The Book of Judges says:

The Children of [the Tribe of] Dan erected graven images [idols] for themselves; and Jonathan son of Gershom son of Menashe [וִ֠יהוֹנָתָן בֶּן־גֵּרְשֹׁ֨ם בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁ֜ה], and his descendants, served as [idolatrous] priests to the tribe of Dan until the land went into exile. [Judges 18:30]

Comments on this:

Was Gershom the son of Menashe? No, he was the son of Moses. But his actions were not like those of Moses his father, so they added a nun to connect him to Menashe instead. [Avot d'Rabbi Natan 34:4]

[Although he was the son of Moses] he acted as Menashe [the wicked king of Judah who was notorious for idol worship], so the verse linked him to Menashe [by calling him “the son of Menashe”]. [Bava Batra 109b]

The Aleppo Codex (10th-century) gives us an early example of the raised nun:

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My question is: What is raising the nun supposed to accomplish?

-If anything, it brings attention to the fact that Moses' grandson descended into idolatry, which is what the nun attempts to hide.

-If the written word hides, why did the Sages reveal?

-Besides, like all humans, biblical characters have flaws which the Torah not only mentions but frequently highlights.

So what is the lesson here?


1 Answer 1


The Yerushalmi Brachos brings a message that is being conveyed to us by the "hanging nun".

ולנ' התלויה של מנשה, במימרא: "רבי חונא שמעון קמטריא בשם רבי שמואל בר נחמן "ויהונתן בן גרשום בן מנשה" נון תלוי. אם זכה בן משה ואם לאו בן מנשה.

To paraphrase, if one behaves correctly, he is the son of Moshe, if he doesn't, he is the son of Menashe.

  • Thank you for that. Berachot Yerushalmi 9:2 indeed says that the hanging nun is meant to teach the power of teshuva: IF Jonathan son of Gershom repents of his idolatry, THEN he will be considered like the son of Moses, but if not, he will be considered like the son of the idolatrous King Menashe. The rest (about how he took up idolatry only as a job to make a living) can also be found in Song of Songs Rabbah 2:18. (All of it is a bit of a stretch.) Jul 8, 2020 at 21:04
  • It also implies that Jonathan has no biological links to either Moses or Menashe. Jul 8, 2020 at 21:10

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