The book of Esther is traditionally read by Jews on the holiday of Purim from a handwritten scroll on parchment that must be halakhically valid. This means that the rules of open and closed "parashot" are of more practical relevance for Esther than for any other book in Nevi'im or Ketuvim. Despite this—or perhaps because of the large numbers of scrolls of Esther that have been written, and the attention that has been paid to the problem by rabbis and scribes—manuscripts of Esther and opinions about how they should be written betray a relatively large number of discrepancies regarding the "parashah" divisions.

In the nineteenth century, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried published a manual for scribes called "Keset ha-Sofer", in which he follows the rule that all "parashot" in Esther are closed {S} ("Keset ha-Sofer" 28:5). [These closed portions are noted with the word סתומה at each relevant verse in Ganzfried's notes on Esther towards the end of the book (beginning on page 133a). A digital image of the text may be found [ here] . The rule is codified in "Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayyim" 691:2 (Rema), and its source is "Hagahot Maimoniyot" on Maimonides' "Laws of Megillah" chapter 2.] This is currently the dominant tradition for Ashkenazic and Sephardic "megillot" (scrolls of Esther) today. But the Tiberian masoretic codices contain both open and closed portions. Also, Yemenite scribes did not entirely adopt the tradition of closed portions, leaving the divisions in many scrolls of Esther similar to what is found in the masoretic codices.

Ganzfried ruled that a scroll of Esther with open portions is invalid, but added that "some authorities validate" it ("Keset ha-Sofer" 28:5). [Page (40a) in the digital image of the text found [ here] .] When discussing these authorities in his additional notes, ["Lishkat ha-Sofer", note 5 (40a). Ganzfried cites "Magen Avraham" as allowing such a scroll to be used in difficult circumstances, while "Peri Megadim" is unsure whether a blessing should be recited over it.] Ganzfried cites a list open "parashot" found in the book "Orhot Hayyim", and concludes: "And even though our custom is that all of these are closed, it nevertheless seems that if some or all of these are open one may read from the scroll with a blessing." These have been listed in the chart below below under at "OH" under "Keset ha-Sofer", and they are very similar to what is found in the Tiberian masoretic codices. [Another medieval list of open and closed sections in Esther is found in Isaac ben Moses of Vienna's "Or Zarua" (Part II, Laws of "Megillah" 373), citing his teacher Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi (Ra'avyah). notes an internal contradiction in "Or Zarua" and concludes that a scroll of Esther written with open sections may still be used; but see Israel Isserlin, "Terumat ha-Deshen", Rulings and Essays 23.]

Most printed Jewish bibles, even those based on manuscripts, show the flow of text in Esther according to the widespread tradition based on "Keset ha-Sofer" (only closed "parashot"). Such editions include the "Koren" edition (Jerusalem, 1962), Breuer's first edition (Jerusalem, 1982) and Dotan's editions (which are otherwise based upon the Leningrad Codex). The flow of text in such bibles is as follows:
*1:1-8 {S} 1:9-12 {S} 1:13-15 {S} 1:16-22 {S} 2:1-4 {S} 2:5-20 {S} 2:21-23 {S} 3:1-7 {S} 3:8-15 {S} 4:1-17;5:1-14 {S} 6:1-14;7:1-4 {S} 7:5-8 {S} 7:9-10 {S} 8:1-2 {S} 8:3-6 {S} 8:7-14 {S} 8:15-17;9:1-6
*{S} "'
*{S} 9:10-28 {S} 9:29-32 {S} 10:1-3

Bibles that show the "parashot" in Esther based upon a reconstruction of the Aleppo Codex include two editions following the Breuer method ("Horev" and "The Jerusalem Crown"). The flow of text in such bibles is as follows:
*1:1-9 {S*} 1:10-15 {P*} 1:16-22 {P*} 2:1-4 {P*} 2:5-10 {S*} 2:11-20 {S*} 2:21-23 {P*} 3:1-7 {S*} 3:8-15 {S*} 4:1-12 {P*} 4:13-17 {S*} 5:1-2 {S*} 5:3-14 {S*} 6:1-14;7:1-4 {S*} 7:5-8 {S*} 7:9-10 {P*} 8:1-2 {S*} 8:3-6 {S*} 8:7-14 {S*} 8:15-17;9:1-6
*{S*} "'
*{S*} 9:10-19 {S*} 9:20-28 {S*} 9:29-32 {S*} 10:1-3


The Aleppo codex lacks Daniel in its entirety. "Parashot" listed here are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex. [Ofer, Yellin, p. 324-325.]

