Esther in Medieval Garb: Jewish Interpretation of the Book by Barry Dov Walfish

By Barry Dov Walfish

Booklet through Walfish, Barry Dov

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Extra resources for Esther in Medieval Garb: Jewish Interpretation of the Book of Esther in the Middle Ages

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Elijah, the Prophet,H4 while according to the midrash, Mordecai already knew that the Israelites were in danger because of what they had done. Rashi takes elements from both of these comments and adds a third-the source of Mordecai's knowledge being a dream rather than Elijah. H5 He is thus able to explain the source of Mordecai's knowledge and the content of it in a way that does justice to the magnitude of the calamity facing Israel and is exegetically acceptable as well. We see, then, how Rashi freely borrows from his rabbinic sources and weaves disparate elements together in order to produce comments that are exegetically sound according to his criteria.

The reason for this imbalance is that Rashi had a theological motive in making this comment-the desire to demonstrate God's providence and justice in guiding the events of the story. Therefore, he wished to stress that the deeds of Ahasuerus and Haman were met with the proper consequences and that they were punished for their actions. The deeds of Mordecai and Esther, on the other hand, do not fit this pattern of misdeed and punishment, and therefore, he did not need to mention their outcome in this context.

Another example is Rashi's comment on Est 9:29. The verse reads as follows: "Then Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew wrote with full authority (toqif) to confirm this second letter of Purim. ,,81 The problem in the text is the word toqeJ. This word literally means "power" or "might," but this meaning does not fit well in this context. " This comment is based on the passage in B. T. Megillah immediately preceding the one just discussed and deals with the same issue of determining the proper place from which to begin reading the scroll in order to fulfill one's religious obligation: He who says that the whole Megillah must be read refers this to the power of Ahasuerus; he who says it must be read from "there was a Jew" (2:5), to the power of Mordecai; he who says from "after these things" (3:1), to the power of Haman; and he who says from "on that night" (6:1), to the power of the miracle.

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