Haman the Barber- Some Addenda

The section of the Babylonian Esther Midrash quoted by Shai in his post has a parallel in Vayikrah Rabbah and in the Pesikta de-Rav Kahana (Vayikrah Rabbah 28:6 [664-666]):

על ואזא קאמינא ומזג בלנאיא ואסחייה… אזל המן בעי ספרא ולא משכח. על לביתיה אייתא זוגא מביתיה וספריה. מן דספר ליה שארי מתאנח. אמ’ ליה- מה לך מתאנח? אמ’ ליה- לא ווי ליה לההוא גברא מאן עביד קומוס בדין מאן עביד קומוס קלאטור עביד בלנא וספר! אמ’ ליה- לא אנא חכים ליה לאבוך מכפר קרינוס דהוא ספר ובלניי והוא עביד סטוכטון והדין זוגא דיליה?

He went and prepared the bath and bathed him… Haman went in search of a barber and could not find one. He entered his house and brought scissors from his house and cut his hair. As he was cutting his hair he sighed. He (Mordecai) said to him, “Why are you sighing?” He said to him, “Woe to that man that used to appoint the Comes Privatarum, that used to appoint the Comes Calator, who has become a bath-attendant and a barber!” He said to him, “Did I not see your father from Kefar Qarnos that he is a barber and bath-attendant and a cosmetician, and aren’t these his scissors?”

Here, Mordecai pokes fun at Haman on account of the fact that his father was a barber, bath attendant and cosmetician in “Kefar Qarnos.” In the Bavli, Mordecai claimed that it was Haman who held that job.

Interestingly, some of the motifs mentioned in this dialogue are also found in an Aramaic poem for Purim published in Joseph Yahalom and Michael Sokoloff‘s Jewish Palestinian Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity. The poem- like the Bavli- claims that Haman himself is the one that had the lowly professions:  “זמר הווית בכפר / ומקזן וספר / ובעית סופר” (poem 33 line 39); “You were a singer in the village\ a blood-letter and a barber\ and you sought out barber’s tools.” It is fascinating to see that the song seems to degridate the position of a village-singer.

The poem also picks up on the idea that Haman was originally from the Galilean village of Kefar Qarnos (“Kefar Kartzum” in the Bavli), calling him the “the stupid one of Kefar Qarnos”- “טיפשא דכפר קרנוס” (line 49). Yet a few lines earlier Haman is referred to as “This idiot of Beit Shean\ How he went down to Shushan”- “הא שטייה דביישן/ היך נחית לשושן” (line 28)! Yahalom and Sokoloff note in their commentary that Kefar Qarnos must have been close to Beit Shean, as can also be seen in the Beraita de-Tehumin, where Kefar Qarnos is considered to be part of Beit Shean- “וכפר קרנוס כבית שאן.” Yet another midrash found in Vayikra Rabbah (17:4 [379]) and in the Pesikta de-Rav Kahana (7:10 [130]) positions biblical characters in Kefar Qarnos- Job’s “lads” are said to set out from there in order to meet Job, who seemingly resided Tiberias, before they died in “Migdal Zaba’aya.”

On the identification of these villages see Uzi Leibner, “A Galilean-Geographical ‘Midrash’ on the Journey of Job’s Servant-Lads” (Cathedra 120), and on the larger phenomena of reading biblical stories as having taken place in the Galilee see Elchanan Reiner, “From Joshua to Jesus: The Transformation of a Biblical Story to a Local Myth (A Chapter in the Religious Life of the Galilean Jew)(Zion 61).

