There’s a Devar Torah wandering around that associates the Ten Sons of Haman, who are recorded as hanging in the Megilah, with the ‘Ten Sons’ of Hitler – the ten senior Nazis who hung as a result of the Nuremberg Trials.
Google suggests a number of tellers of this ‘Devar’ including
Ohr Sameach - https://ohr.edu/holidays/purim/deeper_insights/3440
Rabbi Baruch Mellman - https://www.poconorecord.com/article/20100227/features/2270324
Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg - https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/life/faith/2015/03/04/purim-heroine-esther-prophesy-nazis/24273719/
And ‘Ollie’ from J-TV - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzaJZ0bGe0s
Wikipedia attributes the idea to ‘research’ conducted by Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel
I first encountered it yesterday in a message that came back from my sons’ school. The incredible Jewish informal education team (known as JIEP) managed to deliver Mishloach Manot to 3,000 home-bound students and in the bag with the edible goodies was this Devar Torah. And I applaud the delivery and the love of the team. But, oh my, did I hate the Devar. So I sent this to the school.
JIEP just pulled off a Mishloach Manot home delivery to every student in the school. That is incredible. What an inspiring and deeply touching way to symbolise the bond between students and the school, especially at a time when you as a team, and your students, must be missing the joy of a Purim celebration on campus especially. Thank you, thank you, thank you and hurrah.
Can I, however, share one thing. I had a look through the accompanying booklet and, forgive me, I hated the Dvar Torah. It was unattributed (Pirkei Avot 6:6) and I don’t want to be rude, but ….
I love Megilat Ester. What could be more inspiring than a tale of a young Jew living in a non-Jewish world who finds the strength to stand strong, even in the face of so much? But the Devar Torah chose to stress the importance of the prescient prophetic nature of the Megilah in predicting the hanging of the ‘Nuremberg Ten’ in the Hebrew year 5707. Well, I can enjoy a good Devar Torah suggesting the prescient nature of our sacred scriptures. But the message was demonstrated with reference to scribal orthography – big letter and small letters. Hmmm. Is the point that the revelation on Sinai included scribal orthography? Of course, scribal orthography has a history, I don’t know anyone who claims the scribal orthography of the Megillah is ‘MiSinai’ and it seems a strange thing to place importance on, not least since there are so many different Megillot with different letters larger or smaller than the letters the Devar Torah found to be so significant. And, yes I know the Gemarah about Moses, Rabbi Akiva and the Tagin but does finding attested Megillot with different sized letter make the Devar Torah weaker? Or the Megilah? Or the faith of my sons, your students?
Then there is the matter of the gematria. With a flourish the Devar Torah announces that the three small letters add up to 707 – which is true. And that the large letter, a ‘vav,’ thereby counts as a reference to the sixth century giving rise to Hebrew year 5707. Well, no. Just no. ‘Vav’ is never ‘5.’ I’ve spent time wandering through the gematria obsessed worlds of Chaim Vital and Moshe Cordevero and Baal HaTurim. And reading Vav as 5000+ is … well I’m not world’s greatest Gematria maven, but I’ve never seen it. So maybe ten future evildoers will be hung in the Hebrew year 6707, but I don’t suppose any of us will be around to see it.
And hang on (pause while checking Wikipedia), when exactly were these ten modern sons of Haman hung (putting aside the issue of whether the Nazis hung in the Nuremberg trial are indeed the sons of Hitler Yamoch Shemo)? The hangings took place on the 16th October 1946 which is … drumroll … in the Hebrew year 5708. In other words, in the language and theology of the Devar Torah, the prophetic prescience of the Megilah is wrong. OK, maybe the prophetic prescience of the Megilah accurately predicted the date when the ten Nazi ‘sons’ were sentenced to hang. Well … there were 12 Nazis sentenced to hang in the Hebrew year 5707. Herman Goring committed suicide rather than face the noose and Martin Borman was in absentia. Does that make the Megilah less impressive? Does that threaten to weaken a love of the Megilah, or Judaism or God? If the wonderful Mishloach Manot came in a sturdy receptacle, the Devar Torah just felt like a wet paper bag.
Aside from being wrong and without scientific justification, I have a problem with the whole notion of placing this kind of emphasis on the prophetic prescience of the Megilah – especially when the Megilah is connected to modern sources of evil.
As Eliot Horowitz showed in his book Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence, there is a direct connection between this sort of ‘Torah’ drawn from the Megilah and Jewish violence. This Devar Torah is just the sort of ‘Torah’ marshalled by Baruch Goldstein and his supporters to justify a massacre by a Jew, A JEW, at Hebron, on Purim 1994, or as we are now supposedly supposed to call it ותשנ'ד. Spurred on by just this kind of ‘theology’ and ‘exegesis’ Goldstein felt somehow justified in seeing the living image of sons of Haman before him in the Cave of Machpelah and shot dead 29 innocent humans created in the image of God. Cheerleading for prophetic prescience in sacred texts is one thing, but the Megilah is a dangerous text to be used in the context of modern evils – especially so tendentiously. I’m not suggesting that this is within a million miles of the intent of the author of this Devar Torah. But the Devar Torah is a strengthening of a ‘theology’ which leaves me utterly cold.
Hitler’s ‘ten sons’ were hung because of the exercise of justice and as a result of their own actions for which they rightly paid a price. They weren’t hung because of a gematria in the Megilah. I mean what if we really took seriously the notion that God did intend for our ancient Megilah to encode a secret message (one that could only be read post-hoc of course) that von Ribbentrop and Streicher and the rest of them would be hung some time in the mid-twentieth century? Does that mean that God was secretly moving chess pieces into position to ensure that Holocaust happened? Or does it mean that God had the Hashgachah and inclination to save the Jews of Shushan and encode an esotery into our ancient scripture but didn’t choose and/or wasn’t able to avert the murders of 6 million Jews under the Nazis? I mean the more I think about this Devar Torah the more I dislike it.
OK, rant over, thank you for hearing me out. And again, thank you and a huge hurrah and a happy Purim.