Monday, March 24, 2008

Purim Torah (intended seriously) (I'm afraid)

So, you may have noticed that when we first meet the two men who plotted against King Achashverush their names are Bigsan and Theresh; later when the names are found in the King's Memory book they are given as Bigsana and Theresh.

What gives?

According to the old guy who sits behind me in shul, this discrepancy was caused by a miracle. The King's scribe was in cahoots with Haman. When he first wrote down the story of how Mordecai passed on the details of the B&T conspiracy to Esther, the scribe attempted to deny Mordecai some credit by writing בגתן או תרש (Bigsan OR Teresh). The way he wrote it Mordecai wasn't sure about the details:It could have been Bigsan; it could have been Teresh; and it was just dumb luck that it either of them -let alone both of them- were involved.

On the night the king's sleep was disturbed (continued the old man) what the scribe had done was miraculously altered. Where he had written בגתן או תרש it now read בגתנא ותרש (Bigthana AND Theresh) Wow! Tremendous! Unbelievable!

Though the old man attributed this foolishness to the Zohar, I am not convinced. In fact, I'm a little outraged and offended on the Zohar's behalf. I think its lousy that such stupid teachings are routinely attributed to it. The Zohar may be an 11th century forgery, but its author was no idiot. He was a Sage, and a full-fledged Rishon. If a moderately successful blogger with cruel yet handsome eyes like me can spot the giant gaping holes[*] in this story, couldn't he?

Giant Gaping Holes [*]
1 - In Hebrew the word או can be split in the manner described here. Does that work in Persian, too? If not, why was the King of Persia's personal secretary writing in Hebrew?
2 - As miracles go, this one is pretty cheesy. Wouldn't it have been much more impressive if God had just made the word או disappear? Why did it need to be split in half? Or better yet why was the scribe's modification changed to בגתנא ותרש? If you're already going to mess with the official record via divine intervention, why not go whole hog and make it say something like "Mordecai is the greatest person ever and you should heap upon him large rewards!" That has a much higher degree of difficulty and therefore makes for a better miracle.

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