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Megillath Esther (4:3) states that

in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

(JPS translation)

On its face, I would be inclined to imagine that, whenever the messengers arrived at a new location with the official proclamation of the new law, the Jews there suddenly wept and mourned.

Apparently this is exactly how Rashi understood it. Baruch SheKivanti.

Only, I understood it this way not just as Pshat (the simple meaning), but as the obvious explanation, without Rashi's prompting, in an age of internet, smart phones, and social media. Rashi, on the other hand, lived in a time not so technologically different from ancient Persia. So why did he think the reader of the Megillah might not get that this is how word traveled back then?

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2 Answers 2

It looks to me that Rashi is saying either that the message did not get through except by the shluchim (though one might expect word to travel between communities) or that even if it did come through as rumor or hearsay, no one could accept it and believe it until it came in officially, so no one had responded to it on the level of rumor.

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It looks to me like the first. But how is that any different than what I said above, or what is said plainly in the Pasuk? –  Seth J Feb 25 '13 at 20:46
    
The pasuk says that it happened. The explanation says it ONLY happened that way to the exclusion of what might have been common sense. Then the question is why didn't the message get through via regular word of mouth and only through the messengers. Certainly the Jews would have sent messages on their own. –  Danno Feb 25 '13 at 20:49
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I think that, perhaps, Rashi is to be interpreted as follows. (This is my own idea, so take it with a heavy grain of salt.)

Notice the words of the pasuk on which Rashi is commenting: "דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ". Something about those words, specifically, is bothering him, and I propose that it's the repetition. When the king's word arrived somewhere, so did the new law. The 'word' was the law! Why say both? So Rashi tells us: "כשהשלוחים נושאי הספרים עוברים שם נתנה הדת בעיר", "when the messengers carrying the letters passed there, the law was placed in the city". This "law was placed" can't mean that they put a copy of the law down in the town square, or it begs the question. I think it means that the law became effective in each city when it was announced there. That is, the way royal edicts worked in Persia was that they went into effect in a city only when the message reached that city. So the Jews in each city were not merely hearing the news that, several days or weeks prior, the king had made a new and terrible law, but were, rather, were hearing the news that a new and terrible law had just been enacted. We know that a שמועה רחוקה, late news, causes less anguish. Perhaps Rashi is explaining that the redundancy in the pasuk is telling us a partial cause of the severity of the Jews' anguish.

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