Friday, November 27, 2009

Letter Twins Pey/Phey




The letter pey, like the chaf, has three forms: pey with a dot in the middle, phey with no dot, and phey sofit, with a different shape when appearing at the end of a word.

The name of the letter, pey, is related to the word peh, which means mouth. Human beings are the only one of God’s creations that have the power of intelligent speech.

Symbolically, the sages see the shape of the pey as representing the two sides of communication. The regular pey (or phey) represents a closed mouth, whereas a phey sofit represents an open mouth. Part of the responsibility of having intelligent speech is knowing when to talk and when to listen.

The order of the alphabet can also teach a meaningful lesson about life. The ayin, representing the eye, precedes the pey, representing the mouth, because one should first visually assess a situation before opening one’s mouth to comment on it.

Another important word that begins with the letter pey is pote’ach, which means to open. In the prayer of Ashrei, we describe God as "pote’ach et yadecha, oo’mas’be’ah l’chol chai ratzon, You open Your hand, and satisfy the needs of all creatures." The letter pey looks like a closed hand which we are requesting God to open and provide us with our sustenance.

The numerical value of pey is 80.

Bibliographical acknowledgment: The Wisdom In The Hebrew Alphabet: The Sacred Letters as a Guide to Jewish Deed and Thought. By Rabbi Michael L. Munk. Mesorah Publications, 1983.

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