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The m'gila says clearly that Ester was "bas dodo", which seems to mean she was the daughter of Mord'chay's uncle, i.e., his first cousin. The targum renders this as "b'ras achvoy". Does that mean "his niece"? If not, then where does the common claim that Ester was Mord'chay's niece come from? Alternatively, if so, then is there a commentary on the m'gila that says explicitly that she was his cousin?

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The m'gila also calls her his dod. –  WAF Mar 21 '11 at 21:56
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R'WAF, pardon? Where? –  msh210 Mar 22 '11 at 19:06
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

R' Ari Zivotofsky has a nice article on this subject, explaining the possible reasons for this misconception: http://www.ou.org/torah/article/tzarich_iyun_mordechai_and_esther

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I've accepted this, and I thank you, R'Dave, for the link, but still wonder whether someone can translate b'ras achvoy for me (as asked for in the question). –  msh210 Mar 22 '11 at 19:10
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אחבוי is a contraction of אח אבוהי , meaning "the brother of his father." ("Brother" would be אחוי or אחוהי.) I now see that this was noted in the comments to Josh Waxman's post on the topic: parsha.blogspot.com/2006/11/… –  Dave Mar 22 '11 at 20:01
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Perhaps you should consider summarizing the relevant portions here. –  HodofHod Feb 22 '12 at 3:18
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Basically: Mordechai was Esther's cousin. At some point, because he was much older and raised her, someone started saying "Uncle Mordechai", and somehow it stuck. (To make it worse, the verse says "Esther the daughter of Avichayil, [the] uncle [of] Mordechai"; someone may have erroneously heard the soundbite "uncle Mordechai", though the full sentence can't parse that way.) Rabbi Zivotovsky's article even catches a very great Torah scholar (who certainly knew better) once slipping up and saying "Uncle Mordechai." –  Shalom Jan 3 '13 at 23:15
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Thanks, @Shalom! The article also mentions that two early non-Jewish translations rendered the verse incorrectly, which introduced this erroneous idea into Catholic tradition, from whence it may have spread. –  Dave Jan 4 '13 at 0:04
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See the commentary of the Ibn Ezra on Esther 8:1 (page 30 in the linked document) where he says that Mordechai was Esther's uncle.

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yerushalayim, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for bringing up this source! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. I hope you'll look around the site and find other material to your liking, perhaps including our 85 other megillat-esther questions. Also, check out Purim - Mi Yodeya?! –  Isaac Moses Mar 11 at 22:16
    
Here is an alternate version of Ibn Ezra's commentary in standard format (i.e. pesuqim on top, peirush on bottom). –  Lee Mar 11 at 22:37
    
Here is Esther 8:1 with Peirush HaRaMBa"M, which states that "Esther told the king, 'Your advisor, Mordekhai, is my uncle, my father's brother. And he raised me [...]." (my translation) Could this perhaps mean that Esther lied to King Ahhashwerosh saying that Mordekhai was her uncle when, in fact, he was her cousin and husband? –  Lee Mar 11 at 22:44
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