Megilla Magic: Unique Motifs in the Book of Esther

Unique Factors about the Megillat Esther

  • Parts are read in Eicha Trope
  • Lines are repeated (call-and-response)
  • Words are repeated due to uncertainty as to which preposition is correct
  • Emphasis when King Ahasheurus’s dream occurs
  • Special Trope
  • Hanging of Haman’s 10 Sons in one breath

 

  1. Parts of the Megilla read in Eicha (Lamentations) Trope

 

ז  וְהַשְׁקוֹת בִּכְלֵי זָהָב, וְכֵלִים מִכֵּלִים שׁוֹנִים; וְיֵין מַלְכוּת רָב, כְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ. 1:7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold–the vessels being diverse one from another–and royal wine in abundance, according to the bounty of the king.

 

ו  אֲשֶׁר הָגְלָה, מִירוּשָׁלַיִם, עִם-הַגֹּלָה אֲשֶׁר הָגְלְתָה, עִם יְכָנְיָה מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה–אֲשֶׁר הֶגְלָה, נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל. 2:6 who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.

 

 

טו  הָרָצִים יָצְאוּ דְחוּפִים, בִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, וְהַדָּת נִתְּנָה, בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה; וְהַמֶּלֶךְ וְהָמָן יָשְׁבוּ לִשְׁתּוֹת, וְהָעִיר שׁוּשָׁן נָבוֹכָה. 3:15 The posts went forth in haste by the king’s command, and the decree was given out in Shushan the castle; and the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Shushan was perplexed.

 

א  וּמָרְדֳּכַי, יָדַע אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה, וַיִּקְרַע מָרְדֳּכַי אֶת-בְּגָדָיו, וַיִּלְבַּשׁ שַׂק וָאֵפֶר; וַיֵּצֵא בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר, וַיִּזְעַק זְעָקָה גְדוֹלָה וּמָרָה.

 

ג  וּבְכָל-מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה, מְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דְּבַר-הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ מַגִּיעַ–אֵבֶל גָּדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, וְצוֹם וּבְכִי וּמִסְפֵּד; שַׂק וָאֵפֶר, יֻצַּע לָרַבִּים.

1 Now when Mordecai knew all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;

 

3 And to every province where the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

 

טז  לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן, וְצוּמוּ עָלַי וְאַל-תֹּאכְלוּ וְאַל-תִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם–גַּם-אֲנִי וְנַעֲרֹתַי, אָצוּם כֵּן; וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-כַדָּת, וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי, אָבָדְתִּי. 4:16 ‘Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.’

 

ג  וַתַּעַן אֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה, וַתֹּאמַר–אִם-מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ הַמֶּלֶךְ, וְאִם-עַל-הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב:  תִּנָּתֶן-לִי נַפְשִׁי בִּשְׁאֵלָתִי, וְעַמִּי בְּבַקָּשָׁתִי.

 

ד  כִּי נִמְכַּרְנוּ אֲנִי וְעַמִּי, לְהַשְׁמִיד לַהֲרוֹג וּלְאַבֵּד; וְאִלּוּ לַעֲבָדִים וְלִשְׁפָחוֹת נִמְכַּרְנוּ, הֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי–כִּי אֵין הַצָּר שֹׁוֶה, בְּנֵזֶק הַמֶּלֶךְ.

7:3 Then Esther the queen answered and said: ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request;

 

7:4 for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my peace, for the adversary is not worthy that the king be disturbed.

 

ו  כִּי אֵיכָכָה אוּכַל, וְרָאִיתִי, בָּרָעָה, אֲשֶׁר-יִמְצָא אֶת-עַמִּי; וְאֵיכָכָה אוּכַל וְרָאִיתִי, בְּאָבְדַן מוֹלַדְתִּי. 8:6 for how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?’

 

 

  1. Repeated Phrases

 

Traditionally, the reader pauses, allowing the congregation to also recite the text of the four verses in the Megillah which speak of Israel’s redemption: “There was a Jewish man in Shushan (Esther 2:5); And Mordechai went from before the king in royal clothing (ibid. 8:15); The Jews had illumination (ibid. 8:16); and the last verse of the Megillah, For Mordechai was deputy to the king (ibid. 10:3).” The reader then proceeds to repeat these verses since those who have their obligation fulfilled by listening to the Megillah, rather than reading it themselves must hear every word. The purpose of this custom is to intensify the joy and to keep the children from falling asleep, so that the story of the great miracle performed on Israel’s behalf during the time of Mordechai and Esther will enter their hearts.

