Mikeitz as the Model for Mordechai by Linda Moed Cohen and Hillel Cohen


Although Parshat Mikeitz is quite apparently linked to Chanukah (the Parsha coincides with the Chag), Mikeitz is actually the template for another major post-biblical holiday, Purim.  After a moment of reflection, this is not surprising.  Yosef and his brothers were in Galut in Egypt just as the Jewish people were in Galut in Persia centuries later.  Yosef HaTzadik, as the leader of the Jewish nation in Egypt, helped his family navigate the workings of Pharaoh’s court so that they survived probable death and subsequently thrived.  Mordechai, as the leader of the Jewish nation in Persia, likewise helped the Jewish nation navigate the workings of Achashveirosh’s court so that the Jewish nation survived seemingly certain death and subsequently thrived.

Many examples of similar (sometimes exactly equivalent) wording used in Parshat Mikeitz and Megillat Esther crystallize the link between the two (see the Da’at Mikra’s introduction to Megillat Esther).

Right off the bat, we see that the kingdoms of Pharaoh and Achashveirosh are organized in a similar fashion.  In Mikeitz (41:34-47), the Torah states, “VeYafkeid Pekidim Al HaAretz…VeYikbetzu Et Kol Ochel HaShanim HaTovot...Vayitav HaDavar BeEinei Faroh UVeEinei Kol Avadav,” “Let [Pharaoh] appoint officers over the land...and let them gather all of the food from the good years...and the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all of his servants.”  The language that Megillat Esther uses is very similar:  “VeYafkeid HaMelech PekidimVeYikbetzu Et Kol Na’arah Betulah…Vayitav HaDavar BeEinei HaMelech,” “Let the King appoint officers...that they may gather all virgins...and the thing was good in the eyes of the King” (2:3-4).  This sets an expectation that the Jews will be treated in a similar manner in both episodes.

 The backgrounds for the experiences of both Yosef in Egypt and the Jews in Persia are also presented in a similar manner.  In Mikeitz (42:29), the Torah states: “VaYavo’u El Yaakov Avihem…Vayagidu Lo Et HaKorot Otam,” “And they came to Yaakov their father...and told him all that had befallen them.”  We note a parallel text in Megillat Esther (4:7): “Vayaged Lo Mordechai Eit Kol Asher Karahu,” “And Mordechai told [Esther, through Hatach,] all that had happened to him.”

Yosef HaTzadik steels himself against expected emotional adversity when he provides food for his brothers, but before he reveals himself to them, “Vayirchatz Panav, Vayeitzei Vayit’apak,” “And he washed his face, and he went out and restrained himself” (43:31).  A similar word is used when Yosef feels himself unable to control his emotions: “VeLo Yachol Yosef LeHit’apeik LeChol HaNitzavim Alav,” “And Yosef could not restrain himself before all that stood by him.”  It is shocking that the Torah uses parallel wording to describe the emotions of Haman (Esther 5:10): “Vayit’apak Haman Vayavo El Beito,” “Haman restrained himself and returned to his home.”  

Achashveirosh honors Mordechai in a manner almost identical to the way in which Pharaoh honors Yosef.  Mikeitz 41:42-43 discusses the latter: “Vayalbeish Oto Bigdei Sheish Vayasem Revid HaZahav Al Tzavaro, Vayarkeiv Oto BeMirkevet HaMishneh Asher Lo Vayikre’u Lefanav,” ”…  And [Pharaoh] arrayed [Yosef] in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.  And he made him ride in his secondary chariot, and they proclaimed before him...”  Regarding the honor of Mordechai, Megillat Esther states (6: 8-11), “Yavi’u Levush Malchut Asher Lavash Bo HaMelech VeSus Asher Rachav Alav HaMelech…VeHirkivuhu Al HaSus BiRchov HaIr VeKar’u Lefanav,” ”Let the royal apparel be brought which the King has worn, and the horse that the King rides upon…and bring [Mordechai] on horseback through the streets of the city, and proclaim before him...”

Even a small detail, the king’s ring and seal of authority, is found in both Parshat Mikeitz and Megillat Esther.  In Mikeitz, we see that “Vayasar Paroh Et Tabato Mei’al Yado Vayitein Otah Al Yad Yosef,” “Pharaoh took off the ring that was on his hand and put it on the hand of Yosef.”  The same occurs with Mordechai in Megillat Esther (8:2): “Yayasar HaMelech Et Tabato Asher He’evir MeiHaman Vayitnah LeMordechai,” “And the King took off the ring that he had given to Haman and gave it to Mordechai.”

There are many other examples of parallel text between Parshat Mikeitz and Megillat Esther.  Clearly, then, the experiences of Mordechai and the Jews of Persia are related, through Maaseh Avot Siman LaBanim, to the experiences of Yosef and his brothers in Egypt.  Perhaps we can even take this idea a step further – just as the Yosef story related to the Mordechai story, so too do both apply to Jews in power today, who must learn the lessons taught by these two great political leaders.

(The contributors of this article are indebted to Mrs.  Dena Knoll of Ma’ayanot for teaching them much of the aforementioned Torah.)


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