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Torah Wisdom, Worldly Wisdom

One of the central figures in the Purim story is Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish people of the time. During their time of trial, Mordechai demonstrated profound courage and Jewish pride, in that he refused to bow to Haman, the implacable enemy of the Jews. At the same time, though, he was not too proud to gather up the small children and pray with them. 

Mordechai used the strength of his position to exhort the people not to attend the banquet hosted by King Achashverosh, which all Jews were required to attend. Even after the fact, when many Jews did succumb to temptation and ignored Mordechai's warning, he did not absolve himself of responsibility but continued to lead the Jews and guide them to do teshuvah.

With his timely wisdom, Mordechai successfully saved King Achashverosh from a plot launched by two of his bodyguards. With even more timely wisdom, Mordechai knew the exact moment to ask his niece, Queen Esther, to intercede with the king to save the Jewish people. Ultimately King Achashverosh recognized Mordechai's outstanding abilities and chose him as viceroy to the king, responsible for all political and economic matters in Achashverosh's 127-land empire.

Above all, Mordechai was a tzadik, the greatest of his generation. To use a current term, he was the Rebbe of his time. The word Rebbe in Hebrew is an acronym for Rosh Benei Yisroel--the head of the Jewish people.


Mordechai is a prime example of what it means to be the Rebbe, the head of the Jews. There are those who hold the mistaken notion that Torah scholars have relevant opinions only in the realms of the study hall, but anything that does not directly concern religion is beyond their purview. However, Mordechai and the Purim miracle demonstrate the folly of this attitude. Mordechai was the head of the Sanhedrin and the chief Jewish scholar of the time, but at the same time he led the campaign against Haman and guided the Jewish people to victory.

It was his vast knowledge in Torah that gave Mordechai the wisdom he needed to lead the Jewish people. It also gave him the courage of conviction to stand up to all enemies of the Jews, both within and without. Yet he was a steadfast and loyal leader who did not abandon his people even when they chose not to heed his counsel.

These qualities are found among all the greats of our nation, by Joseph, Moses, and King David, as well as all Jewish leaders of all generations. These qualities will be found, especially, in King Moshiach, who will be a rare leader possessing a deep and broad knowledge of Torah, yet enough worldly wisdom to “compel all of Israel in the path [of the Torah].”

As we say in one of the Purim blessings, "Who has wrought miracles for our fathers in those days, in our times." May we merit the revelation of the Mordechai of our generation, King Moshiach, who will lead us to the ultimate and permanent Redemption.


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