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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Megillas Esther


This Shabbat we (in Jerusalem) are still in the midst of the "Three-day-Purim."

Following is a Midrash that deals with a central theme of the Megillah.

Esther 8: 2

And the king removed his ring which he removed from Haman, and he gave it to Mordecai, and Esther appointed Mordecai on the house of Haman.


And the king removed his ring: Said Rav Benjamin the son of Levi, The sons of Rachel are equal in greatness. There it is written "and Pharaoh removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Joseph" and here is says "And the king removed his ring which he transferred from Haman and he gave it to Mordecai."


The Midrash compares the case of Mordecai and his ascent to power to that of Joseph when he was in Egypt. Joseph was the son of Rachel while Mordecai was of the tribe of Benjamin who was also the son of Rachel.


The stories of Joseph and Mordecai are parallel tales of a rise from "rags to riches." Just as Joseph rose from an imprisoned slave boy to was granted the king's ring - and all that that empowered him to - so too did Mordecai rise from the sackcloth clad Jewish mourner to being given the king's ring all that that entitled him to. We should note that both of these Jewish leaders rose to power in circumstances that enabled them to play the leading role in saving their brother Jews.


The parallelism between the two sons of Rachel does not end here. The same Rav Benjamin the son of Levi, cited above, found other parallels. He cited verse 6:11 as another example of "history repeats itself." The verse says:

"And Haman took the garments, the horse and he dressed Mordecai and he had him ride on horseback through the broad street of the city and he proclaimed before him 'So shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.'"

Likewise, in the case of Joseph, (Genesis 41:42);
"…and he (Pharaoh) had him (Joseph) dressed in garments of fine linen ….and he had him ride in his deputy royal chariot and the proclaimed before him 'Avreich."

Both Joseph and Mordecai were dressed royally, were publicly driven in royal style and both had a royal proclamation read out before them. The similarities are too many and too uncanny to ascribe to chance.

What is the meaning of this history-repeats-itself lesson?

Can you derive from it any meaningful message?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Both Joseph and Mordecai rose from relative anonymity to the top of the political/ social ladder. Both had been falsely accused of crimes. Joseph, on a personal level, as having attempted to seduce Potiphara's wife; Mordecai, on a national level, as a member of a People worthless to the kingdom and therefore doomed to extinction.

Both found favor in the king's eyes , both were rewarded accordingly and both were able through their position to save their Jewish brothers.

There is yet another parallel between the two cases of national salvation, and perhaps the most significant.

The Megillah is a story of the "turnabout." A people headed for what looked like inevitable destruction, experienced a "turnabout" and were not only saved from that destruction but roundly defeated their wanna-be persecutors. Do you see the element of turnabout as well, in the Joseph story?

What is it?

Your Answer:

The Deeper Meaning of "Turnabout"

An Answer: In the Joseph story the crucial turnabout was not so much Joseph's rise from slave boy to royal power as much as the reversal of fortune which took place when the seditious plan of his brothers to thwart his dreams of mastery by killing him, resulted in a turnabout and Joseph actually attained the power he had prophetically dreamt of.

But it is important to point out the deeper meaning of "turnabout" in the Megillah and in the Joseph story (and in Jewish history as whole). That is that those very elements that were part and parcel of the destruction scheme became the essential elements in the salvation. So we see that had the brothers not sold Joseph into slavery (in order to sabotage his dreams of mastery) he never would have attained that very mastery that they wanted to abort. The steps the brothers took to derail Joseph's dreams became the essential steps necessary for his eventual rise to power.

Do you see the similar "turnabout" in the Purim story?

Your Answer:

An Answer: Haman's building the gallows to hang Mordecai made them fortuitously available at the crucial moment when the king's became angry with Haman. Likewise the decree to destroy the Jews made it possible, when the second decree was ordained, for Jews to rid themselves of their enemies, who existed, as a silent majority, even before Haman gave them a voice. Without the first decree the gentiles would have continued to harbor their hatred for the Jew and probably express it in the innumerable ways that anti-Semites have done throughout the ages. So here too we find that those elements that were essential to plan of destruction became the essential elements for the salvation to come about. Without the plan for destruction, the true salvation would not have been possible.

There are other episodes in Jewish history that follows this same "turnabout" pattern. Can you find another one in the Torah?

Your Answer:

An Answer: Pharaoh feared the Jews would grow numerically strong and take over his Egyptian nation. He therefore planned to kill all males to thwart this eventuality. Without Pharaoh's decree, Moses never would have grown up in the king's palace and never could have developed the leadership skills necessary for his future role as leading his people out of slavery. Pharaoh's plan resulted in Moses being placed in the basket in the Reed Sea and found by his daughter. All this was essential preparation for the future savior of Israel.


Jewish history is replete with repetitions of the "turn about" theme. This is not the place to cite examples when the enemies' plans to destroy the Jews resulted in a new positive development for the Nation - precisely because of their plans . But there are many such examples.

This makes fully understanding Jewish history an impossible task without the advantage of a long historical perspective.

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