[Another interesting post on jewelry in the TaNa”CH, by a friend and faithful blog reader from Israel. CS]
A quick look at the Hebrew word for ring, Taba’at, reveals some interesting – even inspiring – connections with the rest of creation. The root of Taba’at is three letters – Tet, Bet, and Ayin. There are three other words in Hebrew that share the same root. One is Litbo’ah – to sink. A second is Matbe’ah – coin. A third is Teva – nature, creation itself. They have the same root – the question arises therefore – what do a ring, sinking, a coin, and nature all have in common??
To figure this out, we need to decide which word is primary. We can pick the most general encompassing term, Teva, nature itself. Teva, in the Torah’s eyes, is Hashem‘s imprint on the world, it is the effect of the Omnipotent on the planet, His creation. It is doubly interesting to note that the word the Boreh Olam – Creator - uses to describe creation in Genesis (1:3, 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:25, etc) Teva, is Tov – good – two common letters of Tet and Bet, while Tiv, in modern as well as Rabbinic Hebrew, means character, or the psychological “nature” of a person.
The Tet and the Bet, together then, signify some essential sort of nature or imprint of something onto something else. “Teva – Nature” is the imprint of the Almighty on the world. What does this have to do with sinking? Sinking is quite literally the imprint of something going down into/onto something else. A boat sinking into the sea is being enveloped in it, it is making its imprint (however temporary) on the sea. If you sink into cement, your imprint stays there.
A matbe’ah – coin – is made by imprinting, sinking some pattern into a piece of metal. And finally… Taba’at. Taba’at - ring, is only translated as such because that’s what we see when we picture that kind of jewelry on someone’s finger. But the actual word, Taba’at, at least insofar as jewelry is concerned, should be translated as “imprinter”. Why?
There are several places in TaNa”CH, in the Bible, where Taba’ot are used. When they refer to jewelry, the word is always used to signify a signet ring – a ring with an imprint, used to sign documents by Kings. It wasn’t something he just wore on his finger. It was the royal seal – the symbol of his power – that the king would sink into the wax seal on official state documents.
But in the end, it all comes back to Teva, to nature. We can only hope to imitate Hashem’s imprint on the world by making our imprint on the world, our Taba’at, as Godly, as Goodly, as Tov, as possible.
Senior Marketing Manager, Zoara.com