Windows on the Word



Nugget 216: Israel – Prince with God


The Etymological Origin of the Word ‘Israel’

According to Webster, etymology is, “the tracing of a word back as far as possible in its own language.” The first occurrence of the word ‘Israel’ (yisrael) – יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל in the Hebrew Bible is found in this week’s Torah portion in Genesis 32:28. In this passage, the angel of the LORD confronts the patriarch Jacob at Peniel and changes his name: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” What does ‘Israel’ ( יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל <-) mean? First, note that the last two letters, אל, (El), is one of the names for God and occurs 6,581 times in the Hebrew T’nakh.  [The longer form of this word is אלוהים (Elohim) and occurs 2,602 times in the T’nakh.] (more…)

Nugget 215: Jacob’s Ladder


The first line of text in this week’s Torah portion:

וַיֵּצֵ֥א יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִבְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ חָרָֽנָה <
For the Hebrew students, I will write the Hebrew in transliteration and translation: Vayetze (and went out) Yakov (Jacob) mi-be’er sheva(from Be’er Sheva) vahYehlech (and walked) haranah (to Haran). Pay attention that in Hebrew, the verb likes to be first in the sentence because it is the most important part of speech.  The first word in the text is the name of this Torah portion – וַיֵּצֵ֥א -(vayetze).  The root (יצא) means ‘to go out’ or ‘to come out’. This Torah portion begins and ends with two major events concerning stones and has a third event in the middle! Let’s look at each. Gen. 28:10-15 is a very important passage because here God reconfirms His covenant with Jacob:


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