What is the meaning of the title ”Yehudi”?

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Here’s what we find in the Rebbe’s explanation:

— In the Talmud (Megillah, 12B) Rav Nachman suggests that Mordechai’s father was from the tribe of Benjamin and his mother from the tribe of Judah.  As such, he would correctly be crowned by both tribes.

However, even according to a different opinion (that both of his parents came from the tribe of Benjamin) he certainly came from the Kingdom of Yehuda. This state was formed after the break-up of the United Kingdom of Israel and united two tribes – Yehuda and Benjamin.

👆 From the Rebbe’s talk on the 7th of Tevet, 5752 (chapter “Vayigash”). Click here to see the full interactive presentation, based on this talk.

The idea of some inner connection of these two tribes can be seen in the portion of ‘Vayigash’ as well. In the beginning of the chapter, Yehudah approaches Yosef to plead for the release of no other than Benjamin! It’s the whole idea of his conversation with Yosef. He even offers himself as a slave to the ‘Egyptian ruler’ – instead of his brother Benjamin.

Additionally, it should be mentioned that the title “Yehudi” comes from the Hebrew word “hodaa” – “appreciation”, “gratitude”. It can be traced back to the reason why Leah named her fourth son “Yehudah”: “For now I can [truly] thank haShem!” (“Vayetze”, 29:35). It represents a certain lifestyle and state of being – a constant gratitude and trust in haShem (from the Rebbe’s talk on parashat “Vayigash”, 5752, note 29).

The commentaries explain that the name Yehudah shares the same root as the Hebrew word hoda’ah, which means acknowledgement. One who acknowledges G‑d’s existence and submits to His authority is called a Yehudi. Today this title belongs to each and every one of Bnei Israel.

From the Rebbe’s explanations:

— The very word Yehudi, Hebrew for “Jew”, is derived from the name Yehudah… Similarly, our Sages (Megillah, 13a) describe a Jew, a Yehudi, as “one who denies the alien worship.” Such is the behavior of Mordechai who did not bow before Haman (because, the Midrash says, Haman engraved an idolatrous icon on his chest).

In the original, ‘the alien worship’ is avodah zarah. In an extended sense, this refers not only to a person’s outright idolatry, but also to any “service which is alien to him as a Jew. This includes not only forbidden activities, but even any motivation that is not directed toward the higher purposes.

For a Jew, then, since he is “one who denies avodah zarah,” even his mundane and seemingly neutral activities are directed to a spiritual purpose. As our Sages taught (Avos 5:20), “All your deeds [in their entirety] should be for the sake of Heaven.” And it is likewise written (Mishlei 3:6), “Know Him [your Creator] in all your ways.”

From the Rebbe’s talk on the 7th of Tevet, 5752 (chapter “Vayigash”).

Did you know? Interactive lessons, based on the Rebbe’s talks, created by the “Beit Shemesh Tomchi Tamimim” yeshiva, are now open to everyone. Find out how you can use these materials and presentations for your class or event 👇

Click here to see the full interactive presentation, based on this talk.

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