by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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PrePurim 5767With the advent of Adar we increase our joy. As we approach Purim 5767, I will share a Rashi thought on the Megilla.
And Mordecai returned to the King's Gate and Haman hastened to his home mourning and having his head covered.
And Mordecai returned: To his sackcloth and his fasting.
As you look at this Rashi-comment and compare it with the verse itself, what question would you ask?
A Question: Why doesn't Rashi accept what the verse says, that Mordecai returned to the King's Gate ? Why does he need to find another purpose or explanation for his "returning"?
What is bothering him?
Hint: Let us first look at a question of the Marhasha. Thinking about it may help us with our question on Rashi.
The MAHARAL'S QUESTION
The Maharsha asks an obvious question. How could Mordecai return to the King's Gate in his sackcloth? The Megillah clearly says (4:2). "And he came up until the Gate of the King because one is not allowed to come to the Gate of the King clothed in sackcloth garments." So how could Mordecai return to the Gate in his sackcloth?
This is certainly a good question. His answer is somewhat less sparkling. He says when our verse says "to the Gate" it actually means "up until the Gate." But this answer is difficult to accept because our verse and verse 4:2 both use the exact same Hebrew phrase "To the King's Gate" Why should the same words be translated in two different ways?
Now let us leave the Maharsha and return to our question : What's bothering Rashi that forced to him offer his comment?
Hint: Keeping the Maharsha's question in mind may help you.
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Rashi may have had in mind the Maharsha's line of reasoning . The Maharsha mentions the rule of not coming into the King's Gate. That reminds us that Mordecai had not been at the King's Gate because of his sackcloth. If so, how could he return to the King's Gate, if before his horse-riding ceremony with Haman, he had not been able to approach the Gate since he was draped in sackcloth ?
With this in mind we can perhaps understand what was bothering Rashi. If Mordecai went to the Gate today he would not really be "returning" to it, since he wasn't there before. This may be the reason that Rashi could not take our verse literally, that Mordecai "returned" to the King's Gate.
How does Rashi's comment deal with this?
And what about the Maharsha's question ? How could Mordecai go to the Gate in sackcloth?
An Answer: . Rashi had to say that Mordecai returned, not to the Gate, but to his sackcloth and fasting, which is where he was right before his royal equine ride on the king's horse. We can understand that he returned to his fasting and prayers because the decree to destroy the Jews had not yet been revoked, he would have to continue his prayers, hunger strike and sackcloth garb until it was.
But the verse does say he went "to the Gate" and we cannot ignore the simple p'shat of the verse. How was this possible in sackcloth, as the Maharsha had asked?
A DEEPER LOOK
An Answer: I would suggest that after Mordecai received such a public display of appreciation from the King himself (for saving his life) this emboldened him. He then became more assertive and more self-confident and wore his sackcloth all the way into the King's Gate, even though this was forbidden for ordinary mortals. (Remember, Mordecai had also asked Esther to do something similarly unacceptable and dangerous - to go to the King even though she was not invited. He saw that she had succeeded, so maybe he too could away with this audacity.)
An EVEN DEEPER LOOK
Let us step back from this close analysis and look at the verse as a whole. What does it tell us? It contrasts Mordecai's behavior with that of Haman. Mordecai had just received the King's highest honor, yet it didn't swell his ego. From this pinnacle of glory, he returned immediately to his role as Spiritual leader of his beleaguered People - sackcloth and all. Haman, on the other hand, is depicted as suffering a horrific blow to his ego. As he was used to thinking only of himself, he was totally humiliated. His watching out for Number One didn't bring him his desired results.
This glaring contrast between an individual prepared for self-sacrifice, on one side, and a person dedicating his energies to self-aggrandizement, on the other, is a theme that runs through the whole Megillah.
More Rashi thoughts can be found in the Megillas Esther volume of What's Bothering Rashi? At your book stores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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