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    Mordechai the enigma – Purim

    Esther & Mordechai, by Aert de Gelder, 1675

    The Megillah attributes learning, piety and leadership ability to Mordechai but in some ways he is an enigma.

    His name Mordechai is not Hebrew but seems to be a form of Marduk. He is popularly known as the uncle of Esther but was in fact her cousin. His co-religionists were proud that he became chief counsellor of Persia but many commentators think the end of the Megillah indicates that he was not universally popular amongst the Jews.

    The Talmud (Men. 64b/65a) has a high opinion of him. It even thinks he was one of the prophets. It knows him by the Hebrew name of Bilshan. His father was Yair, a member of the Benjamin tribe. He kept an eye on Esther by frequenting the palace precincts and was alarmed to see his old antagonist Haman rise to power.

    Mordechai was likely to have been an immigrant to Persia from Eretz Yisra’el (Esther 2:5-6) and probably had conflicts with Haman who was an imperial official in the Holy Land before coming to Shushan.

    Mordechai connived at Esther’s concealment of her Jewishness because Persian kings could not marry outside the nobility. It was only in time of crisis that she revealed her background.

    Why did the king treat Mordechai so well? Out of gratitude that Mordechai had picked up the information that there were people plotting to assassinate him.

    Jewish tradition believes that God made sure no harm would come to the Jews, so why does the Megillah not mention God? Perhaps because the gentiles could not cope with the idea that some other people’s God was so effective.

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