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    Mizpah – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I have a ring bearing the word “Mizpah”. Is this Hebrew and does it come from the Bible?

    A. It is Hebrew, it comes from the Bible, and it is common on engagement rings.

    Originally a place name (Gen. 31:49), Mitzpah is from a root that means “to watch”. The same root produces tzofeh, a scout, and Har HaTzofim, Mount Scopus (literally, Hill of Watching).

    Mitzpah was the location of the deal made between Jacob and Laban, with the symbolism, “The Lord watch between me and you”. Since neither man really trusted the other, they depended on God to monitor their agreement.

    In more recent times the word has been used as a lovers’ pledge, implying, “May God watch over us if ever we are apart”. HG Wells wrote, “Mizpah, as they say inside the engagement rings” (Babes in Darkling Wood, 1940, I:4:118).

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