Aseres Binei Haman

Towards the end of megilas Ester there is a list of the ten sons of Haman. According to the masora, this list should be written as a stacked shira of eleven lines. The letters should be stretched out (if necessary) so that each side of the shira is a uniform width.1

Parts of this tradition are briefly mentioned in the Gemara in maseches Megila, and repeated with more detail in maseches Sofrim. There are disagreements among the later authorities regarding the width of the blank space in the middle of the shira, as well as the height of the shira relative to the height of the column.

Width

The blank space between the right and left sides of aseres binei Haman should preferably be double the width of the longest word in the shira, which is “פרשנדתא”. If the space is smaller, it is still kosher as long as it is the size of a parsha break, which is nine letters wide.2

According to some authorities, the blank space in the middle of aseres binei Haman should be double the combined width of both sides of the shira3. A possible problem with this opinion is that it might create the appearance of two columns instead of one.

Height

Most poskim hold that aseres binei Haman can be written as part of a column that also has regular lines of text, as long as the structure of the shira is maintained for those eleven lines.4 There is also a minority opinion that aseres binei Haman must fill the entire height of the column, with “איש” as the first word in the column and “עשרת” as the last word in the column.

Aseres Binei Haman

It became the accepted custom in many communities to fulfill the requirements of this minority opinion, and to write aseres binei Haman as its own column. Most contemporary poskim approve of this practice and discourage attempts to change it.

There are several possible ways to make these eleven lines fill the entire column. The most common solution – supported by the decision of numerous halachic authorities – is to write aseres binei Haman larger than the rest of the text in the megila.5

Other approaches to the layout of aseres binei Haman will be addressed in a future post.

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  1. The first word on the right side – “איש” – does not need to be stretched out.  ↩

  2. Lechatchila, the space should be at least as wide as nine regular letters. Bidi’eved, a space as wide as nine narrow letters is also acceptable. All of these measurements are relative to the size of the writing. See More About Parshi’os for more information. ↩

  3. Double the width of the word “פרשנדתא” plus double the width of the word “עשרת”. ↩

  4. Among these poskim, some say that the shira should start at the top of the column (with regular lines of text below it), and others say that it should end at the bottom of the column (with regular lines of text above it).  ↩

  5. See More About Large & Small Letters for additional information. ↩