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Hebrew is Magic: Rooted in Courage

Dear friends,

Three years ago, my longtime friend Rachel and her husband adopted two children – siblings from a small town in Wisconsin.

Last summer, they adopted two more kids from the same family.

As you can probably guess, Rachel is a kind-hearted, generous person.

Still, when it comes to adopting a child – or four – simply being kind, or generous, isn’t enough. As I watched Rachel go through the process – the interviews and site visits, the intensive training, the complicated transition from strangers to family – I realized that there’s so much more to adoption than paperwork and waiting for the right “match.” The word “adoption” doesn’t come close to capturing the basket of emotions, questions, and, at times, frustrations involved.

What does Hebrew tell us about adoption?

What insights does Hebrew offer into what it means to create an adopted family…and about adapting to change in general?


The Hebrew word for “adoption” is imutz (אימוץ)

To understand the essence of this or any other Hebrew word, the first place we look is the shoresh (root) in this case alef-mem-tzadi

giving us the three-letter word amatz

which means “strength.”

Right off the bat, Hebrew hints at what Rachel and other adoptive parents go through.

But the lesson doesn’t end there. Because from this same alef-mem-tzadi root we get two more words: ometz

which means “courage,” and l’hitametz

Hebrew for “to make an effort.”

What a beautiful concept! Hebrew knows that the act of adoption, whether a child or a new idea, is one that requires courage, strength, and effort. Any one or two on their own wouldn’t be enough.

And where do these attributes come from? That last word, l’hitametz, offers a clue.

You see that l’hit– at the beginning?

That means it’s reflexive: According to Hebrew, “making an effort” is an action we perform upon ourselves, one where we literally “self-strengthen.” The not-so-subtle message is that the strength we need is already there, inside us.

What’s wonderful about this collection of alef-mem-tzadi words is that they apply to any obstacle we face.

Because if there’s one thing we know for certain it’s that change is inevitable.

How we react, meanwhile, is up to us.

When adapting to new circumstances, you can either hide from the challenge, or call upon the strength already inside …

And, as has been the case for Rachel and her now thriving family – you grow.


Joel Chasnoff is a stand-up comedian, podcast host, and co-author of Israel 201, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award. You can find out more about his comedy, books, and upcoming tour at, and sign up for his weekly newsletter, Hebrew Is Magic, to receive event updates.

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