Shalom, dear friends, this week we received a question: Is there a relation between the words “nefesh” (the bodily part of the soul), “nachash“, a serpent, and the verb for to kiss in Hebrew “nashaq“?
The question was inspired by the video David and the Frog.
In the book of Genesis, there is a notable instance where Esau and Jacob reunite after 20 years of separation. The passage recounts how Esau ran to meet Jacob, embraced him, fell on his neck, and kissed him, and they wept. However, in the Hebrew Bible with Teamin, there is an interesting detail. The word for “kiss” is written as “וַׄיִּׄשָּׁׄקֵ֑ׄהׄוּׄ” (Vayishakehu), with seven dots placed above the word. According to the sages, these dots that Ezra the scribe added suggest that Esau intended to bite Jacob, as each dot represents a bite.
Esau Meeting Jacob, from “Dalziels’ Bible Gallery” 1881
Now, let’s examine the Hebrew word for “kiss,” which is “נשק” (Nashaq), and the word for the verb “to bite,” which is “נשך” (Nashach). Interestingly, these words share the same root letters, albeit in a different order. This connection implies that a kiss in this context could also signify biting, reminiscent of how a serpent bites its prey, injecting poison.
While a kiss is traditionally associated with the contact made by the lips, we can extend the interpretation further. In Hebrew, the word for “lip” is “שפָה” (Safa), which also translates to “language.” Therefore, the contact made by a kiss, represented by the lips, can also be seen as contact made through language. Language, in this sense, encompasses a collection of words that convey meaning.
In light of this, we could contemplate the serpent’s approach to Eve. Initially, the serpent engaged Eve through its language (Safa), or its “lip,” and subsequently used its teeth to inject poison, like a bite. This parallels the way commercials today often captivate their audience.
The Hebrew word for “kiss” holds a numerical value of 450, while the word for “bite” holds a value of 370. The difference of 80 between these values is significant, as the Hebrew letter “פ” (Pe) represents both the mouth פה and lip ש)פה). This emphasizes the connection between the lips and teeth, encapsulating the full spectrum of contact.
For example, in the book of Genesis 2, letter 341 we find this lore: Rabbi Yitzchak said: “At the moment when Cain killed Abel, he did not know how his soul would depart from him, so he bit him with his teeth like a snake.”
On a related note, in the New Testament, the kiss of Judah to Jesus was a paradoxical gesture, simultaneously expressing a seemingly affectionate connection while harboring underlying ambiguity and betrayal.
In summary, the words “nefesh” (the bodily part of the soul), “nachash” (serpent), and “nashak” (kiss) create a fascinating and interconnected semantic field that carries various connotations within the context we have explored.
If you have any questions yourself, please write to us at [email protected], or leave a comment below.