75 words for 75 years of Israel – Gefen/Vine

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!

גֶּפֶן

GEFEN

GEH-FEN

VINE

“A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.” (Deuteronomy 8:8)

ארץ חטה ושערה וגפן ותאנה ורמון ארץ־זית שמן ודבש

“Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons, like olive saplings around your table.” (Psalms 128:3)

אשתך  כגפן פריה בירכתי ביתך בניך כשתלי זיתים סביב לשלחנך

Gefen, the Hebrew word for “vine,” refers to grapes. Grapes are one of the seven well-known species of the land of Israel listed in Deuteronomy: “A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8).

In ancient Israel, grapes were primarily used for the production of wine, which was used for ritual purposes in sanctifying Shabbat and Jewish holidays throughout the year. The blessing said over wine ends with the words borei pri ha’gefen, “Who created the fruit of the vine.”

Grapes play a central role in many stories throughout the Bible. While languishing in prison, Joseph interprets the dream of the royal cupbearer, who dreams about squeezing grapes into Pharaoh’s cup. And when Moses sends twelve spies to surveil the land of Israel, they return with a cluster of grapes so large that many men are needed to carry it. This story is reflected in the modern State of Israel, where the official symbol of the Ministry of Tourism is an uncommonly large cluster of grapes being carried by two people. 

Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered many ancient synagogues and other buildings that used grape vines as decorations on their stones. To this day, grape vines are seen as a symbol of prosperity and marital joy, as the verse states, “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house” (Psalms 128:3).


The Israel Bible Team

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