The root עבד is often used as a verb in context of doing work, of service (doing work for someone), worship (doing work for a god). The noun (avodah) is used likewise. The related word עבד (eved) is often translated as slave and sometimes as (bond)servant.

I always thought the connection and similarity between al the contexts and translation of this root had to do with work (with fysical or outwards deeds) - regards the circumstances under which these were done. But then I looked at Bereshit 2:5 which talks about the fact that there was no adam 'to avod' the earth. And tought maybe it could be about a principle in which man had to serve the earth, like all work serves something or someone, and a slave and servant serve another human - regards the reason why they serve.

That made me wonder again about the root עבד and it's essence: Could this be described into one word or a definition; which shows the similarity and connection between all different meanings (serve, worship, work etc...) without changing the different meanings on there own.

1 Answer 1


I believe you are correct. R' SS Hirsh explain (Parshas Yisro) that the difference between "Melocha" and "Avoda" is that Melocha means intentional, purposeful, creative work and not physical toil. Seemingly when submissive, subservient toil is the primary objective, we call that "Avoda".

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  • Thank you so much, for this comment and the picture with it! (p.s. which book is it you took this copy of?)
    – Levi
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 12:47
  • @ Mbrevda: I noticed in his Etymological dictionary of the Hebrew language that the root forms also a transitive verb (Post Biblical Hebrew) with the meaning: he did, referring to a action. And that it's somewhat connected and related to כבד which describes something heavy, and is also the root for giving respect or honor.
    – Levi
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 13:33
  • The book is R' Samson Refael Hirsch's work on Chumash
    – Mbrevda
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 18:43

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