*1:1-21 {S} 2:1-13 {S} 2:14-16 {S} 2:17-24 {S} 2:25-28 {S} 2:29-30 {S} 2:31-45 {S} 2:46-49 {P} 3:1-18 {P} 3:19-23 {P} 3:24-30 {P} 3:31-33;4:1-25 {P} 4:26-34 {P} 5:1-7 {S} 5:8-12 {P} 5:13-16 {P} 5:17-30 {P} 6:1-6 {S} 6:7-11 {S} 6:12-14 {P} 6:15 {S} 6:16-29
*{P} 7:1-14 {P} 7:15-28 {P} 8:1-27 {P} 9:1-27 {S} 10:1-3 {P} 10:4-21 {P} 11:1-45;12:1-3 {P} 12:4-13


The Aleppo codex lacks Ezra-Nehemiah in its entirety. "Parashot" listed here are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex. [Ofer, Yellin, pp. 325-328.]

*Ezra 1:1-8 {S} 1:9 {S} 1:10-11
*People of the province who returned to Jerusalem: {P} 2:1-2 {S} 2:3 {S} 2:4 {S} 2:5 {S} 2:6 {S} 2:7 {S} 2:8 {S} 2:9 {S} 2:10 {S} 2:11 {S} 2:12 {S} 2:13 {S} 2:14 {S} 2:15 {S} 2:16 {S} 2:17 {S} 2:18 {S} 2:19 {S} 2:20 {S} 2:21 {S} 2:22 {S} 2:23 {S} 2:24 {S} 2:25 {S} 2:26 {S} 2:27 {S} 2:28 {S} 2:29 {S} 2:30 {S} 2:31 {S} 2:32 {S} 2:33 {S} 2:34 {S} 2:35 {S} 2:36 {S} 2:37 {S} 2:38 {S} 2:39 {S} 2:40 {S} 2:41 {S} 2:42 {S} 2:43 {S} 2:44 {S} 2:45 {S} 2:46 {S} 2:47 {S} 2:48 {S} 2:49 {S} 2:50 {S} 2:51 {S} 2:52 {S} 2:53 {S} 2:54 {S} 2:55 {S} 2:56 {S} 2:57 {S} 2:58 {S} 2:59 {P} 2:60 {S} 2:61 {S} 2:62-66 {S} 2:67 {P} 2:68-69 {S} 2:70
*{S} 3:1a {S} 3:1b {S} 3:2-7 {P} 3:8-9a {S} 3:9b-13 בני חנדד {P} 4:1-6 {S} 4:7 {P} 4:8-11 {P} 4:12 {S} 4:13 {S} 4:14-16 {P} 4:17 {P} 4:18-22 {S} 4:23 {S} 4:24 {P} 5:1 {S} 5:2 {P} 5:3-5 {P} 5:6-7 {S} 5:8-10 {P} 5:11-12 {P} 5:13-15 {P} 5:16-17 {P} 6:1-2 {P} 6:3-4 {S} 6:5 {S} 6:6-12 {P} 6:13-15 {P} 6:16-18 {P} 6:19-22 {P} 7:1-6 {P} 7:7-10 {S} 7:11 {P} 7:12-24 {P} 7:25-26 {P} 7:27-28
*Chiefs of the clans: {P} 8:1 {S} 8:2a {S} 8:2b {S} 8:2c {S} 8:3a מבני שכניה {S} 8:3b מבני פרעש {S} 8:4 {S} 8:5 {S} 8:6 {S} 8:7 {S} 8:8 {S} 8:9 {S} 8:10 {S} 8:11 {S} 8:12 {S} 8:13 {S} 8:14
*{S} 8:15-18a {S} 8:18b-19 מבני מחלי {S} 8:20-30 {P} 18:31-34 {P} 18:35 {P} 18:36 {S} 9:1-9 {S} 9:10-14 {S} 9:15 {P} 10:1 {P} 10:2-3 {P} 10:4 {P} 10:5-8 {P} 10:9 {P} 10:10-11 {S} 10:12-14 {S} 10:15-17
*Priestly families who were found to have foreign women: {P} 10:18-19 {S} 10:20 {S} 10:21 {S} 10:22 {S} 10:23 {S} 10:24 {S} 10:25 {S} 10:26 {S} 10:27 {S} 10:28 {S} 10:29 {S} 10:30 {S} 10:31 {S} 10:32 {S} 10:33 {S} 10:34 {S} 10:35 {S} 10:36 {S} 10:37 {S} 10:38 {S} 10:39 {S} 10:40 {S} 10:41 {S} 10:42 {S} 10:43-44
*{P} Nehemiah 1:1-11 {P} 2:1-9 {P} 2:10-18 {P} 2:19-20
*Builders: {P} 3:1 {S} 3:2 {S} 3:3 {S} 3:4b {S} 3:4c {S} 3:4a {S} 3:5 {S} 3:6 {S} 3:7 {S} 3:8a {S} 3:8b {S} 3:9 {S} 3:10 {S} 3:11 {S} 3:12 {S} 3:13-14 {S} 3:15 {S} 3:16 {S} 3:17a {S} 3:17b {S} 3:18 {S} 3:19 {S} 3:20 {S} 3:21 {S} 3:22-23a {S} 3:23b {S} 3:24-25 {S} 3:26 {S} 3:27-28 {S} 3:29a {S} 3:29b {S} 3:30a {S} 3:30b {S} 3:31-32
*{P} 3:33-35 {P} 3:36-38 {P} 4:1-8 {P} 4:9-17 {P} 5:1-8 {P} 5:9-19 6:1-4 {P} 6:5-7 {P} 6:8-13 {P} 6:14-15 {P} 6:16-19 {P} 7:1-5
*People of the province who returned to Jerusalem: {P} 7:6-7 {S} {S} 7:7 {S} 7:8 {S} 7:9 {S} 7:10 {S} 7:11 {S} 7:12 {S} 7:13 {S} 7:14 {S} 7:15 {S} 7:16 {S} 7:17 {S} 7:18 {S} 7:19 {S} 7:20 {S} 7:21 {S} 7:22 {S} 7:23 {S} 7:24 {S} 7:25 {S} 7:26 {S} 7:27 {S} 7:28 {S} 7:29 {S} 7:30 {S} 7:31 {S} 7:32 {S} 7:33 {S} 7:34 {S} 7:35 {S} 7:36 {S} 7:37 {S} 7:38 "{P}" 7:39 {S} 7:40 {S} 7:41 {S} 7:42 {S} 7:43 {S} 7:44 {S} 7:45 "{P}" 7:46 {S} 7:47 {S} 7:48 {S} 7:49 {S} 7:50 {S} 7:51 {S} 7:52 {S} 7:53 {S} 7:54 {S} 7:55 {S} 7:56 {S} 7:57 {S} 7:58 {S} 7:59a {S} 7:59b בני פרכת {P} 7:60 "{P}" 7:61 {S} 7:62 {S} 7:63-67 {S} 7:68-69 {S} 7:70-72a {S} 7:72b;8:1-4 ויגע החדש השביעי {S} 8:5-8 {P} [...]


