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More About Aseres Binei Haman

When writing megilas Ester, the practice in most communities is to write aseres binei Haman as an entire column. Many megilos are written with a layout of 21 lines or more, and the column of aseres binei Haman is written with larger letters to fill the vertical space. These megilos follow the opinion of the poskim who permit enlarging the letters of an entire column, even though they are not part of the masora of large and small letters.1

Some poskim – including the Vilna Ga’on – do not agree with this view. They hold that it is forbidden to enlarge or reduce any letters except those dictated by the masora. To accommodate their position, there are several ways to write a megila without enlarging the text of aseres binei Haman.

Regular Text Above or Below

Ester 42

The widely adopted custom of writing aseres binei Haman as an entire column is based on a minority opinion. Most poskim hold that aseres binei Haman can be included in a column that also has other lines of regular text.2 This type of megila is currently most prevalent among Chabad-Lubavitch chasidim. Megilos written according to the custom of Chabad have aseres binei Haman at the top of the column, with lines of regular text below it.

The Vilna Ga’on also advocated writing aseres binei Haman as part of a column that includes lines of regular text. In an early ruling he wrote that aseres binei Haman should be at the top of the column (like the custom of Chabad). Later in life he became aware of a tradition that he had not known previously. Based on that tradition he decided that it would be preferable for aseres binei Haman to be at the bottom of the column, with lines of regular text above it.

Short Megila

Ester 11

For people who want to avoid non-masoretic large letters and also want aseres binei Haman to fill an entire column, the best solution is to use a short megila layout: Instead of enlarging aseres binei Haman to fit the height of the rest of the megila, reduce the height of the whole megila to match aseres binei Haman.

note: A short megila is often called a “Vilna Ga’on megila”. It would be more accurate to call it a “maximum compliance megila”, since the Vilna Ga’on himself did not specifically mention the short layout.

Short megilos have additional halachic considerations, which will be addressed in a future post.

Skipping Lines

Ester 21

Theoretically, another way to write aseres binei Haman as its own column – without enlarging the letters – is to skip lines. For example, aseres binei Haman in a 21-line megila would have one blank line between each of the 11 lines of text. This arrangement is problematic because the skipped lines may be considered parsha breaks in the wrong place.

A megila with skipped lines in aseres binei Haman is – at best – kosher bidi’eved. It is not advisable to purchase such a megila, and it should not be used to fulfill the mitzva (unless there are no other megilos available).

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  1. See More About Large & Small Letters for more information. ↩

  2. See Aseres Binei Haman for more information. ↩