75 words for 75 years of Israel – Nachala/Portion

75 words for 75 years of Israel – Nachala/Portion

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!





“The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no territorial portion with Israel. They shall live only off God’s offerings by fire as their portion.” (Deuteronomy 18:1)

לא יהיה לכהנים הלוים כל שבט לוי חלק ונחלה עם ישראל אשי יהוה ונחלתו יאכלון. 

“But God took you and brought you out of Egypt, that iron blast furnace, to be God’s very own portion, as is now the case.” (Deuteronomy 4:20)

ואתכם לקח יהוה ויוצא אתכם מכור הברזל ממצרים להיות לו לעם נחלה כיום הזה.

Upon the completion of the Israelite’s conquest of the land of Israel, the land was divided up into twelve nachalot, twelve “portions,” one for each tribe. Levi, the only tribe that did not receive a particular portion like the others, was scattered among the lands of the other tribes, in 48 different Levite cities. The Levites subsisted on agricultural tithes that the other tribes were obligated to give them from the produce of their fields. This freed the Levites to perform their designated duties in the Temple in Jerusalem and to serve as religious teachers for the nation.

The children of Israel are referred to in the Bible as “God’s portion.” “But God took you and brought you out of Egypt… to be God’s very own portion” (Deuteronomy 4:20). God did not free the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt simply to become an independent nation like many other nations in the world. Rather, He took the people of Israel to make them His chosen nation, a nation that would bring the light of God to the world. God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the God of the Hebrews: Let My people go to worship Me’” (Exodus 9:1). The people of Israel must be free in order to worship God.

The grammatical root of nachala is nachal, meaning “stream.” Though the land of Israel does not have many lakes, it was blessed with many flowing streams, as it says in the verse, “For your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill” (Deuteronomy 8:7).

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