There is a piyut which is said by Minhag Lita on the fifth (sometimes, in some customs, on the fourth) weekday of the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah; by Nusach Sefard on the second Monday of BeHa”B; and by Nusach Ashkenaz during Ne’ilah, beginning אזכרה אלקים ואהמיה. It contains a stanza that reads as follows:

תָּמַכְתִּי יְתֵדוֹתַי בִּשְׁלֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה תֵבוֹת. וּבְשַׁעֲרֵי דְמָעוֹת כִּי לֹא נִשְׁלָבוֹת. לָכֵן שָׁפַכְתִּי שִׂיחַ פְּנֵי בוֹחֵן לִבּוֹת. בָּטוּחַ אֲנִי בָּאֵלֶּה וּבִזְכוּת שְׁלֹשֶׁת אָבוֹת.

The first line literally translates to “I have placed my reliance in the Thirteen Words,” but in context, it seems to refer to the Thirteen Middos.

As far as I’m aware, there is no opinion that the Thirteen Middos are all individual words; all opinions of which I am aware have at least one Middah being a phrase, rather than a single word. As such, why does the paytan refer to them as “words”? Is he following a different counting of which I am not aware, or is there a different reason that this term is employed?

  • תבות means boxes. – msh210 Oct 9 at 6:02
  • @msh210 Thank you for a comment that’s not about rhyme scheme. :) I imagine that the common usage is that they’re units which contain things - i.e. that a word is a “box” containing letters. – DonielF Oct 9 at 14:11
  • Yes I understand why תבה is coming used for word. But maybe it can also mean something that's more appropriate here – msh210 Oct 9 at 15:34
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about rhyming schemes has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Oct 9 at 15:59

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