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Section: Ask   Category: Hashkafa
Question & Answer For Purim - Was Mordechai Active In The Drive To Rebuild The Bais HaMikdash?

Question: In the Purim story, King Ahasuerus gives Mordechai great power and influence. Why didn't Mordechai use that power and influence to persuade Ahasuerus to let the Jews return to Eretz Yisrael?

Answer: What makes you think that Mordechai did not attempt to gain permission for the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash?  Actually, we find that Mordechai has always been actively involved in the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.

In Sefer Ezra, we find Mordechai's name enumerated among the first who returned to Eretz Yisrael to rebuild the Bais Hamikdash. This occured 52 years after the destruction of the Temple, during the reign of Koresh (Cyrus), Achashverosh's predecessor.  Unfortunately, due to malicious slander, Koresh restricted emmigration to Eretz Yisrael and Achashverosh, his successor, rescinded the royal permission to build the Bais Hamikdash entirely. In Sefer Nechemiah, 70 years after the destruction of the temple, during the reign of Daryavesh (Esther's son), we once again find Mordechai's name listed among the first to return to E.Y. to help continue the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.

We clearly see that Mordechai was an avid Bais Hamikdash activist and was always involved. The Mishna in Shekalim names Mordechai as the Head of the Kinim bird offerings in the Bais Hamikdash, so we see that he had an active part of the Bais Hamikdash after it was rebuilt as well.

The Ralbag in Sefer Ezra writes that the reason Mordechai returned to Shushan after he had already settled in E.Y. was to lobby the cause of the rebuilding. This is why, explains the Ralbag, we always find him b'shaar hamelech, at the gates of the palace.

The Yalkut Shemoni asks, why did Mordechai save Achashverosh's life when he overheard Bigson and Seresh's plan to poison him? Wasn't he the one that halted construction of the temple? The Yalkut answers that Mordechai saved the king's life with the conscious decision to gain favor in the eyes of the king and perhaps be able to influence him to permit the rebuilding once again. Apparently, Achashverosh was well aware of Mordechai's intentions as the Yalkut brings the following midrash in the very next pasuk. Achar Hadivarim Ha'e'leh, Achashverosh elevated Haman's stature for the express purpose of counteracting Mordechai's advances regarding the rebuild. Achashverosh thought, "Mordechai wants to build the Bais Hamikdash, let me incite Haman and what Mordechai will attempt to rebuild, Haman will destroy."

Again, from the Ralbag and the Yalkut we clearly see what was foremost on Mordechai's mind. Interestingly enough, when Haman came to take Mordechai and parade him through the streets on the king's horse, the gemara in Megilla 16a relates that Mordechai was in middle of teaching his students Torah. What was he teaching? The laws of kemitza, one of the services in the Bais Hamikdash.

The Midrash relates that Mordechai donated a large portion of his wealth (after his eventual rise to power and inheritance of Haman's estate) toward the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.

In light of the above, why should we assume that Mordechai ever stopped trying once he rose to power?  What you have to understand is that as powerful as Mordechai became, he was still beholden to the king.  A king that despised the Jewish nation and was always vehemently opposed to the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash.  This wasn't just some trivial foreign policy that we are talking about here. This was an issue that the Persian kings and their governments were constantly engaged in, actively seeking to keep the Jews in exile.

The Yerushalmi in Pesachim (Ch. 10) asks, why didn't the Yidden say Shira after the miracle of Purim? The Yerushalmi answers that it was not a full redemption. Although they were saved from their enemies they still were under the reign of a tyrant king.

Achashverosh was adamant that the Bais Hamikdash not be rebuilt. He offered Esther up to half of his kingdom with only one exclusion - the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash. The infamous party at the very beginning of the Purim story was a celebration of his erroneous perception that the Bais Hamikdash will never be rebuilt. He utilized vessels and clothing of the Bais Hamikdash to underscore this point. The Persian kings were acutely aware of Yirmiyahu's 70 year prophecy and rejoiced when they perceived that it will not be fulfilled. According to Rashi in Megilla 16a, Shimshai, the very same person that was behind the original slander which halted the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash, was the king's personal scribe, reading the sefer zichronos to Achishverosh. Understandably, he refused to read about Mordechai as he didn't want him to find favor in the eyes of the king.  According to many, Shimshai was also Haman's son. Clearly, the key players in the Purim story were all inextricably intertwined with the complications and frustrations of the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash involving Achashverosh, Haman and Mordechai.

This was what Mordechai was up against.  That and of course the prophecy that the full rebuilding of the temple will not occur until 70 years after the total destruction of Jerusalem.  In fact, this occurred only a few short years after the story of Purim.

Hope this helps put it into perspective,

Tzvi Frank

RELATED ARTICLES:Achashveirosh  Bais HaMikdash  Mordechai Hatzaddik  purim

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