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“Purim Torah” or Purim Synchronicity?

Purim Torah is a remarkable genre of Jewish literature. It is rabbinic satire at its best that centers around the festivities of Purim. Those individuals writing Purim Torah display remarkable wit in weaving Talmudic logic in fabricating conclusions that border the absurd and sublime.

Earlier this week, I received a delightful section of a fabricated Talmud–replete with all the Aramaic expressions one would expect to find in a Talmudic debate. The selection contains a discussion involving President Obama, Al Gore, and the debate about global warming.  Even the commentaries of Rashi and Tosfot that explained the make-believe text looked pretty authentic. The name of the tractate is Mesechect Obama Metzia (a pun on Bava Metzia).

Here is another example of “Purim Torah” that almost sounds like a Rod Serling story from the Twilight Zone.

The story is well-known. Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews of the Persian Empire ended in disaster for Haman and his family. Queen Esther and Ahashverus have a conversation (Esther 9:12-14).

And the king said to Esther the queen: The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the capital, and the ten sons of Haman…Now whatever your petition, it shall be granted; whatever your request further, it shall be done.

Then said Esther: If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews that are in Shushan to do tomorrow also as this day, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.

One might ask: Esther’s request seems somewhat strange. The ten sons of Haman had already been killed, why bother to hang them? The simple approach suggests she made this request so that everyone would know the consequences that would befall them, should anyone attempt to harm the Jews.

Rabbinic commentaries have a different spin. Commenting on the word “tomorrow,” in Esther’s request, the Sages comment:

“There is a tomorrow that is now, and a tomorrow which is later.” (Tanchuma Bo 13 and Rashi on Exodus 13:14).

From this interpretation, 20th century rabbis extrapolate that Esther was asking that the hanging of Haman’s ten sons not remain an isolated episode in history… But wait! What other “tomorrow” could Esther have been alluding to? Inquiring minds want to know!

And now you are going to hear–the rest of the story …

Rabbi Moshe Katz writes about one of the most remarkable “Torah Codes” of all time. In general, I have never subscribed to the belief in a hidden computerized message that is embedded within a biblical text. This particular interpretation is too striking  to ignore. If nothing else, it is an incredible synchronicity. He writes:

During World War II, the Nazis in Germany tried to wipe the Jewish race from the face of the earth. Six million Jews were killed by the Germans. After the end of the war, the surviving Nazi leaders were tried at Nuremburg for this and other war crimes. These trials began on November 20, 1945, for 22 German Nazi leaders.

On October 1, 1946, twelve of the German defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for their part in the atrocities committed against the Jews and others. One of those convicted was Martin Bormann, who was sentenced in absentia. A second was Hermann Goering, who committed suicide in his cell just hours before the executions by taking cyanide poison. The remaining ten Germans were hanged to death on October 16, 1946.

These hangings took place on October 16, 1946. On the Jewish calendar, October 16, 1946, corresponded to 21 Tishri, 5707. This date was the seventh day of the Jewish feast of Sukkot, the day called Hoshana Rabba. The Jews believe that this day represents the coming time when God’s verdicts of judgment will be sealed.

In the very passage of Scripture where Esther’s prophetic request is recorded, we can find the future execution date of these descendants of Haman, both in the surface text and encoded within it. First, let’s look at how the date can be found in the surface text.

Jewish sages have long believed and taught that every variation of the surface text, whether it be the size of the letters themselves or a variant spelling of a word, has specific meaning. In some cases, that meaning remains a mystery. But in the case of Esther’s prophecy regarding the hanging of Haman’s ten sons, history has finally unveiled what was plainly there to see for 2,300 years.

As you can see, the names appear one above the other in the text. About this strange formatting, the Soncino Commentary states:

7-9. The Massorah prescribes that the names of the ten sons of Haman be written in a perpendicular column on the right-hand side of the page, with the vav, i.e., and, on the left-hand side. This is probably derived from the tradition that the ten sons were hanged on a tall gallows, one above the other. . . . (The Five Megilloth, p. 179)

However, there may be another reason why these names are listed one above the other. As you can see by looking at the list of names, four letters (the tav in the first name, the shin and tav in the seventh name, and the zayin in the tenth name) appear smaller than the other letters.

