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Errors in Esther

There are two passages in the scroll of Esther that are often read twice.

Here are the two verses as they appear in the BHS, based on the Leningrad Codex.

Esther 8:11

אֲשֶׁר֩ נָתַ֨ן הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִ֣ים ׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּכָל־עִיר־וָעִ֗יר לְהִקָּהֵל֮ וְלַעֲמֹ֣ד עַל־נַפְשָׁם֒ לְהַשְׁמִיד֩ וְלַהֲרֹ֨ג וּלְאַבֵּ֜ד אֶת־כָּל־חֵ֨יל עַ֧ם וּמְדִינָ֛ה הַצָּרִ֥ים אֹתָ֖ם טַ֣ף וְנָשִׁ֑ים וּשְׁלָלָ֖ם לָבֽוֹז׃

Esther 9:2

נִקְהֲל֨וּ הַיְּהוּדִ֜ים בְּעָרֵיהֶ֗ם בְּכָל־מְדִינוֹת֙ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֳחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ לִשְׁלֹ֣חַ יָ֔ד בִּמְבַקְשֵׁ֖י רָֽעָתָ֑ם וְאִישׁ֙ לֹא־עָמַ֣ד לִפְנֵיהֶ֔ם כִּֽי־נָפַ֥ל פַּחְדָּ֖ם עַל־כָּל־הָעַמִּֽים


But most Ashkenazic megillot contain a different text.

לְהַשְׁמִיד֩ לַהֲרֹ֨ג וּלְאַבֵּ֜ד 

וְאִישׁ֙ לֹא־עָמַ֣ד בִּפְנֵיהֶ֔ם


Out of an abundace of caution, most readers will chant each of those verses (or a portion of them) twice. Once in the way it appears in the scroll and then immediately afterwards, once in the other version.


In this article Rabbi Mordecai Breuer argues that the correct text is the one found in the oldest sources, such as the Leningrad Codex. The erroneous text is found in the 16th-century Venetian Mikra'ot Gedolot, and thus found its way into most Ashkenazic megillot. Breuer also points out that non-Ashkenazic megillot have the old authentic text.

Perhaps it is too much to ask soferim to create megillot using the old authentic text, rather than the inherited erroneous text. Even though the old text is without question the Masoretic text, the force of tradition is too strong allow for such corrections.

However we endorse Breuer's suggestion that ba'aley keriya chant aloud only the authentic Masoretic texts (וְלַהֲרֹ֨ג and לִפְנֵיהֶ֔ם) without repeating the erroneous texts (לַהֲרֹ֨ג and בִּפְנֵיהֶ֔ם). This would be similar to the way we treat כתיב and קרי passages.

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