75 words for 75 years of Israel – Halacha/Law

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!

הֲלָכָה

HALACHA

HA-LA-CHAH

LAW

“Enjoin upon them the laws and the teachings, and make known to them the way they are to go and the practices they are to follow.” (Exodus 18:20)

והזהרתה אתהם את־החקים ואת־התורת והודעת להם את־הדרך ילכו בה ואת־המעשה אשר יעשון.

“When He stands, He makes the earth shake; when He glances, He makes nations tremble. The age-old mountains are shattered, the primeval hills sink low. The ways of the world are His.” (Habakkuk 3:6)

עמד  וימדד ארץ ראה ויתר גוים ויתפצצו הררי־עד שחו גבעות עולם הליכות עולם לו.

The Hebrew word halacha derives from the word holech, “to walk,” and is most commonly used to refer to the Jewish tradition’s large body of commandments and laws. This linguistic connection reflects the purpose of Jewish law: to teach us how to “walk” in God’s ways through this world.

A teaching from the Talmud illustrates this idea. “One who studies Halachot (Torah laws) every day is assured of a place in the World to Come. The verse in Habakkuk says: ‘The ways of the world (Halichot) are His’ (Habakkuk 3:6). The Rabbis explain: Do not read ‘Halichot,’ meaning ‘ways of the world,’ but rather “Halachot,” meaning the ‘laws of the Torah.’”

“The ways of the world” are the mundane, everyday things we do throughout each day of our lives, from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night, like getting dressed in the morning, eating breakfast and commuting to work. The Sages teach us that the laws of the Torah that direct our everyday lives are meant to align these mundane parts of our lives with God’s ways. They provide us with constant opportunities to bring God-consciousness into our daily lives and infuse holiness into the mundane. 

This is what Jethro was referring to when he said to his son-in-law Moses, “Enjoin upon them the laws and the teachings, and make known to them the way they are to go and the practices they are to follow” (Exodus 18:20). The laws of the Bible show us the path on which we should walk and, as a result, help us to follow the ways of God, uplifting and sanctifying our lives with great purpose and meaning.

The Israel Bible Team

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