Sotah, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

This mishnah introduces the midrash which proves that the declaration made upon bringing the first fruits must be in Hebrew.

 

Mishnah Three

How is it that the declaration made [at the bringing] of the first-fruits [must be in Hebrew]?

[It is said], “And you shall answer and say before the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 26:5), and elsewhere it is said, “And the Levites shall answer and say” (Deuteronomy 27:14); just as the “answer” made elsewhere must be in the holy tongue, so must the [declaration discussed here] be in the holy tongue.

 

Explanation

That the declaration made upon bringing the first fruits must be in Hebrew is derived by comparing the word “answer” in the passage concerning first fruits, with the word “answer” in reference to the blessings and curses that the Levites give to the children of Israel after they have entered the land.  Just as the latter must be in Hebrew so too must the former. 

However, the mishnah does not explain why the blessings and curses made by the Levites must be in Hebrew.  The Talmud explains this as a midrashic connection between the word “voice” in this verse (Deut. 27:14), with the word “voice” in Exodus 19:19, “As Moses spoke, God answered him in a voice”.  [JPS translates “thunder” but the word “kol” is the same in both contexts.]

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