 

ה  אִישׁ יְהוּדִי, הָיָה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה; וּשְׁמוֹ מָרְדֳּכַי, בֶּן יָאִיר בֶּן-שִׁמְעִי בֶּן-קִישׁ–אִישׁ יְמִינִי. 2:5 There was a certain Jew in Shushan the castle, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite,

 

טו  וּמָרְדֳּכַי יָצָא מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, בִּלְבוּשׁ מַלְכוּת תְּכֵלֶת וָחוּר, וַעֲטֶרֶת זָהָב גְּדוֹלָה, וְתַכְרִיךְ בּוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן; וְהָעִיר שׁוּשָׁן, צָהֲלָה וְשָׂמֵחָה. 8:15 And Mordecai went forth from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a robe of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan shouted and was glad.

 

טז  לַיְּהוּדִים, הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה, וְשָׂשֹׂן, וִיקָר. 8:16 The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor.

 

ג  כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי, מִשְׁנֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וְגָדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, וְרָצוּי לְרֹב אֶחָיו–דֹּרֵשׁ טוֹב לְעַמּוֹ, וְדֹבֵר שָׁלוֹם לְכָל-זַרְעוֹ. 10:3 For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed.

 

  • Variant Readings
  About 200 years ago, 2 variations crept into Ashkenaz Megillot. Bifnehem/lifnehem (9:2) and laharog/velaharog (8:11). They are written the “wrong” way and read both ways, two times, according to Ashkenaz custom. To my knowledge, Sephardim do not know of any variation in these verses. Even Ashkenazim know which is the right way; it is just a custom to read it both ways (first as written, then the correct version).

 

 

יא  אֲשֶׁר נָתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל-עִיר-וָעִיר, לְהִקָּהֵל וְלַעֲמֹד עַל-נַפְשָׁם–לְהַשְׁמִיד וְלַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶת-כָּל-חֵיל עַם וּמְדִינָה הַצָּרִים אֹתָם, טַף וְנָשִׁים; וּשְׁלָלָם, לָבוֹז. 8:11 that the king had granted the Jews that were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, and to slay, and to cause to perish, all the forces of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,

 

ב  נִקְהֲלוּ הַיְּהוּדִים בְּעָרֵיהֶם, בְּכָל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, לִשְׁלֹחַ יָד, בִּמְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתָם; וְאִישׁ לֹא-עָמַד לִפְנֵיהֶם, כִּי-נָפַל פַּחְדָּם עַל-כָּל-הָעַמִּים. 9:2 the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt; and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them was fallen upon all the peoples.

 

  1. King Ahasheurus’s Sleep

It is customary to read the verse: “That night the sleep of the king was disturbed” (Esther 6:1), using a different and louder melody for the cantillation because this verse marks the point where Israel’s salvation began.

 

א  בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא, נָדְדָה שְׁנַת הַמֶּלֶךְ; וַיֹּאמֶר, לְהָבִיא אֶת-סֵפֶר הַזִּכְרֹנוֹת דִּבְרֵי הַיָּמִים, וַיִּהְיוּ נִקְרָאִים, לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ. 6:1 On that night the king could not sleep; and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles, and they were read before the king.

 

 

  1. Special Trope

 

ט  וַיֹּאמֶר חַרְבוֹנָה אֶחָד מִן-הַסָּרִיסִים לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, גַּם הִנֵּה-הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה הָמָן לְמָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-טוֹב עַל-הַמֶּלֶךְ עֹמֵד בְּבֵית הָמָן–גָּבֹהַּ, חֲמִשִּׁים אַמָּה; וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ, תְּלֻהוּ עָלָיו. 7:9 Then said Harbonah, one of the chamberlains that were before the king: ‘Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman.’ And the king said: ‘Hang him thereon.’

 

  1. Haman’s Sons

The names of Haman’s ten sons, the phrase five hundred men which precedes them, and the word ten which follows (Ibid. 9:6-10) are traditionally read in one breath, thereby indicating that they were all killed at one time. The five hundred men mentioned indicates that they were all followers of Haman’s sons who served as their commanding officers.

 

ו  וּבְשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה, הָרְגוּ הַיְּהוּדִים וְאַבֵּד–חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת,  אִישׁ.

ז  וְאֵת   פַּרְשַׁנְדָּתָא  וְאֵת

דַּלְפוֹן,  וְאֵת  אַסְפָּתָא.

ח  וְאֵת  פּוֹרָתָא  וְאֵת אֲדַלְיָא,  וְאֵת   אֲרִידָתָא.

ט  וְאֵת פַּרְמַשְׁתָּא  וְאֵת   אֲרִיסַי,  וְאֵת אֲרִידַי  וְאֵת    וַיְזָתָא.

י  עֲשֶׂרֶת  בְּנֵי הָמָן

 

6 And in Shushan the castle the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.

7 And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,

 

8 And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha,

9 and Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vaizatha,

 

10 the ten sons of Haman

 

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