*1Chron 1:1-4 {S} 1:5 {S} 1:6 {S} 1:7 {S} 1:8-9 {S} 1:10 {S} [...]

ongs with special spacing techniques

In addition to the common "open" and "closed" "parashot", the masoretic scribal layout employs spaces in an elaborate way for prominent songs found within narrative books, as well as for certain lists. Each such "song" is formatted in its own exact way, though there are similarities between them. These sections include:

*Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-19)
*Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32)Nevi'im
*Canaanite Kings (Joshua 12:9-24)
*Song of Deborah (Judges 5)
*Song of David (II Samuel 22)Ketuvim
*Song of the Seasons (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)
*Haman's Sons (Esther 9:7-9)
*David's Champions (I Chronicles 11:26-47)
*Song of Assaf (I Chronicles 16:8-36)

ong of the Sea

ong of Moses

ong of the Seasons

Haman's Sons

Esther 9:7-9 lists Haman's ten sons in three consecutive verses (three names in 7, three in 8, and four in 9). Each name is preceded by the Hebrew particle ואת. The {SONG} format for this list is as follows:
*The last word of 9:6 (איש) is written at the beginning of a new line at the right margin. This will be the first line of text in {SONG} format.
*The first word of 9:7 (the Hebrew particle ואת) is written at the end of the first line in {SONG} at the left margin. A gap is thus left between איש and ואת which forms a closed "parashah" division {S}.
*In the next ten lines of text, the ten names of the sons of Haman appear one after another in the beginning of each line at the right margin, under the word איש. There are thus a total of eleven lines of text in {SONG} format, the first beginning with איש and the ten following lines with the names of Haman's sons.
*The word ואת appears at the end of each line text (left margin), except for the 11th and final line in {SONG} format, which ends with the first word of 9:10 (עשרת).

