Friday, March 21, 2008

Purim Torah: Mordechai and Dating

R. Daniel Z. Feldman from YU Torah:

The Megilah ends with a surprising sad note: that Mordechai was "ratzui l’rov echav" (Esther 10:3). The Talmud (Megillah 16b) teaches us that he was accepted only to "most of his brothers", because some of his colleagues on the Sanhedrin disapproved of Mordechai's actions and separated themselves from him. A sad reception for a hero of the Jewish people.

However, a closer attention to the simple meaning of the text yields another dimension to this verse.

Click here to read more"Ratzui l’rov echav " can actually be translated as saying that Mordechai was "ratzui", was amenable, to listening to the "rov" of his brothers. Obviously, this is a reference to the verse "Vayidgo L’rov b’kerev ha’aretz" (Bereishis 48:16), which, the Talmud (Sotah 36b, etc) understands to refer to the “[many] fish in the sea”. In other words, since Mordechai was now single (Megillah 15a), they were telling him that it was time to start dating again.

Mordechai was amenable, but had an objection as well. The Talmud (Bava Kama 27b) tells us, "ein holkhin b'mamon achar harov," literally, one does not go after 'rov', i.e., dating, with money. Since dating has become very expensive, it is functionally impossible to date within the Talmud's guideline.

The rabbis’ response was two-fold. First, the principle is only, "ein holkhin", we do not travel with money, a reference to paying tolls, which were high even then. Since "melekh poretz geder" (Pesachim 110a), we can assume that Mordechai, as a "mishneh l'melech", certainly didn't have to pay tolls.

Second, even if the principle refers to the date as a whole, it is not necessary for the date to be that expensive. Instead of having fleishigs, they could just go out for drinks. In fact, the rabbis actually recommended that he should give his date drinks until she can not accurately tell how worthy he is, or “until they don’t know the difference between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman” (Megillah 7b).

Mordechai, however, disputed the notion that a fleishig meal was unnecessary, citing the passage (Chullin 2a), “Rov metzuyin eitzel Shechitah, mumchim”, which is properly translated as “ ‘Rov’ is only successfully acquired through providing shechted food, you experts” (as we know, the judges of the Sanhedrin must be mumchim, Sanhedrin 2b, etc).

The verse in the Megillah tells us that Mordechai was “doresh tov l’khol amo”. Obviously, this can only mean Mordechai continued arguing the concept of marriage – expounding (doresh) the issue of “tov” (marriage – see Berachos 8a) until the other rabbis gave up. It was only then, understandably, that they separated from him.

This is the obvious intention of the pasuk to anyone who reads carefully.

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