Saturday, March 29, 2014
Week 26 (Book 4b): The Importance of Speech
Week 26 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Nissan is the month of Passover. The verses of Shir HaShirim are very much connected to the mouth and to and speech, which are the primary symbols of Passover itself. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev states that Pesach stands for Peh - Sach, “a mouth converses,” as it is a special mitzvah to recount and ponder over the miracles of our liberation during the Passover Seder as much as possible. The Megaleh Amukos states that Pharaoh stands for Peh Rah (evil mouth). Here is Rashi’s commentary on the verses:
15. his appearance is like the Lebanon: One who reflects and ponders over His words finds in them blossoms and sprouts, like a forest which blooms. So are the words of Torah-whoever meditates over them constantly finds new explanations in them.
16. His palate is sweet: His words are pleasant...
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-sixth mentioned is Puvvah. Puah also appears to come from the Hebrew word for mouth (Peh), related to Pessach. This seems related to the name Puah (spelled with an Ayin instead of an Aleph), mentioned in connection to Miriam in the very beginning of the Exodus story. “The name Puah, comes from a Hebrew root that implies a particular gift of speech. Rashi comments that Puah was able to soothe a crying baby to sleep with her special way of talking.” Puvvah is also the name of the father of Tola, a Judge from the Tribe of Issachar.
Daf Caf Alef (Folio 21) of Shvuot continues to discuss oaths, particularly addressing whether an oath needs to be “spoken.” Again, the idea of “Peh - Sach.”
Chapter 26 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It gives emphasis to the physical saying of the prophecy, not so much regarding the mouth, but the ear:
11. And the priests and the prophets said to the princes and to all the people, saying, "This man is liable to death, for he prophesied concerning this city, as you have heard with your ears. "
12. And Jeremiah said to all the princes and to all the people saying, "The Lord sent me to prophesy concerning this house and concerning this city all the words that you have heard. (…)
15. But you should know that if you put me to death, that you are bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and upon its inhabitants, for indeed God sent me concerning you, to speak into your ears all these words."
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