then, that atzmaut, the Hebrew word for “independence,” also derives from etzem. Independence Day in the State of Israel is called Yom Ha’Atzmaut, marking the day when Israel returned to life as a free and independent nation. 

Atzum, meaning “great” or “strong,” also derives from etzem, for bones are the powerful and long lasting core of human strength. God uses this word to describe the great nation of Israel that will one day come from Abraham: “Abraham shall surely become a great and powerful (atzum) nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him” (Genesis 18:18).

The Israel Bible Team

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