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- For the Israeli political party, see Labor Party (Israel).
In a modern context, usually referring to business-type activities, it can also mean agricultural work and, more traditionally, serving God.
In its original, traditional sense, "avodah" was applied to sacrifices offered in the Temple in Jerusalem. The word was also used to describe the epitome of sacrificial rite, the complex and fraught main service of The High Priest on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). Today it refers to a liturgical reenactment of the aforementioned ceremony which is recited during the Musaf Amidah of Yom Kippur.
Avodah in Chassidism
In chassidism: Avodah generally refers to Divine service (or worship). For example, it's part of the Divine service to serve God with joy.
"eizohi Avodah shebelev? zu Teffilah." -translated as "What is the service of the heart? That is teffilah, prayer." That is why in chassidism there is a great emphasis on prayer.
Avodah and Bnei Akiva
In this ideological framework, the word was originally utilised in a strictly agricultural context. "Avodah" meant working on a kibbutz.
In more recent years, Bnei Akiva has had to redefine the terminology. Tens of thousands of its members currently live, or plan to live in an urban setting in Israel. Furthermore, it is generally perceived that the "needs" of Israel have developed somewhat since Bnei Akiva was founded. Draining malarial swamps and "turning the desert green" have assumed somewhat lower priorities than in earlier years. To give an example from exporting, Israel is now known for its high tech industries as much as for its Jaffa oranges.
The movement has therefore subtly redefined Avodah, to mean work that contributes towards the building up of the land of Israel.
- Talmud Bavli, Ta'anit 2a
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