By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
The Shabbat before Purim, Shabbat Zachor, we read Debarim 25:17-19, which states in part: “Remember what Amaleq did to thee by the way, when you [came] out of Misrayim. . . .” The pasuk concludes with “when the Lord thy God has given thee rest from all thy enemies . . . in the land which the Lord thy God gives thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amaleq from under the heaven; thou shalt not forget.”
Amaleq was the grandson of Esav. Esav, as we know, was Ya’akob Abinu’s brother and the son of Yizhaq.
Amaleq attacked Am Yisra’el as they were leaving Misrayim, which is referenced in Debarim, “Remember what Amaleq did to thee by the way, when you [came] out of Misrayim. . . .” Debarim 25:17. After the Israelites entered Eretz Yisra’el, under the command of Yehoshua, and conquered the Land, Shaul was appointed as the first King of Yisra’el.
Hashem then commanded Shaul to “go and strike down Amaleq and destroy everything he has. Have no pity on him — kill man and woman alike, infant and suckling alike, ox and sheep alike, camel and donkey alike.” I Shmuel 15:1-3.
Shaul made war against the nation of Amaleq and captured its king, King Agag. Although victorious over the Amaleq nation, Shaul did not kill King Agag, as Hashem had commanded. After Shaul was rebuked for not doing as Hashem had commanded, Shaul executed Agag.
However, prior to being executed, Agag was able to take advantage of one of the women who had brought him food in prison and, through her, fathered a child. The descendants of that child perpetuated the Amaleq nation.
In Megillat Esther, which is read twice on Purim, we learn about Haman, the anti-Semite who, with the help of his sons, plotted to kill all the Jews in Persia (modern-day Iran). The plot, as we know, was thwarted by Mordechai and Esther. Instead of the Jews being killed, Haman was killed and, later, his 10 sons were all hanged on the same day.
Haman had an 11th son who also was to be hanged, but this 11th son committed suicide in jail, before he could be hanged.
Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany was, like Haman, an Amaleqite.
The Nuremberg war-crimes trials, which were held after the defeat of Nazi Germany during WWII, resulted in the hanging, on October 16, 1946, of 10 high-ranking Nazis.
Just as with Haman’s sons, there was an 11th defendant at Nuremberg that had been sentenced to hang. Before he could be hanged, Hermann Goring, just like Haman’s 11th son, committed suicide before he could be executed.
Also, just as with Haman’s 10 sons, the 10 Nuremberg Nazis were all hanged on the same day, which in the history of multiple executions, is unusual.
Just before he was hanged, Julius Streicher, one of the 10 Nazis who were hanged, yelled “Purimfest.” Streicher knew well the connection between Purim and Nazi Germany.
In Megillat Esther, we see that references to the hanging of Haman’s sons are in the present tense, not the past-tense.
Furthermore, we see that after Haman’s sons were executed, Queen Esther went to the “King” and asked that Haman’s sons “be hanged,” a request that was made in the future-tense.
But how could 10 men who had already been killed be hanged in the future? The answer might be that Esther’s request was made not to King Ahasvarosh, but rather, to The King of Kings, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and that the 10 “sons” to whom Esther was referring were not, literally, Haman’s 10 sons, but, rather, 10 future sons of Amalaq, the 10 Nazis who were hanged at Nuremberg.
The names of Haman’s 10 sons are printed, one right after another, in Megillat Esther and are read during the two public readings on Purim, in a single breath.
The names of three of Haman’s sons each have one letter that is printed in a font which is smaller than the font which is used for the rest of the text. Those letters are a “tav” [ת] which has the numerical value of 400; a “shin” [ש] which has the numerical value of 300, and a “zayin” [ז] which has the numerical value of seven. 400 + 300 + 7 = 707.
The secular date October 16, 1946, the date on which the Nuremberg executions occurred, corresponds to the Hebrew date of 21 Tishrei, in the Hebrew year 5707. If we disregard the “5” in the Hebrew year 5707, which is common practice when writing Hebrew dates, we are left with 707, which is the numerical value of the sum of the Hebrew letters from the names of Haman’s sons which are printed in a smaller font in Megillat Esther.
One final interesting fact: Recall that Hashem commanded King Shaul to execute all the Amaleqites, but Shaul, in contravention of what Hashem had instructed, failed to immediately execute King Agag, the leader of the Amaleqite nation, when he had the opportunity to do so. Jewish tradition holds that Mordechai is a descendant of King Shaul and in orchestrating the downfall of Haman, he partially atoned for Shaul’s failure to do as Hashem had instructed.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American lawyer who resides in Jerusalem, Israel. Rabbi Sasson received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Haim Ovadia, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah VeAhava. Rabbi Ovadia, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, was ordained by Hakham Mordechai Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Israel (1983 – 1993), and is a descendent of the renowned kabbalist Hakham Yehuda Fetaya Z”L.