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The Significance of yichus in the Purim story

March 8, 2012

A common Jewish adage has it that ‘yichus’ (noble lineage) is a 0, all those prestigious personages on your family tree are zeros, so to speak, and the only thing that matters is how much you yourself can be; you can have many zeros but all you need is one ‘one’ to precede all those zeros to make it count .

Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve nurtured a great love for genealogy- the seemingly boring and cumbersome study of the generations of man. I was, and continue to be, particularly fascinated by Biblical genealogy and how often this seems to plays an important role in the unfolding of the story of mankind. Being somebody’s son, wife, granddaughter, etc. in the Tanakh, is not just a minor unnecessary detail but can, and often does, really add a lot to a given story. Not for naught, is a large portion of the Pentateuch-not to mention the Tanakh, devoted to genealogy.

As far as the holiday of Purim is concerned, it seems that yichus is indeed everything. One doesn’t have to be ‘midrashic’ to see what an important role yichus plays in the Purim story; the clear connection inferred between Haman and Amalek on the one hand and  Mordechai and King Saul on the other hand. Haman is referred to in the Book of Esther as an ‘agagite’ i.e. a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag, whom King Saul in a moment of misplaced mercy spared, and whose wife, according to tradition, escaped with his seed, to spawn a new line of insidious haters of humanity (see the Book of Samuel). Mordechai, the Benjaminite is a descendant of Saul, just as Haman is a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite. To use movie jargon, the story develops into a situation where “we meet yet again” but this time Mordechai finishes the job that his ancestor failed to do and thus spares the Jewish people.

Haman’s yichus According to targum sheni

המן

המדתא

סרח

בוזה

אפלוטס

דיוסף

דיוסים

פרום

מעדי

בלעקן

אתניסומס

הרידום

שגר

נגר

פרמשתא

ויזתא

אגג המלך

סומקי

and then follows a gap of several generations until Amalek

Haman’s yichus according to targum rishon

המן

המדתא

עדא

בזזאי

אפליטוס

דיוסוס

פירוס

המדן

תליון

אתניסומס

חרום

חרסום

שגר

נגר

פרמשתא

ויזתא

אגג המלך

סומקי

עמלק

Mordechai’s yichus according to traditon

מרדכי

יאיר

שמעי שמידע

בענה

אילה

מיכה

מריבבעל מפיבושת

יונתן

שאול המלך

A happy and joyous Purim to all!

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2 Comments
  1. The regular Targum (to Esther 5:1) also has an account of Haman’s yichus to Amalek and reckons it differently than the Targum Sheini.

  2. Indeed. I just added the Targum rishon’s version of the genealogy.

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