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Letter Imperfect

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Megillah, Spelling of Sasson

Leon Sossen from Melbourne, Australia   wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

In Megillat Esther, the word v’sasson (and joy) in the sentence "The Jews had light and happiness and joy and honor" is spelled "vav sin sin nun." Every other time I have seen the word sasson it is spelled "sin sin vav nun." In the Megillah, the letter vav is missing! All editions of the Megillat Esther leave it out! Now this sentence is also part of the Havdalah prayer. The ArtScroll Siddur unlike any other siddur that I have ever seen also omits the vav in the same sentence. I wonder if you could comment on this? I have a particular interest in the Hebrew/Yiddish spelling of this word...


Dear Leon Sossen,

In many places the Torah omits "silent" letters. This is called ketiv chaseir, incomplete spelling. It doesn’t change the sound or meaning of the word.

Some words are normally spelled this way. The name Yaakov for example is almost always spelled without a vav.

When letters are left out of a word, it hints to some lack in the concept being projected. In the verse you asked about, the sasson (joy) may lack some element. Our Sages identify the "joy" in this verse as the joy of performing the mitzvah of circumcision. A possible explanation of the missing letter is that it refers to the pain of circumcision which detracts from the joy of the occasion.

Sources:

  • Talmud Megillah 16b

 
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