Thursday, February 25, 2010

You can please some of the people...: Rav Kasher on why some opposed Mordechai

The end of the megillah proves the aphorism about not being able to please all of the people…

כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי, מִשְׁנֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וְגָדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, וְרָצוּי לְרֹב אֶחָיו--דֹּרֵשׁ טוֹב לְעַמּוֹ, וְדֹבֵר שָׁלוֹם לְכָל-זַרְעוֹ

Despite all that Mordechai had done, he was beloved by most, but not all of his brethren (10:3). What was the ta’anah that these holdouts had? The megillah doesn’t say. Does there even have to be a ta’anah, or is it perhaps built into some people’s nature to not appreciate and love?

But Rashi tells us that there was a ta’anah. The minority who did not view Mordechai favorably were members of the Sanhedrin who felt that Mordechai’s involvement in the affairs of state disrupted his Torah learning. What could be more important that devotion to Torah?

Where did Rashi get this idea from? Rav Kasher (Divrei Menachem IV:47) points to the following gemara:

אמר רבי יוחנן דברי הצומות ומאמר אסתר קיים דברי הפורים האלה כי מרדכי היהודי משנה למלך אחשורוש וגדול ליהודים ורצוי לרוב אחיו לרוב אחיו ולא לכל אחיו מלמד שפירשו ממנו מקצת סנהדרין

אמר רב יוסף גדול ת"ת יותר מהצלת נפשות

It’s not by accident, explains Rav Kasher, that Rav Yosef’s teaching is juxtaposed with that of R’ Yochanan. The point raised by Rav Yosef was the very issue that split the Sanhedrin. The minority held that Mordechai should have devoted himself exclusively to Torah study – G-d certainly has at his disposal the means necessary to save klal yisrael without our bitul Torah! The majority, however, lauded Mordechai’s taking an active role in bringing about redemption rather than passively waiting for it to occur, even at the cost of bitul Torah.

History has placed this sugya in our lap once again. Dare we close our gemaras to participate in the defense and building of a State, or does Talmud Torah demand our undivided attention? Rav Kasher unhesitatingly infers from the psak of “rov echav” that it is our obligation to actively participate in a geulah which unfolds through natural means and not wait for open miracles.

In this vein we can perhaps make sense of the enigmatic Midrash quoted l’halacha by the Rambam that of all the sifrei nevi’im and kesuvim, only megilas Esther will remain with us for perpetuity, even after Moshiach comes. Rav Kasher suggests that the reason sifrei nevi’im will be bateil is because the nevi’im speak largely of open miracles. What if redemption comes not through open miracles, but through derech hateva? What if instead of “achishena” we have a geulah of “b’ita”, of “ani rochev al hachamor” (Sanhedrin 98)? The only text that can guide us how to proceed is the story of megilas Esther. It is the story of the megillah which sheds light on how Hashem brings deliverance even through what appears to be the course of history, and is the story of the megilah which sheds light for us on what role we should take in recognizing and participating in that geulah.

Rav Kasher has a number of other interesting points in this essay. Here’s the link to the sefer so you can peruse it.


  1. I was just thinking of this point. Even a hero / major talmid chacham like Mordechai could not make it to 100% in the popularity poll.

  2. Litvak8:49 PM

    Yasher koach.

    Kedai also to mention the Ibn Ezra, that is impossible to satisfy all, due to jealousy.

  3. Yes, that is one of the famous Ibn Ezra observations; he was a realist.

  4. Just for the record, Rav Kasher does mention the Ibn Ezra as well as the other classical meforshim on the pasuk, but were I to give the blow by blow of the whole piece this post would be rather long! Thank goodness for hyperlinks, and yosef chacham etc.

  5. Anonymous2:38 PM

    I don't understand the point of this Rashi. I've heard a lot of people quote it and say, "Here you see how chashuv Talmud Torah is and that you should never do anything else ever, ut ut dus iz dus." Somehow that doesn't seem like what Rashi is teaching us, but I never understand what exactly the lesson is here. I like R' Kasher's dyuk of rov echav, but it doesn't really explain the Rashi.

    This was a great post, though, thanks.

  6. Shkoyich dude, 'ind a fryliche Pyrim'. Nice point. ..I always try to explain to people that Mordechai was "Dati Leumi" but people don't want to hear it! I mean, he was a powerful statesman, and it says he knew seventy languages (as all members of the sanhedrin), so he must have spent a bunch of time studying them, and he wrote the Megillah. A real renaissance man!

  7. Nah, he was very sharp so he must have been chardal

    pc :-)

  8. see LS vol 16 page 373