The Iconoclast

Friday, 27 October, 2023 - 7:58 am

Ever wonder where the term Ivrit comes from. Ivrit, the word for modern Hebrew, is taken from the word Ivri.

So, what does Ivri mean and where does it come from?

We are introduced to the word Ivri in this week’s parsha of Lech lecha.

It was, in fact, the title of the first Jew. Avraham is referred to in the Torah as Avraham Ha’Ivri, Abraham the Hebrew.  In fact, if you look more closely at the words, you will notice that Hebrew is simply a transliteration of the original Ivri.

The problem is that there was no Hebrew nation at the time. So, what does the word Ivri mean?

Rashi points out that Ivri (עברי) stems from the word Ever (עבר), which means the other side. Avraham received this nickname because he was on the “other side” of what the world was preaching and doing. While everyone else was following pagan beliefs and indulging in immorality, Avraham was the iconoclast that pledged allegiance to the one G-d of the Torah.

And, it’s due to this unwavering loyalty that Avraham bequeathed to his descendants, that G-d chose to create a nation from him and gift the Torah to the Jewish people.

Avraham’s life was one long uphill battle. At every step of the way there were naysayers. He was never Mr. Popular.

But, he was Mr. Conviction. And, he was proud of it. Slowly, he built a following. And, that following endures to this very day.


I am pained when I hear my fellow Jews tell me that they are singled out at work or school. Or, that they are scared to wear a kippah. We live in unprecedented times.

But, we do have a precedent. We do have a tried and tested approach to the myriads of enemies that have ridiculed us, oppressed us and tried to wipe us off the earth.

It’s been successful for over 3500 years.

And, it’s the very reason we are still around today.

Instead of cowering with fear, it’s time to stand proud as Jews. Let’s put up extra mezuzot. Let’s wear our tefillin, kippah and Jewish symbols even more openly and proudly. Let’s insist on kosher food, even we are not yet ready to commit to a kosher lifestyle.

Following Avraham’s lead, let’s invest in making Jewish life about positive expressions of Jewishness, no matter the circumstance. Being proactive iconoclasts has always been the Jewish thing.

May our collective efforts bear fruit, and may Almighty G-d deliver us from the hands of all of our enemies with peace and tranquility.

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