Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The tens sons of Haman

Some thoughts, as I listened to the megillah last night.

Perek 5:
יא וַיְסַפֵּר לָהֶם הָמָן אֶת-כְּבוֹד עָשְׁרוֹ, וְרֹב בָּנָיו; וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר גִּדְּלוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר נִשְּׂאוֹ, עַל-הַשָּׂרִים וְעַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ. 11 And Haman recounted unto them the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and everything as to how the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king.
There seems no reason to mention the multitude of his children here. This is a foreshadowing, and a setup for the later loss of all of these -- the riches, children, and promotion. Thus, it is here because of the later listing of the destruction of the 10 sons of Haman.

2) The megillah lists 10 sons. It is not a myth that he only had ten sons, just because a midrashic discussion of it lists more sons. On the other hand, the rov banav may indicate more. Indeed, in the gemara in Megillah they darshen a gematria, that he had rov children, meaning 208.

3) These are the sons:
ז וְאֵת {ר} פַּרְשַׁנְדָּתָא {ס} וְאֵת {ר} דַּלְפוֹן, {ס} וְאֵת {ר} אַסְפָּתָא. {ס} 7 And {S} Parshandatha, and {S} Dalphon, and {S} Aspatha,
ח וְאֵת {ר} פּוֹרָתָא {ס} וְאֵת {ר} אֲדַלְיָא, {ס} וְאֵת {ר} אֲרִידָתָא. {ס} 8 and {S} Poratha, and {S} Adalia, and {S} Aridatha,
ט וְאֵת {ר} פַּרְמַשְׁתָּא {ס} וְאֵת {ר} אֲרִיסַי, {ס} וְאֵת {ר} אֲרִידַי {ס} וְאֵת {ר} וַיְזָתָא. {ס} 9 and {S} Parmashta, and {S} Arisai, and {S} Aridai, and {S} Vaizatha, {S}

Why require in a single neshima? I think it is clear. These are difficult names to pronounce, and if one tries saying them in a single breath, he runs out of breath towards the end. This adds a feeling that there were so many, all these different sons, such that you run out of breath trying to say them all.

4) Why the small letters? There have been many explanations over the years, including the famous Purimfest one. The answer may indeed be some encoded message, but it seems to me, on a peshat level, that the following is apparent. Small letters are sometimes used in Tanach to indicate that one should read the word as if it were not there. veLibkota, vayikra, and so on. At the same time, these are arcane names and hapax legomena. It seems easy for a question to arise as to the proper spelling. And there is no other instance in the megillah to help resolve. And so the questionable letters were made smaller.

DovBear considers the pros and cons of the Purimfest 1946 story as fulfillment of those small letters. It is possible, but not necessarily a slam dunk. There were several millenia for this to work out in, and there is some slight kvetching involved. But even if we regard it as deliberately encoded into the megillah as a message by Chazal, this does not prove the Torah Codes or the Gematria Codes. Because the Torah Codes uses an entirely different methodology, and does not deal with specific letters which stand out for being small. And the Gematria Codes can be interpreted in so many different ways, because that is how gematria works. This is far different than interpreting specific small letters, which have been so marked, as a year. (Indeed, if these particular small letters represent questionable letters, then they might undermine Torah Codes, which require a certain skip length between characters; though they typically operate on Torah rather than Nach.)

1 comment:

Beisrunner said...

"The megillah lists 10 sons. It is not a myth that he only had ten sons, just because a midrashic discussion of it lists more sons. On the other hand, the rov banav may indicate more."

It seems likely, for thematic reasons, that all of Haman's sons were killed. He tried to cut off the entire offspring of the Jewish people, but is punished measure for measure with his own offspring being entirely cut off. This could either be a Divine arrangement, or else the conscious revenge of the Jews.

If that's the case, then Haman presumably had 10 sons and no more.
If only some sons were killed it seems plausible to omit the survivors, but if all sons were killed, there is no clear basis for listing some but not others.

Of course this argument is just plausible rather than conclusive, but it shifts the balance on how we approach the question, I think.


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