A Ploce to Call Home

In this week’s Torah portion Moshe meets God and God instructed him to return to Egypt to free the Israelites. At this point Moshe asks God what seems to be a logical question.  What should I call you? And then God replies in an enigmatic way. There we read:

Moshe said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moshe, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” God continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you.’”( Exodus 3:13-14)

So what does “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” mean? We tend to translate it as “I am that I am”. So what does that mean? “I am that I am” is a ploce, the repetition of a word or phrase to gain special emphasis or to indicate an extension of meaning. 

In digging deeper into this question I found myself exploring the word ploce. The uncommon English rhetorical term ploce comes via Late Latin plocē from Greek plokḗ, a noun with many meanings: “twining, twisting, braid; complication (of a dramatic plot); construction (of a syllogism); web, web of deceit; (in biology) histological structure; (in rhetoric) repetition of the same word in close succession in a slightly different sense or for emphasis” (e.g., “A man should act like a man”). Greek plokḗ comes from the verb plékein “to weave, braid, twine,” from the Proto-Indo-European root plek-plok-, source of Latin plicāre “to fold, bend, roll, twine” and the combining form -plex, used in forming numerals (equivalent to English -fold). The Proto-Indo-European neuter nounploksom becomes flahsam in Germanic and flax in English. In Slavic (Polish),plek- forms the verb pleść “to plait, weave.”

The name of God that will redeem the Israelites from Egypt is manifold. This repetition seems to imply that the God of the Torah is a God of being, but limited to the land of Egypt. Where HaMakom – God’s name being the place might be limited, they will be redeemed by the God of the ploce of being. The Ploce will help them find a new place to call home.

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