Dear Rabbi Simon,
I was listening to a shiur on Eichah on TorahAnytime. As an aside, the speaker mentioned that the 1st chapter of Eichah is the source for the order of the Alef Bet as we know it. Other chapters also follow the Alef Bet chronology but with Ayin and Peh interchanged.
He quoted Rabbi Shimon Schwab as his source.
Although he did not elaborate on this, surely Sefer Tehillim (Psalms) predates Megillat Eichah by centuries. Several psalms are written in the Alef Bet order (e.g. Psalm 119).
Can you please clarify?
Thank you & best wishes
TY for your sophisticated Q.
I have also heard that the question of the sequence of ‘ayin and peh is subject to dispute. It seems that there are indications that in Paleo-Hebrew (ie, the form of Hebrew writing used in Biblical times prior to the Babylonina Exile) the order is reversed from what we know. It is alleged that chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Eichah (chapter 5 is not alphabetical) reflect the original order. Of course, as you say, ch 1 conforms to the order with which we are familiar.
You are right that Tehillim predates Eichah, however a critic can claim that the order was redacted to bring it in line with the accepted/preferred sequence. This is particularly true for ch. 119, where each of the 8 verses per letter are their own group, and each set of 8 vv. can easily be repositioned. The question is in Ps. 34 or 145, if the internal logic of the passage sheds light on the correct sequence. In Ps. 34, some claim that the verse starting with the letter peh makes more sense to follow the verse starting with samekh (due to the common appearance of the word ra‘). Check it out for yourself. I am not convinced that this argument is compelling.
I will stick with the mesorah, that ‘ayin [eye] belongs before peh [mouth]. Best to look before speaking.
Rabbi Rashi Simon