There are dozens of fathers throughout Jewish texts, including the Tanakh and Talmud, with the father-child relationship as a commonly explored theme. And in fact, even the relationship between God and the people of Israel is often described in Judaism as akin to that between a parent and children, and God is frequently compared to a father throughout Jewish liturgy.
So in honor of Father’s Day and Judaism’s love for fatherhood, and to celebrate dads everywhere, we’re bringing you our 5 favorite fathers from the Hebrew Bible. Read on below and tell us which one inspires you the most!
Happy Father’s Day!
Abraham, known in Hebrew as Avraham, was the father of not just Issac and Ishmael, but the entire Jewish nation and even monotheism itself. After all, the major monotheistic religions today – including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Druze and Baha’i belief systems – all trace their roots to Abraham and are commonly called Abrahamic faiths.
While Abraham may seem like a controversial model of fatherhood, given that he almost sacrificed Isaac, it was all an important part of God’s plan – God stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son was to show to the world that the God of Israel, unlike other religions of the time, does not want child sacrifice but instead values human life above all.
Abraham’s son Isaac, or in Hebrew Yitzhak, similarly had two sons: Jacob and Esau. Isaac is shown in the Bible as both an obedient son and a loving father, learning from Abraham’s best qualities and applying them to his own life. While the younger son Jacob was meant to carry on the birthright and was shown as the more righteous of the two, Isaac still loved Esau dearly as well.
Today Isaac is remembered as one of Judaism’s patriarchs, and as the grandfather of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Jacob – or Yaakov in Hebrew, and later Yisrael or Israel – was the son of Isaac and the father of 12 sons who would go on to form the 12 Tribes of Israel. The Jewish value of l’dor vador (“from generation to generation”) is exemplified in the stories of Jacob, who did what he could to ensure the Jewish people lived on through him.
He also worked tirelessly to provide for his wives and children, and did his best to secure their safety and wellbeing. His loving relationship with his wives was perhaps one of the most important lessons he passed on to his sons, who are shown to express deep devotion and protection towards the women in their lives, including their mothers and their sister Dinah.
Jacob also passed on his relationship with God to his children, and ensured that they did not worship idols.
Moses, known in Hebrew as Moshe, was a fatherly figure to the entire nation of Israel as he led them out of Egypt and out of slavery into freedom.
The Jewish people solidified their identity as a nation and their covenant with God under his leadership, and he showed great patience and love towards his people just like a father. He encouraged and defended them, and even intervened on their behalf and convinced God to forgive their transgressions.
5. King David
David was one of Israel’s greatest kings, with many contributions that had a lasting impact on the Jewish people and on Judaism itself. He also had great intuition as a father, and had the foresight to choose Solomon from among his sons as his successor – a wise choice that gave Israel and the Jewish people one of our most exemplary and remarkable leaders.
David is said to have taught Solomon from a young age, instilling in him a good character, strength, wisdom, and God’s commandments.
Part of King David’s legacy is setting Solomon up to be a great leader of his own, and Solomon’s wisdom and talent are evident in his writings and in his own legacy.
More on parenthood in Judaism
For more on what Judaism has to say about fatherhood, including lessons on great fatherly qualities and responsibilities from classical Jewish texts and scriptures, check out our earlier post here.