rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to Purim Homepage

Megillas Esther


The very last Rashi on the megillah is quite puzzling.

Esther 10:3

"For Mordecai the Jew was viceroy to King Ahashverus; he was a great man among the Jews and found favor with most of his brothers, he sought the good of his people and spoke for the welfare of all his seed (offspring)."


Of all his seed: Rashi: This refers back to "his people" ; the seed of the people.

This is indeed a strange interpretation of these words. Rashi interprets the pronoun "his seed" (Hebrew "zaro") to refer to the people's (its) seed and not the more likely interpretation: "his (Mordecai's) seed." This is strange because Mordecai is the subject of the whole verse. He found favor with most of his brothers; he sought the good of his people. So when it say "his seed" one would assume it means Mordecai's seed. Why then does Rashi say, the people's seed?

What's Bothering Rashi?

There are two explanations for Rashi's unusual interpretation.

One is that the verse as a whole has certain structure. When it delineates how Mordecai was a great man among the Jews it says 1) He found favor with most of his brothers, (not all, as Rashi himself points out), 2) he sought the good of his people as a whole and 3) he spoke for the welfare of all his seed.

The verse has a structure of going from less to more. First most of his brothers, then his people (a larger group) then all of his seed (even future generations) . Now if this last phrase refers only to Mordecai's own seed (children) then it would be referring to a smaller group of Jews and would be anticlimactic. But if it refers to the people's seed (future generations of all Jews) then it follows the structure of the verse for it refers to an even larger group than that in phrase #2 which refers only to the Jews now living.

But there is an even more profound lesson from this Rashi-comment. Another question can be asked of the Megillah itself. What purpose do these last three verses serve (the whole of Chapter 10) ? Why is it necessary to tell us that the king taxed all the people? Who cares ?

The answer may be as follows.

If we overview the Megillah as a whole, we find that there are two clear groups: Good guys and Bad Guys. Mordecai and Esther belong to the Good Guys; Haman, Vashti (and perhaps the fickle Achashverus) belong to the Bad Guys.

There is one characteristic which epitomizes the Good Guys and it's opposite epitomizes the Bad Guys. It is the trait of self-sacrifice for others ( The Good Guys) versus self-centered ambition (The Bad Guys).

Esther's epic phrase (Esther 4:16) "and if I perish, I perish" says it all. She was willing to give her life for her people. Mordecai showed his concern for others by taking the bold stand of revealing to the king the plot to assassinate him (Esther 2:21) and by doing so indirectly through Esther, which meant he might not even get credit for it.

Haman on the other hand thought only of himself and his glory, which eventually redounded it his shame and downfall.

In this light we can understand the last, short chapter and its purpose. It clearly contrasts boldly these two types. The King Achashverus who thought only of himself, taxed the people to his own benefit. Mordecai, on the other hand, thought of others for their benefit ("sought the good of his people") not his.

This insight answers another question. Why, of all the Jewish holidays, does Purim have the unique mitzvah of "mishloach manot " sending gifts each man to his fellow man? The answer is that this concern for others is the main message of the events of Purim. Because it was due to a Jew's unselfish concern for another, even at his own expense, that we were saved from Haman' s murderous decree. This is the lesson of Purim. It is also Rashi's message when he tells us that Mordecai was concerned about his people's children more than about his own.

A Happy Purim !

A special note: We would like to thank all those who have kindly responded to are call for sponsors for the Vayikra volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?" Those interested in sponsorship in Vayikra or future volumes can contact us at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il Your sponsorship, gratefully appreciated, will enable us to continue and expand our work.

Back to Purim Homepage

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel