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diary of a sofer - part 14

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

I’ve just been commisioned by my own synagogue to write a new megillahEmbarking on what would be my second one, I started looking around for ways of making it a bit different from the first to see if it could become a learning experience the second time round as well.

Strangely enough, however,  there are relatively few scribal oddities in the book of Esther, which is a bit disappointing for the scribe who enjoys both the visual look of something a bit different and trying to find the remez (hidden allusion) behind the oddity.  The first, however, is immediate as it is in the first amud (column) and is an ot rabati (large letter) - the chet in chur (white [hangings/garments]) in Esther 1:6.

Barely any commentators mention this, even though it is universally accepted (not all such large letters are), probably because they can’t think of a good reason.  However M’not Halevi has a go and explains that the letter chet has the numerical value of 8 and is enlarged to suggest that on that very day King Achashverosh was so drunk that he went as far as donning the eight garments of the High Priest.  In punishment for this he suffered the episode with Vashti, her removal from the court and his subsequent depression. 

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If anyone out there has found another commentary that attempts to explain it, or has their own ideas, I would love to know.

The enlarged chet from the new SWESRS megillah

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Not all scribal traditions are accepted by all scribes. 

Some naughty scribes are anxious to alert people to the fact that whilst the actual Name of God is absent from the megillah, it is nonetheless God who is arranging events in a hidden manner.  Thus they will write the Tetragramaton (yud, heh, vav, heh) that appears ‘hidden’ as initial letters of consecutive words slightly larger, for example Esther 5:4 above.  However the official halacha maintains that this is simply not on.  Quite right too!

Where God is really hiding is not in the roshey teyvot (initial letter or backwards acrostics) but elsewhere.  Mordechai, God’s agent in the story, is described as ish y’hudi (Esther 2:5) - a Jewish man.

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By taking the last yud in y’hudi, turning it upside-down and bringing it down under the dalet, as shown in the animated gif above it creates the left leg of the heh revealing the four lettered Tetragrammaton.

Neat stuff - if you know where to look!

Mordechai Pinchas

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