Return to Previous Page
Rabbi Jack Moline Website
Home | Profile | Works | Links
Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
P21–- HA’EIL
January 19, 2007
© Rabbi Jack Moline

As you already know "ha" is the definite article in Hebrew so the word that occurs first after the recitation of our ancestors and their relationship with God is "eil." And "eil" is the generic Hebrew word for god, with a small "g."

We encounter the word "eil" all the time in prayer – we sing the hymn "Eil Adon" on Shabbat morning; we use the plural form when we quote "mi khamokhah ba'eilim adonai" (who is like You among the gods, o Compassionate One); we bid farewell to Shabbat by singing "Eliyahu ha-Navi" (Eliyahu/Elijah means "my god is YHWH.").

By placing the definite article in front of "eil" the word becomes very specific but it is not God's name. Rather it is a title of sorts or perhaps the beginning of a title. Followed as it is in the Amidah by a series of adjectives that can also be nouns, it is hard to know if what follows is meant to be a series of modifiers or synonyms. In any case, they serve to set God apart from anything else worshiped or designated as a god.

The use of this particular word (and the one that follows in the Amidah) gives us an insight into a commonly-heard and –misunderstood phrase in Arabic. "Allah" has the same meaning as "ha'eil." The generic word for god in Arabic is "'ila" and the prefix "al" is the definite article. "Al-'ila" becomes blended and pronounced "Allah." It helps us to appreciate the commonality of expression we have with Muslims to realize that we are all engaged in the acknowledgment of the same – the one – God.

Home | Profile | Works | Links

Comments or Questions? Email