Esther 1:20, Question 2. Why does the verse use the Aramaic words, “pisgam” and “yikar?”

The Talmud (Megillah 9a) cites this verse’s two Aramaic words in a discussion regarding a holy text becoming invalid if even one of its non-Hebrew words is substituted by a Hebrew equivalent by the sofer writing it. As a class participant, KL, pointed out, this strongly indicates that Megillas Esther is holy and TaNaCh-worthy (see Introduction).

2 responses to “Esther 1:20, Question 2. Why does the verse use the Aramaic words, “pisgam” and “yikar?”

  1. Greetings,
    I’m a newcomer to this blog so forgive me if what I’m about to ask has already been answered. I’ve always wondered in what language was the Megillah written? While on Purim everyone traditionally reads the Megillah in Hebrew, it seems to me that the correct language should be Aramaic or Persian. Aramaic was spoken in the Persian and Mede empire as the daily lingua franca for much of the population. Persian was the language of the court. Consequently, it should be that the Megillah would’ve been written in a language understood by all. Were most of the Jews living under Persian rule still speaking Hebrew? In the Megillah itself there are many Aramaic and Persian loanwords. I’ve heard a theory that perhaps the Hebrew version we have today was written much later, but that the original language would have been Aramaic. Any thoughts?

    • That is a very good question. Obviously, from a historical point of view, it would make sense for the original document to have been written in Persian. However, one must recall that this is a Biblical book. Therefore, according to most Medieval Jewish commentators like the Rambam, the form in which we find it today is exactly as the prophet writing it had intended. Much of this blog has dealt with questions of grammatical peculiarities for which this prophetic intent has often been the answer. For example, when Haman suggested to Achashverosh that they “le’avdam” the Jewish people (Esther 3:9), the Malbim explains that there is word-play in Hebrew where the word spelled with an “aleph” means to destroy, but spelled with an “ayin” means to enslave. Assuming the exact same play-on-words doesn’t work in Persian, the prophet had important messages hidden deep inside the Hebrew words (here, and throughout the text) to teach readers lessons beyond the historical tale as understood in its explicit text. This was Esther’s argument to the sages to allow this book into the Biblical canon as described in the Talmud (Megillah 7a, see my Introduction).

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