Return to Previous Page
Rabbi Jack Moline Website
Home | Profile | Works | Links
Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
March 6, 2007
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Barukh ata adonai eloheinu veilohei avoteinu elohei avraham elohei yitz'chak veilohei Yaakov elohei sarah elohei rivka elohei rachel veilohei leah ha'eil hagadol hagibbor v'hanorah eil elyon...

...that's a lot of words, and they all describe God. God has power, an ability to be in relationship with each and all, greatness, valor, awe and majesty. But after we have stood to recite this long string of attributes, a title of sorts, all we have done is acknowledge aspects of the divine Being.

Now God acts.

Gomeil is the first action we attribute to God in all of the Amidah.

Gomeil is a word with which we are mostly familiar from the brakhah that is recited by people who are called to the Torah after an escape from danger. "Bentsching gomeil" involves offering a moment of thanksgiving for deliverance. But what does it mean?

The same root that forms gomeil forms a seemingly inappropriate word gamal, which means "camel." The camel is a prized animal in the Middle East. The "ship of the desert" has the ability to drink huge volumes of water and sustain itself during long treks between streams or wells. It is a beast of burden, able to bear its load in seemingly impossible circumstances.

The word itself can all mean "replenish." It is easy to see the connection between the camel and replenishment, and related words. How, though, does either concept apply to God?

The third meaning of this verb is simple: do. Most people associated the Hebrew "oseh" with "do," but oseh really means "make." Gomeil implies direct action where it is needed, perhaps on the order of assistance, intervention, engagement.

There is a certain thrill to reciting a long list of lofty descriptors that place God on a plane of existence somehow "above" us eil elyon and then affirming as God's first action a direct involvement with humanity and therefore with me.

So what exactly does God "do?" Rest assured, it involves carrying an almost impossible burden and replenishing us in a particular way.

Home | Profile | Works | Links

Comments or Questions? Email