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Ask the Rabbi - 306

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Ask the Rabbi

March 3, 2001 / 8 Adar 5761; Issue #306



What Became of Esther?

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Name@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Are there any sources regarding what happened to Queen Esther after the traditional story ended? What became of her? Did she have children? Etc.? Thanks.


Dear Name@Withheld,

While we do not know a lot about what happened to Esther one thing that we do know is that she had a son, Darius, who became King Darius II. She brought him up to be favorable to the Jews and he eventually lifted the ban against the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), which led to the building of the Second Temple.


The Lost Scroll of Esther

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Rachael Shields wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

We are trying to do the mitzvah of "hashavas aveidah" (returning a lost object) and I hope you can help. My brother-in-law's father was renting a condo in Florida and he stumbled across a megillah (Scroll of Esther) in a silver case. The lady he was renting from said it belonged to an old Jewish man who had rented the condo previously. All we know about him is that his first name is David and his last name is either Bezbovodko or Bezdborosko (these spellings were found on some old mail found in the house). We know he was about 97 when he died 3 years ago and he was probably from Ohio and may have had some ties to Lubavitch. If you can help us, we are trying to get this megillah to his family by Purim, if possible. Thanks for your help. Tizku l'mitzvos!


Dear Rachael Shields,

Thanks for letting us help in this mitzvah! Have you done the basics, like call telephone information in Ohio and asked for this name? I have sent you a list of some of our Ohio contacts for you to contact, and we're posting this message here in our weekly "Ask the Rabbi" column. We ask any of our readers who have information about David Bezbovodko, or Bezdborosko, to email you at rachaelfri@juno.com.


Time for Genocide

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Josh from Durham, NC wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Regarding Purim, it struck me as somewhat strange that the decree to kill the Jews would be issued almost an entire year before it was to be carried out...wouldn't this have given the Jews time to escape or ready themselves, regardless of a counter-order?


Dear Josh,

Haman made two decrees. The first was to destroy the entire Jewish People. The second was that everyone should be ready and prepared for something special on the 13th of Adar. The decree that the Jews should be killed was secret. The Vilna Gaon explains that the reason that Haman kept the first decree secret was in order to prevent the Jews from escaping in any way.

    Sources:
  • Esther 3:13,14
  • Vilna Gaon, commentary to Megillat Esther

Poppy Seed Purim

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Rose Hill from Manchester, UK wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What is the issue of eating seeds (as in poppy seeds) on Purim? I read there was such a thing on an Ohr Somayach web site. Thanks.


Dear Rose Hill,

The role that "seeds" played in the story of Esther is that in the king's palace, Esther ate seeds in order to observe the Torah's command to eat only kosher food. This way, she was able to have a healthy, caloric diet while avoiding the royal yet unkosher meat and wine fed to the other queen candidates.


Mordechai´s Wife

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Delores Elliott from Courtenay, British Columbia wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

We are confused. Some Rabbis contend that Esther was Mordecai's wife and if she was, that raises a lot of legal questions and yet in Holy Scriptures we cannot find anything except that she was raised by him and that she was like his daughter! Help! Am I missing something here? Thank you so much. We enjoy your answers and have been collecting them in a notebook to refer back to for answers.


Dear Delores Elliott,

The Book of Esther says, "And he adopted Haddasah, i.e., Esther...and when her mother and father died, Mordechai took her to him as a daughter." (Esther 2)

There are three apparent snags in this verse. First, since the verse says that Mordechai "adopted Haddasah," why does it seem to repeat the fact that he "took her to him as a daughter?" Isn't that the same thing? Second, there is no legal status of "adoptive parent" in Judaism; that is, you raise an orphan girl in your home, but you don't "take her as a daughter." Finally and most notably, "took her to him" is always used in the Torah to refer to marriage.

Literally, then, the verse is saying that he married her.

Why does it use the term "daughter?" The terms "sister" and "daughter" are common expressions of endearment, as we see in other places in the Torah (e.g., Ruth 2:8, Shir Hashirim 4:9) and Talmud (e.g., Shabbat 13b). The idea is that a husband and wife should develop a loving and giving relationship as one naturally has with one's child and sibling.

