Illuminated Hebrew Letter Series - Pei
Illuminated Pei - by Adam Rhine
Watercolor on Paper

For more information about this painting, email the artist at

“You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Tehillim/Psalm 145:16

Pei is the seventeenth letter of the alef-beit which is the numerical value of tov, “good”. In this verse it is connected to the word poteyach, “You open”, and the concept of Divine generosity and beneficence. We are required to recite this verse with great concentration and joy as it is a declaration of Hashem’s universal goodness and caring for every creature.

Pei is shaped like an open mouth with an exposed tooth, and is therefore connected to the power of speech, the oral communication of knowledge. It is said that wisdom proceeds from the inner eye of the heart to the mouth. The power of speech distinguishes us from the animal kingdom, for it is through speech that we express consciousness. Words can uplift, educate, and unite. They can also be weapons of disunity and destruction, G-d forbid. We are enjoined not to speak l’shon hara “evil speech”, and to diligently take on the spiritual practice of guarding our speech and using language to reflect the Divine image in which we are created.

Our teacher, Moses, was 80 when he led the Jewish people out of Egypt, received the Torah and transmitted the Oral Law to the nation.

May our reflections on the letter pei instill in us a reverence for the gift of speech and the gift of life with which we have been entrusted. May we also recognize the merits of silence.

Text by Louise Temple from the book "Hebrew Illuminations"