The Tetragrammaton Hidden in Esther

Chinese Esther

You’ve no doubt been told at some point that the name of G-d is absent from the book of Esther… but is it really?  It might be rather telling that the name “Esther” (אסתר) means “I will hide” in Hebrew.

During Purim, when the Megillat Esther is read from the bimah, one might notice in the scroll a series of four letters are either enlarged or specially ornamented at four points in the scroll.  These occur (when they are present, usually in Chasidic copies of the text) at:

  • 1:20     הִ֑יא וְכָל־הַנָּשִׁ֗ים יִתְּנ֤וּ (it all the wives shall give)
  • 5:4     יָבֹ֨וא הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ וְהָמָן֙ הַיֹּ֔ום (let the king and Haman come today)
  • 5:13     זֶ֕ה אֵינֶ֥נּוּ שֹׁוֶ֖ה לִ֑י (this avails me nothing)
  • 7:7     כִּֽי־כָלְתָ֥ה אֵלָ֛יו הָרָעָ֖ה (that there was evil determined against him)

In the first two instances, look at the initial letters of the four words (left-to-right in 1:20 and right-to-left in 5:4). What do they spell? In the last two instances, look at the final letters of the four words (left-to-right in 5:13 and right-to-left at 7:7). They spell the same name. These are understood by many of the Sages to be crypto-occurrences of the Covenant Name of HaShem, i.e. the Tetragrammaton, hidden within the text.  Interestingly, the two instances where the name is spelled left-to-right occur in verses spoken by gentiles (Memuchan and Haman), and the two where the name is spelled right-to-left are found in the words of Jewish speakers (Esther and the author, presumably Mordecai).

10QEsthSome have claimed that the absence of this name accounts for this book’s absence from the Dead Sea Scrolls cache… but a manuscript from that cache designated 10QEsth has recently been identified as a fragment from Esther, finally dispelling the six-decade-old myth. A thetorah.com article by Dr. Rabbi Asher Tov-Lev breaks the news on this discovery: https://thetorah.com/newly-deciphered-qumran-scroll-revealed-to-be-megillat-esther/ (27 Feb 2018).

Also of interest regarding the Esther Scroll is the list of Haman’s hanged sons in 9:7-9. In every known Megillat Esther manuscript, it is a specially formatted passage with three suspended letters and one enlarged letter (see below).

004 ES.17.002 panel 4

The suspended letters have traditionally been understood to be highlighting their numerical values, and the enlarged waw as indicating the 6th Millennium. Thus, they seem to be pointing to a particular year on the Biblical Calendar.

  • ת = 400
  • 300 = ש
  • 7 = ז
  • 6th Millennium = ו

Their sum indicates Creation Year 5707, which runs from September 1946 to September 1947. On October 1, 1946 (which falls within that Biblical Year during the feast of Sukkot), a trial took place in Nuremberg, Germany in which twelve Nazi leaders were sentenced to death by hanging. One of the twelve, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in advance of the scheduled hanging, and another, Martin Bormann, was tried in absentia and was not in custody for the hanging, leaving ten to be put to death on the assigned date, i.e. October 16th of that same year. [1] One of the ten, Julius Streicher, uttered his final words on the way to the gallows: “Purim Fest ein tausend neun hundert sex-und-vierzig” (Feast of Purim 1946), seemingly recognizing that the hanging of himself and his four comrades was a second fulfillment of judgment against Israel’s enemies.

Two other enlarged letters occur in the text: the chet of 1:6 and the taw of 9:29. It is suggested that these letters in the Ashuri block script of Hebrew both have the appearance of a gate. The reason for their enlargement is to emphasize, the Sages explain, that the Jewish community should open wide both its front door and its back door, so that all who wish – both rich and poor – may join us [2].

  1. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nazi-war-criminals-sentenced-at-nuremberg
  2. Morris M. Faierstein, ed., Ze’enah u Re’enah (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co, 2017), 1122.
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