So, it's not hard to see how the Talmudic Sages saw in this verse support for the oral tradition that says Mordechai, Esther's cousin, was also her husband.


"Da'at Torah"

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Mr. Anon from the UK wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

How would you explain the dynamics of "da'at torah" to a secular audience, many of them being total beginners as far as Jewish learning is concerned? By da'as torah I mean the special insight that sincere and intense Torah study imparts to the leaders of the Torah community. Looking forwards to hearing from you as soon as possible. Many thanks in advance.


Dear Mr. Anon,

I would start with some examples that most people know and perhaps can relate to. Take Mordechai, for example. He appeared to do everything wrong, against the common wisdom, but was right in the end.

Shushan's Jews, politically-correctly, attended Achashverosh's feast. (It's not PC to refuse a king's invitation to his victory celebration.) Mordechai, however, warned against it (spoil-sport, not cool, old-fashioned).

Later, when it was time for everyone to bow to Haman, again Mordechai "just doesn't get it." By his refusal to bow, he seems to be the one who brings a death decree on all the Jews.

Indeed, however, as the Talmud says, it was attending the feast, given in celebration of the non-rebuilding of Jerusalem, which brought about the decree. Listening to Mordechai could have saved a lot of trouble!

Let's go on in the story. After Haman's decree became known, the Jews said to themselves: "We have a sister in the palace, Esther. Queen Esther will work to annul this bad decree." What would common wisdom say? "Let Esther tell the king that she's Jewish and we Jews will get favorable treatment." But again, Mordechai seems to miss the boat, instructing Esther to remain silent about her background. What could possibly have been his motive for this bizarre move?

We all know the end of the story. Precisely because Esther did not reveal her Jewishness, the Jews gave up on her and turned their eyes toward Heaven alone, fasting and repenting. This was precisely Mordechai's intent and is the only thing that saved us.

We see that basically everything Mordechai did -- although sometimes seeming to run against common sense -- in the end brought good to the Jewish People. From where did Mordechai get this special insight and ability? From his sincere and total immersion in Torah study; Mordechai, as one of the outstanding Torah scholars of the generation, sat among the foremost of the Sanhedrin, Israel's Supreme Torah court.

Another example is Moshe: When he went to Pharaoh the first time -- at G-d's command, no less -- things got worse(!) for the Jews. Obviously, Moshe was imbued with supernatural insight, and the imperative to follow him was not lessened by the immediate result of his actions. Of course we all know the end of that story and that Moshe eventually succeeded in a big way.

Note that, according to the midrash, 80 percent of the Jewish People were not willing to leave fertile Egypt for the uncharted dessert. Because these millions of people were not ready to follow Moshe, they were forever lost to the Jewish People.

I think these examples show fairly clearly the importance of following the guidance of our Torah leaders, and that such allegiance should not hinge on our short-term perception of the immediate result of that leadership.


Yiddle Riddle

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Question: When is the same haftara read two weeks in a row? (Without anyone making any mistakes either week or travelling in the meantime.)

Answer: When Shushan Purim, Purim celebrated in Jerusalem and other walled cities, is on Shabbat. Because it is Purim in these places, the haftara that is read is the same haftara that was read everywhere the previous Shabbat -- Shabbat Zachor. This haftara describes King Shaul's encounter with Amalek. (See Haftara in Torah Weekly Parshat Terumah 5761)

HEY! SEND YOUR RIDDLES TO ohr@ohr.edu



Fasters of Esther Unite !!

Most years in most places, Jews wait until after the Megillah reading to break the Fast of Esther. However, this year all Jews will wait until after the Megillah reading.

When Shushan Purim -- Purim celebrated in Jerusalem and other walled cites -- is not on Shabbat, the Megillah is not read there on the night after the fast, and therefore there is no reason to wait to break the fast. However, this year, because Shushan Purim is on Shabbat, everybody everywhere will read the Megillah on Thursday night and break their fast only afterwards!

Sumbitted by an Ohrnet employee


Written by various Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
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