Monday, March 28, 2005

Random Megillah thoughts

From a literary point of view, Megillat Esther is rather cumbersome. There is a lot more detail, a lot more repetition, and much longer sentences than most other books of Tanach. I paged through my artscroll megillah book, and in Esther there is about 7-10 Pesukim(sentences) per page. In the other four megillot, there were 10-14 pesukim per page. From a trop point of view, since there can be only one etnachta per pasuk, this means that there are a lot more zarka-segol, kadma-v'azla, revi'e, darga-t'vir and pazer trops than other books. Some of the pesukim reach 30-40 words in length.

The extra words consist not only of additional descriptors(medina oo'medina kechitava, v'am v'am kelishona, or shisha chodashim b'besamim....) but also a lot of repetition in the form of "tell someone to do this... I told him to do it... he did it... what did he do...."

Why? I have no idea. I really don't. ADDeRabbi has an excellent post on yeridat hadorot, how over time as we get further from the word of God we compensate by codifying more of the details. Perhaps the megillah, being the first without a specific reference to Hashem, spells everything out in great detail to compensate for the distance from HKBH. As if the author wanted to be absolutely sure we got everything exactly as they wanted it said, not depending on Inspiration to fill in the blanks. Please comment if you have an answer.

2. Haman goes home, tells Zaresh and the friends(the name of my next rock group) that life isn't good as long as Mordechai HaYehudi(the Jew) is in the gate. They tell Haman to hang Mordy. The next day, after Haman comes home with garbage on his head, Zaresh and the friends, quite unsolicited tell Haman " Im m'zera ha'Yehudim, Mordechai, asher hachilota linpol l'fanav lo toochal lo.." If from the offspring of the Jews, Mordechai, that you have started to fall in front of, you will not succeed, for you shall surely fall in front of him(translated literally). Z and friends are tell Haman that he is not going to succeed, and it seems that he isn't going to succeed because Mordy is a Jew. But Haman made that pretty clear the day before, saying that he wasn't happy as long as Mordy the Jew was in the gate. All of a sudden Z and friends realize he is Jewish? I found two answers, both peshat based, and it hinges on what is different in the phrasing.

1. they say "from the offspring (zera) of the Jews". One commentator says that zera refers to the tribe of Binyamin, but the plain sense is that if Mordy is acting as a Jew, following in the traditions of his forefathers and mothers, and because of his actions and the protection of his ancestors, haman will fail.

2. The key is actually in the words "asher hachilota linfol.." that you have started to fall. The scary thought is that there may have been a window of opportunity for Haman to succeed. However, now that he has started to slip, for whatever reason, that window is closed. When Haman first decided to kill the Jews, he rushed the messengers out to all the lands, announcing the news, although the event wasn't to take place for about a year. One explaination is that he wanted the Jews to worry about it, and have their death hanging over their heads for a year, knowing that they would be annihilated. However, this time allowed Mordechai and Esther to mobilize the repentance movement. Perhaps if Haman had satisfied himself with just killing the Jews, and not adding the psychological torture of knowing their demise for a year, the outcome may have been different.

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