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diary of a sofer - part 16

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer
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I finished the SWESRS megillah at the community siyyum on Purim (see article).  However, since I hadn’t quite completed my trip through the megillah oddities and I so hate to see things unfinished, I’ll just wrap these up. 

The large tav (left) in the very last amud (column) is easy to explain.  Tav is the 22nd and last letter of the alphabet and Esther is the 22nd and last saintly women mentioned in Scripture (please don’t ask me to list the other 21 - you’ll just have to take the Midrash’s word for it!). 

This giant letter occurs in the word vatichtov (and  [Esther] wrote) and indicates that it was Esther who wrote the megillah.  For many commentators this is indisputable proof that women are allowed to write a megillah as a sofer, even though women are generally forbidden to be sofrim! (see answer back). 

Moreover Esther then asked the Sages to include the book into scripture, something that was hotly debated (Yoma 7a) as God’s name was not present.  The tav also stands for Teshuvah (repentance) and Tamim (perfect)  which also has a large tav in Deut 18:13).  The sages explain that by leading her people to repentance she led them on the spiritual road to perfection and saved them from Haman’s decree (Olam Haotiyot).   

Another explanation for the tav to be enlarged is provided in Yoma 29a that just as it is the last letter of the alphabet, so the story of Esther provides us with the last miracle in the bible.

That’s it for the special letters, but a couple of other weird things worthy of mention is the spelling of two words y’hudim (Jews) and Achashverosh (Ahasuerus). 

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Y’hudim is deliberately spelt on five separate occasions with an extra yud  (8:1, 7, 13, 9:15, 18).  Again  no explanation is given but it seems odd to be a mistake for it to occur so many times, given how careful scribes are.

Achasverosh is often written with and without the last vav but right at the end, (10:1) it is missing both vavs.   This  the sages say shows that whilst on the outside the king may have appeared to be favouring the Jews at the end of the story, in reality he had no choice and his heart was not really in it.  His insincerity is  symbolised by the missing vavs.

Mordechai Pinchas

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