Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Relative Error

OK, I know my writing has been kind of depressing lately. What can I do? It just mirrors my life and mood, and I'm not here to pretend or put on a show.

But with Purim just a week away, I'll try to get into the spirit of things and cover a couple of happier and/or Purim related topics from now through the holiday. Don't know if I have quite the free time / ambition / brilliance to attempt a parody for the Muqata Purim Carnival (and it would be hard to equal the marvelous ones done so far - bravo!) If I do get the inspiration though, I'm targeting either Soccer Dad or Shifra, so be warned!

But before anything else, I want to make the following statement loud and clear, because this drives me absolutely nuts every year:

Mordechai was not Esther's uncle!! Did everybody get that??? Not her uncle!!!

Megillas Esther (2:7) states quite clearly that the Esther was the daughter of Mordechai's uncle, Avichayil. That makes Esther and Mordechai first cousins, not uncle and niece!!

This uncle-niece bit has to be the most persistent "Jewish Urban Legend" of all time. If I ever start my JUL Web Site this will be the first topic. This mistake has probably been taught and re-taught over the years in the vast majority of yeshivos; I remember it from my school days and it's continued with my kids. The error has found its way into numerous children's books and even adult education Torah web sites and blogs that ought to know better!

I used to theorize that this infamous gaffe started with one slip of the tongue by a nameless Hebrew School teacher several generations ago, and then just perpetuated itself through the Jewish world like a diseased meme. But it keeps on cropping up too often, too consistently, and in too many different contexts to be attributable to any one origin. I'm utterly stumped as to how this same mistake gets made over and over again, year after year!

Gee, maybe this post will start a counter-influence. Maybe by next year everyone will know that Mordechai and Esther were - everyone together now: COUSINS!



At 3/6/06, 5:48 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Choose Soccer Dad. The Ask Shifra blog has been reserved.

At 3/6/06, 6:09 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

See no one thinks I'm worth parodying! I do it all by myself.
Speaking of JUL, I think my brother once said that Migdal/Migdol mention (that you first told me about) is from the Torah Temimah.

At 3/7/06, 2:49 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It could be worse. Don't know what that is, but lately any time I complain I hear about how it could be worse.

So I know I have shared that little gem with you.

At 3/7/06, 3:46 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

I thought there was a source...

Anyways, email Jameel, make sure you don't parody someone who's already being parodied. I know who I'm doing (it's a secret!).

At 3/7/06, 1:22 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Elie, I found your blog about a month ago and have been waiting for the right post to say hello. Since this one is about relatives, I thought it was appropriate. This is Elana, Irv's daughter, originally from L.A. I'll keep this short and will be in touch again....

At 3/7/06, 1:41 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Hi Esther/Elana! Thanks for the comment; it's nice to have family reading the blog.

I actually found your blog the other day via it's "Cousin Elie's Blog" link back to mine. Much naches from Dovid and Devora; they sound adorable!

At 3/13/06, 1:12 AM, Anonymous Fern Sidman said...

Two points in Megilat Esther are not clear. Firstly, what brought on the decree to destroy all the Jews, and secondly, what suddenly happened that caused the decree to be canceled? To understand this, we will look at the story of Purim.

Like a bolt of lightning, the decree "to destroy to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day" fell upon Persian Jewry. The reaction of the Jews to this edict was quite puzzling. The Megilah says that the "City of Shushan was in consternation". Consternation? Certainly, a more normal reaction would be to shout or cry. But "consternation"?

But if we take a glimpse at the of situation Persian Jewry at the time, we would see that consternation is the reaction we might expect after all. For it never entered their minds that such a thing could ever happen. They were the biggest patriots! They were the most loyal to Achasverosh! That is why when Achashverosh (nine months earlier) sent out invitations for the 180-day feast, the Jews were the first ones to confirm their attendance. All this despite the protests from the "extremists" such as Mordechai, who warned against their participation in such a feast, since it's intention was to make the Jews assimilate. But the Jews wanted to prove that they are not different than the rest. Thus the reaction of consternation upon hearing the shocking decree.

But then the Megilah continues: "And Mordechai knew all that was done..." He had no illusions, and understood fully what caused the decree. He knew that the assimilation - precisely what the Jew thought would ease anti-Semitic tensions, was the very cause of the decree! For the rule was learned since our days in Egypt: Whenever the Jew tries to water down his Judaism and be accepted by the gentile, the latent hatred (which is always there) of the gentile towards the Jew outwardly manifests itself.

If so, why was the decree annulled? Because immediately upon receiving word of the decree, Mordechai, as we mentioned, knew the reason for it, and did not give up. He also did not go on a boot-licking campaign to plead the case of the Jews to the king or his cabinet, despite the fact that he was no stranger to the palace and had connections there. What he did was to undergo a last-ditch effort to awaken the Jews to understand the real cause of the problem - that precisely their effort to shed their uniqueness as Jews and to blur over their Jewish identity and be like goyim is what brings upon them bad times.

Indeed, it is not easy to convey such a message to a Jew, when he is socaught up in having the goy love him. Because such a message seems tocontradict all logic. But in Shushan, a great miracle occurred, and it is the real hidden miracle of Purim - the Jews did "Tsheuva"! And not just "Tsh'uva" of talking without backing it up, but rather one of deeds. Instead of continuing to grovel to the Persians and bring down barriers as most Jews naturally react, they made themselves subservient to the truth of Mordechai only, admitting to their original mistake of participating in the forbidden banquet. This was the significance of the mass fast which was declared. It signified a genuine "Tsheuva" to G-d.

By the way, now we can see why the Name of G-d does not appear in Megilat Esther, despite the fact that the theme of the story is "Tsh'uva to G-d". It is to tell us that when there is distress, one should not just rely on G-d to solve our problems in some miraculous fashion. Rather, we must prove by our actions that we understand the reason for the distress, and then do the right thing, even if it appears to be "illogical".

This should give us encouragement for today. For the problem of today is the same: Our need to copy the gentiles, to blur over our uniqueness as a people, and our absolute dependency on the world. At times it seems there is no hope. Can our people ever understand that America won't save us? And behold, we have a precedent in our history where from great distress, the Jewish People were able to wake up and to cling to the truth of Hashem. May we see the same awesome "Naha-Fochu" (a turning of the tables) quickly.

At 3/13/06, 9:31 AM, Blogger Elie said...


Thanks for the d'var torah. Question:
Do you have your own blog? Your writing should be available more conspicuously than in a week-old post's comments section!


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