The small letters of “Taf” “Shin” “Zayin” and their eerie connection

The small letters of “Taf” “Shin” “Zayin”

It is customary to write in a smaller script three letters that are found within the names of the ten sons of Haman. These letters are: A small Taf in “Parshandasa”. A small Shin in “Parmashta” and a small Zayin in “Vayzasa”. It is unclear as to what the source is for writing these letters in small[1], although so has been done in Megillahs of many generations prior, including the Megillah of the Rebbe Maharash.[2] The earliest dated source which relates to this custom can be found in the Hagahos Maimanis[3], who brings in the name of Maharam of Rothenberg, to write a small “Shin” “Taf” “Zayin”.[4]


Nuremburg trials 1946:[5]

An interesting fact to make note of in relation to the mysterious small letters is with regards to the famed execution of the ten Nazi leaders in October 16, 1946. All ten Nazis were hung on the same day in play of the Purim story which had all ten sons of Haman killed and then hung simultaneously. Interestingly the Nazi named Julius Streicher [ימ”ש] actually stated the following puzzling statement prior to being hung that day “Purim-Fest 1946”.[6] Until today the meaning and intent of these words said by this Nazi leader remain a mystery. What does remain a fact though is that the three letters that are mysteriously written in small within the names of the ten sons of Haman that were hung spell out the year of the hanging of these ten Nazis. The year Taf Shin Zayin תש”ז was the Hebrew year of October 1946.



[1] I have not found it mentioned in any of the classical Sefarim that brings the letters of Mesores that are written big and small. This is in contrast to that these Sefarim mention writing other letters in small. Machzor Vitri [1100’s student of Rashi] p. 213 writes that the Zayin of Vayzasa and the Taf of Vetichtov Esther is to be written in small. See also Kol Yaakov 690/27 which does not make mention of this custom.

[2] It however has not been done in all previous Megillah’s, as is evident from the Poskim brought in previous footnote and other documented Megillah’s written. See Kapach edition of Tanach which only writes the Taf and Shin in small.

[3] Hilchos Megillah Chapter 2 Oas Ayin

[4] Meaning he says to first write the letter Shin of Parshandasa in small and then the Taf in small. This is unlike our custom today to write only the Taf in small while the shin is written in small in the name Parmashta.

[5] The Nuremberg trials were trials held by the four major allies [Britain, America, Russia; France] in the city of Nuremberg, Germany against the Nazi war criminals. It began on the 20th of November, 1945. The verdict was read on the 1st of October 1946. The trial took place against the 24 most leading Nazi political and Army personnel. All the other Nazi war criminals of lower stature were judged in subsequent trials of lower courts. Thus this trial represented the epitome of the judgment of the world against the Nazi regime. Twelve Nazi members from the 24 were found guilty of death by hanging. One however was killed prior to the trial and was hence judged in absentee while Herman Goring committed suicide the night before his execution. Hence in total there remained ten Nazi leaders that awaited hanging in the final verdict of the world’s trial against the Nazi regime. The hanging took place on October 16, 1946, which was the 21st of Tishrei, otherwise known as Hoshanah Raba.

[6] Streicher was hanged in the early hours of 16 October 1946. Streicher’s was the most melodramatic of the hangings carried out that night. Joseph Kingsbury-Smith, who was the lone American press representative at the executions, wrote a news report on the executions which was later published in every major newspaper. The following is an excerpt from his report: Julius Streicher made his melodramatic appearance at 2:12 a.m. While his manacles were being removed and his bare hands bound, this ugly, dwarfish little man, wearing a threadbare suit and a well-worn bluish shirt buttoned to the neck but without a tie (he was notorious during his days of power for his flashy dress), glanced at the three wooden scaffolds rising menacingly in front of him. Then he glanced around the room, his eyes resting momentarily upon the small group of witnesses. By this time, his hands were tied securely behind his back. Two guards, one on each arm, directed him to Number One gallows on the left of the entrance. He walked steadily the six feet to the first wooden step but his face was twitching. As the guards stopped him at the bottom of the steps for identification formality he uttered his piercing scream: ‘Heil Hitler!’ The shriek sent a shiver down my back. As its echo died away an American colonel standing by the steps said sharply, ‘Ask the man his name.’ In response to the interpreter’s query Streicher shouted, ‘You know my name well.’ The interpreter repeated his request and the condemned man yelled, ‘Julius Streicher.’ As he reached the platform, Streicher cried out, ‘Now it goes to God.’ He was pushed the last two steps to the mortal spot beneath the hangman’s rope. The rope was being held back against a wooden rail by the hangman. Streicher was swung suddenly to face the witnesses and glared at them. Suddenly he screamed, ‘Purim Fest 1946.’ [Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the spring, commemorating the execution of Haman, ancient persecutor of the Jews described in the Testament.] The American officer standing at the scaffold said, ‘Ask the man if he has any last words.’ When the interpreter had translated, Streicher shouted, ‘The Bolsheviks will hang you one day.’ When the black hood was raised over his head, Streicher’s muffled voice could be heard to say, ‘Adele, my dear wife.’

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