Starting at the top of the passage, I’ve highlighted three of these four small letters in red. In the Hebrew language, letters can also represent numbers. Tav has a numerical value of 400, shin a numerical value of 300, and zayin a numerical value of 7. The tav, shin, and zayin, totaled from top to bottom, represent the number 707.

In Esther 9:7-9, we find a list of the ten sons of Haman who were killed by the Jews. Below is the Hebrew text of these verses as it appears in the Tanakh. Remember, Hebrew reads from right to left.

The three letters together form taf-shin-zayin, the Jewish year 5707 (1946 C.E.), the year that the ten Nazi criminals were executed.

Of the 23 Nazi war criminals on trial in Nuremberg, 11 were in fact sentenced to execution by hanging. Two hours before the sentence was due to be carried out, Goering committed suicide–so that only 10 descendents of Amalek were hung, thus fulfilling the request of Esther:

“let Haman’s ten sons be hanged.”

Furthermore, since the trial was conducted by a military tribunal, the sentence handed down should have been death by firing squad, or by electric chair as practiced in the U.S.A. However, the court specifically prescribed hanging, exactly as in Esther’s original request:

“let Haman’s ten sons be hanged.”

Though doubts may linger about the connection between the Book of Esther and the Nazi war criminals, the condemned Julius Streicher certainly had none….[as The New York Herald Tribune of October 16, 1946 reported after he ascended to the gallows] “With burning hatred in his eyes, Streicher looked down at the witnesses and shouted: “Purim Fest 1946!”…

If these “coincidences” are not enough, examine the calendar for that month. The date of the execution (October 16, 1946) fell on the Jewish festival of “Hoshana Rabba” (21 Tishrei), which is the day G-d’s verdicts are sealed.

This was the very day they were hanged, As we have said, all is hinted at in the Torah! (Dr. Moshe Katz, CompuTorah, pp. 99-107).

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One last note, the Book of Esther recorded that the ten had been hanged on a tree. The Hebrew word for tree is eytz, which is also “wood” in English. The hangman at Nuremberg was named John C. Woods, an American army officer. (After the executions Woods burned the hoods and ropes even though he had been offered $2,500 for them as souvenirs).

The above interpretation may not hold up to rigorous textual criticism. For example, note the following textual variants:

(Keter Aram Sova, Koren edition Tanach)

(Soncino edition Tanach)

(Yemenite manuscripts and Rabbi Joseph Kapach edition Tanach)

So, I will let you decide whether you think that the Purim Fest 1946 is really a gigantic hoax, or whether it may reflect a higher truth despite the bogus nature of the Torah Codes. Actually, one would be hard-pressed to find a better example of Purim Torah than the story of the ten Nazis and its alleged connection to the ten sons of Haman.[1]

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Notes:

[1] My friend Yochanan Lavie notes, “ I heard a Lubavitcher tell me that the Rebbe “killed” Stalin on Purim. (It is well known that Stalin was planning deportations to Siberia of most, but not all, Jews around the time of his death). The Rebbe, in a Purim fabringen shouted “hurrah!” The chevra responded: “hurrah.” Then the Rebbe started rhythmically chanting a staccato “hu rah, hu rah, hu rah” which the crowd took up. (Hu rah= “he is evil”). Stalin died that night. This Lubav sincerly believed that the chanting killed Stalin. Rational? No. It’s a matter of faith. With all respect to the Rebbe, and other well-meaning kiruv-ists, it’s not the kind of faith that appeals to me. I prefer to see things in the hands of God- not Esther or the Rebbe. He is inscrutible, and sometimes appears tardy or indifferent. But I prefer a difficult Diety to one that can be manipulated by mere mortals.”



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