The {SONG} format described here originated in the typically narrow columns of the Tiberian masoretic codices, in which a line of text containing only two words at opposite margins with a gap between them appears similar to a standard closed "parashah". However, in many later scrolls the columns are much wider, such that lines with single words at opposite margins create a huge gap in the middle. For this reason, in many scrolls these eleven lines are written in very large letters, so that the gap will not appear unreasonable.

Literature cited

Books and articles cited in the references to this article:
*Finfer, Pesah. "Masoret ha-Torah veha-Nevi'im." Vilna, 1906 (Hebrew). [ Online text (PDF)]
*Ganzfried, Shlomo. "Keset ha-Sofer". Ungvár (Uzhhorod), 1835 (Hebrew). [ Online text (PDF)]
*Goshen-Gottstein, Moshe. "The Authenticity of the Aleppo Codex." "Textus" 1 (1960):17-58.
*Goshen-Gottstein, Moshe. "A Recovered Part of the Aleppo Codex." "Textus" 5 (1966):53-59.
*Levy, B. Barry. "Fixing God's Torah: The Accuracy of the Hebrew Bible text in Jewish Law." Oxford University Press, 2001.
*Ofer, Yosef. "M. D. Cassuto's Notes on the Aleppo Codex." "Sefunot" 19 (1989):277-344 (Hebrew). [ Online text (PDF)]
*Ofer, Yosef. "The Aleppo Codex and the Bible of R. Shalom Shachna Yellin" in "Rabbi Mordechai Breuer Festschrift: Collected Papers in Jewish Studies", ed. M. Bar-Asher, 1:295-353. Jerusalem, 1992 (Hebrew). [ Online text (PDF)]
*Penkower, Jordan S. "Maimonides and the Aleppo Codex." "Textus" 9 (1981):39-128.
*Penkower, Jordan S. "New Evidence for the Pentateuch Text in the Aleppo Codex". Bar-Ilan University Press: Ramat Gan, 1992 (Hebrew).
*Yeivin, Israel. "The Division into Sections in the Book of Psalms." "Textus" 7 (1969):76-102.
*Yeivin, Israel. "Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah". Trans. and ed. E. G. Revell. Masoretic Studies 5. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1980.

Bible editions consulted (based on the Aleppo Codex):
#Mossad Harav Kuk: Jerualem, 1977-1982. Mordechai Breuer, ed.
#Horev publishers: Jerusalem, 1996-98. Mordechai Breuer, ed.
#" [ Jerusalem Crown: The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem] ". Jerusalem, 2000. Yosef Ofer, ed. (under the guidance of Mordechai Breuer).
#Jerusalem Simanim Institute (Feldheim Publishers), 2004.
#"Mikraot Gedolot Haketer", Bar-Ilan University Press, 1992-present.
#Mechon Mamre, [ online version] .

Bible editions consulted (based on the Leningrad Codex):
#"Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia". Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 1984.
#Adi publishers. Tel Aviv, 1986. Aharon Dotan, ed.
#The "JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh". Philadelphia, 1999.
#"Biblia Hebraica Quinta: General Introduction and Megilloth". Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2004 ("BHQ").

Bible editions consulted (based on other traditions):
# [ Koren Publishers] : Jerusalem, 1962.


External links

"Note: Links concerning the Weekly Torah portion do not belong here."
* [ The Aleppo Codex website] to view high-resolution imges of the "parashot" and songs as they appear in the extant portions of the codex.
* [ Mechon-Mamre] 's digital version of the letter-text of the Aleppo Codex showing its "parashah" divisions.
* [ The Westminster Leningrad Codex] records the "parashot" as they appear in the Leningrad Codex.
* [ Titles for the "Parashot" of the Torah] , by Aryeh Kaplan

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  • parashah — [pär′ə shä΄] n. pl. parashoth [pär′əshōt΄] [Heb pārāshāh, lit., an explanation: akin to perish > PHARISEE] 1. a) any of the sections into which the Pentateuch is divided for reading during a year in the synagogue on the Sabbath b) any of… …   English World dictionary

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  • -shioth — Parashah Par a*shah, n.; pl. { shoth}or { shioth}. [Heb. p[=a]r[=a]sh[=a]h.] A lesson from the Torah, or Law, from which at least one section is read in the Jewish synagogue on every Sabbath and festival. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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