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I'm currently reading Midrash Rabbah (Bereshis), and I'm intrigued by the story in 1:11, where the children attend the House of the Assembly on a stormy day and ask why there are two forms to the letters mem, nun, zade, peh, and kaf (I've often wondered this myself!!). An explaination is given, describing how the Torah was transmitted "from utterance to utterance, from Faithful to faithful, from Righteous to righteous, from mouth to mouth, from hand to hand" and then it mentions Moses and G-d. However, I'm left still scratching my head how this explains the two forms of these letters and why these letters, specifically? Can someone help clarify this midrash for me? Thanks!

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The two forms of the letter "Mem" allude to the word "ma'amar," utterance. The two forms of the letter Mem allude to the Torah being given from a first utterance to a second utterance. Likewise, two Nun's allude to the word "ne'eman," trustworthy, a first trustworthy person and a second trustworthy person. And so forth: two Tzadi's allude to two Tzaddik's, righteous people, two Peh's allude to two Peh's, mouths, and two Kaf's allude to two Kaf's, palms (Maharzu). The bit afterward about God and Moses is explaining these: God's utterance, trustworthiness, righteousness, mouth, and palm to those of Moses.

  • Thank you so much! The translation I was reading was only in the English! This makes much more sense! (And is the real reason why those letters are that way or just a symbolic/interesting lesson?) I quite like the midrash. Thanks! – Butterfly and Bones Aug 19 '16 at 7:56
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    @ButterflyandBones Yes, the answer given in the midrash is the 'real' reason, meaning it is true. In other areas of the Torah, like for example Sefer Ginat Egoz, there are extensive discussions of the letters, in general, and the final letters compared and contrasted to the simple letters. They form paradigms for the creation of the universe. A couple of those paradigms connected with the letters are their numerical values, the forms of the script, their orientation in space and the parts of the mouth that form the letters. – Yaacov Deane Aug 19 '16 at 14:22

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