This midrash (or a tradition similar to it) may have also influenced a Hebrew poem written for Purim in Late Antiquity, “[t]he celebrated Qillirian qerova for Purim, Wa-ye ‘ehav Omen,” that begins as follows:

וַיֶּאֱהַב אוֹמֵן יְתוֹמַת הֶגֶן
אֲמָנָהּ שִׁבְעִים וְחָמֵשׁ בַּעֲדָהּ לְהָגֵן
אָז מֵאָז כְּחָז יוֹדֵעַ נַגֵּן
אַרְיֵה בֶן זְאֵב לְיֶשַׁע הוֹגֵן
אָץ לְהַזְכִּיר אוֹתוֹ מְנַגֵּן
וּמָרְדְּכַי אֻמַּץ בְּאֶלֶף הַמָּגֵן

“He who knows music” (“יוֹדֵעַ נַגֵּן”) refers to David, according to 1 Samuel 16:18: “הִנֵּה רָאִיתִי בֵּן לְיִשַׁי בֵּית הַלַּחְמִי יֹדֵעַ נַגֵּן.” In his commentary on the piyyut, Shalom Spiegel references Midrash Panim Aherim B to Esther 2:5 as a possible source for the Qalliri’s claim that David foresaw what would take place in Shushan:

…וכשיצא שמעי וקילל את דוד, שכן אמר שמעי ‘וכה אמר שמעי בקללו צא צא איש הדמים ואיש הבליעל’ (ש״ב טז:ז) א״ל אבישי בן צרויה למה יקלל הכלב הזה את אדוני, אעברה נא ואסירה את ראשו’ (שם שם:ט), צפה דוד שעתיד מרדכי לצאת ממנו, שכן אמר דוד ‘היום יומת איש בישראל’ (שם יט:כג), זה ‘איש יהודי’ (אסתר ב:ה)…

And when Shimi went out and cursed David, as it says “And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial”  “Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head;” David saw that Mordecai would come of him, as David said “today a man will die in Israel?” this is “A Jewish Man”…

Solomon Buber, who edited Midrash Panim Aherim, notes that this also appears in the Targum Sheni to Esther, and Spiegel also mentions a possible connection to b. Megillah 13a.

I’d like to suggest that the tradition that Qalliri is relying can also be found at the end of the very same passage of Vayikra Rabbah/Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana discussed above. The passage ends with a surprising rereading of Psalms 30 (Vayikra Rabbah 28:6 [666-7];=Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 4 [145]):

…מן דרכיב התחיל מקלס להקב”ה: “ארוממך י”י כי דליתני ולא שמחת אויבי לי, י”י אלהי שועתי אליך ותרפאני, י”י העלית מן שאול נפשי חייתני מיורדי בור”. תלמידיו אמרו” “זמרו לי”י חסידיו והודו לזכר קדשו, כי רגע באפו חיים ברצונו בערב ילין בכי ולבקר רנה”. המן אמ': “ואני אמרתי בשלוי בל אמוט לעולם, י”י ברצונך העמדת להררי עוז הסתרת פניך הייתי נבהל”. אסתר אמרה: “אליך י”י אקרא ואל י”י אתחנן, מה בצע בדמי ברדתי אל שחת היודך עפר היגיד אמיתך”. כנסת ישראל אומרת: “שמע י”י וחנני י”י היה עוזר לי, הפכת מספדי למחול לי פתחת שקי ותאזרני שמחה”. רוח הקדש אומרת: “למען יזמרך כבוד ולא ידום י”י אלהי לעולם אודך”…

Psalm 30 is reread as a dialogue between some of the main characters of Esther, and David is then understood to have “foreseen” the events of the megillah.

Nuremberg48

The Nuremberg Machzor, pg. 48

The Qalliri’s piyyut is memorialized in the Nuremberg Mahzor and by Jewish communities worldwide that still recite it today. Almost two decades ago, Shulamit Elizur published a later version of the piyyut found in two Cairo Genizah manuscripts, suggesting that it may be an adaptation made by the Qalliri himself for use with a choir. On this and other aspects of the piyyut, I highly advise reading Itai Marienberg-Milikowsky’s short essay on piyut.org.

***

Unrelated to Haman, yet on the topic of Purim in Jewish art, we’d like to hold our first-ever Talmud Blog caption contest. Our first image comes from British Library Add. 26968 f. 210:

Add. 26968, ff.  209v-210

Captions can be left in the comments section below. A freilechen Purim! Keep it safe.

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3 responses to “Haman the Barber- Some Addenda

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