There is a phrase that is popularly attributed to Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra. Apparently, it relates to a sugya in Hullin that concerns the permissibility of eating honey in which the legs of bees might have been found. Ibn Ezra is said to have responded:

פרשנו: רעבתן שבדבש נתבער ונשרף

We have explained it thus: the glutton [ie: the bee] in the honey is considered to have been destroyed and eradicated [lit. burned]

There are multiple sources for this, but none of them cite the text in which it is published, and therefore fail to prove its association with Ibn Ezra. See here, for example, and here, and here.

The amazing thing about this phrase, aside from its being a palindrome, is that it also forms a magic square (sometimes known in English as a sator square). But did Ibn Ezra actually write it??

People seem to think that he did, but my attempts at locating a single source by Ibn Ezra in which this phrase is featured have so far proven fruitless.

Where did Ibn Ezra actually write this? Alternatively, what is the earliest (published) source for this statement's having been written by him?


2 Answers 2


The earliest source I was able to find for this particular palindrome is a work by the famous kurdistan author, Shimon Avidani (1881 - 1981), called ma'aseh hadgdolim (parshas toldos no. 13, p. 382). The author brings this from an ancient anonymous text:

וגם ראיתי כתיבת יד עתיק כך: פרשנו רעבתן שבדבש נתבער ונשרף. גם זה אתה יכול לקרוא ישר והפוך, וגם בראשי תיבות ישר והפוך בכל צד ואופן.

The author brings this along many other palindromes by the Ibn ezra, and this may have caused the incorrect attribution of this particular palindrome to the Ibn ezra; but it doesn't seem to be his creation.


Edit: poet and scholar Noam Dovev who wrote about this square pointed me to this reference from 1924 Daily Jewish bulletin, attributing it to Ibn Ezra, and it is actually referenced in the English Wikipedia page for palindrome... not sure how I've missed this :/

Original answer: This is a great question. I was also suspicious due to the lack of references. Following above threads (rabbit holes?), I found in Pardes Yosef on VaYikra (Leviticus) 11 29 from 1939:

שמעתי ששאלו להרב מלאדי ז״ל עכבר שנפל לדבש מה דינו "והשיב במליצה: "פרשנו רעבתן שבדבש נתבער ונשרף ונקרא ישר והפך, ודוק ותשכח וזה פלא [sic]

Attributing the quote to Shneur Zalman of Liadi. The sentence after that mentions Ibn Ezra's palindromes for comparison.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .