Recently I was browsing some source sheets on Sefaria regarding Purim, and I stumbled upon this sheet, which, based on various comments of Rava’s throughout Shas, argues that, in Rava’s opinion, Mordechai should have bowed to Haman, and that Mordechai needlessly endangered the Jewish people in refusing to do so. Rava therefore asks that we drink on Purim until we can’t tell the difference between “blessed is Mordechai” and “cursed is Haman,” due to the fact that Mordechai also played a large role in the potential destruction of the Jewish people; after all, Rava says that “wine and good scents made me wise.”

In the sequel, the author argues that the following story, where Rava killed R’ Zeira, did not actually happen, but rather was a Purim shpiel by those who disagreed with Rava’s assessment of events (notably Abaye), arguing that following Rava’s advice would lead to someone getting killed.

While there are other ways to explain these Gemaras that doesn’t lead to anyone arguing that Mordechai was wrong in his actions (not for this thread), I wonder: is the author of these source sheets the first to come up with this theory, or did any Rishonim or Achronim posit it before him?


This is definitely not a strange read of the pshat of the Megillah...

In terms of the reading of Rava in this way, Shlal David (Esther 4:5) understands it to be so (Hebrew follows, emphasis mine):

ויש לדקדק, מה ראה רבא על ככה דכנסת ישראל היו מתרעמים על דוד ועל מרדכי, ולא דרש לזכות כמו אידך אמוראי. ונראה דרבא לשיטתו אזיל, דהתוספות בשבת דף ע"ב [ע"ב ד"ה רבא] כתבו, וא"ת ולרבא דאמר העובד מאהבה ויראה פטור אמאי לא השתחוה מרדכי להמן. וי"ל משום קידוש השם, כדאשכחן בירושלמי [שביעית י, א] בפפוס ולולינוס אחיו שנתנו להם מים בזכוכית צבועה ולא קיבלו מהם. והנה ודאי פפוס ולולינוס קידשו השם בסכנת עצמם דוקא ולא לכל ישראל וודאי שפיר עבדו, אבל מרדכי שהכניס כל ישראל בסכנה לא הותר לו לקדש השם ולסכן כל ישראל, וזה היה תרעומת ישראל על מרדכי.

Rabbi Betzalel Safran also clearly notes this in a Teshuvah (Yalkut Hachinuchi 15):

אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי [מגילה ז' ע"ב]. ‏ רבא אזיל בזה לשיטתו שאמר (מגילה י"ב ע"ב, י"ג ע"א): כנסת ישראל היא דקאמרה לאידך גיסא, ראו מה עשה לי יהודה, דלא קטליה דוד לשמעי בן גרא דאתיליד מיניה מרדכי דמקני ביה המן, וגרם ליה צערא לישראל. ומה שילם לי ימיני, דלא קטליה שאול לאגג דאתיליד מיניה המן דמצער לישראל, יעו"ש ברש"י ד"ה לאידך גיסא, שכתב "לצעקה. ולא לשבח, איש יהודי, ואיש ימיני, גרמו לי הצער הזה". וזה שהשכיל רבא את פיהו ומשתעי בלשון חכמה: "מחייב אינש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן... לברוך מרדכי"... כי אזיל בזה לשיטתו! ‏

As an aside, this was famously the controversial opinion of Yashar, Rabbi Isaac Samuel Reggio (although I don't think he cites Rava).

As Wikipedia summarizes:

The Mafteaḥ el Megillat Ester is an introduction to the Book of Esther, and deserves special notice in consideration of its originality. Having concluded that the Persian king in that book was Darius Hystaspes, Reggio shows that the main object of the writer was to prove that Darius was the first to establish the post. Analyzing the text carefully, Reggio maintains that Mordecai was by no means such a great man as the Rabbis declare him to have been, but that, on the contrary, he was an ordinary Jew; for he not only gave no religious education to his adopted daughter Esther, but he even commanded her to deny her race and religion. His refusal to bow before Haman was unnecessary, as such an act would not have violated any Jewish religious law. Even when he was informed of the imminence of the danger to his co-religionists consequent upon his senseless refusal, he did not resort to prayer and fasting; it was Esther who did that. His inhumanity is evidenced by his command to slaughter women and children (Esth. viii. 11). Afterward, when Mordecai attained great power, he did nothing to better the lot of his brethren in Jerusalem (comp. Neh. ix. 36-37). This view of Reggio's provoked a protest from Isaac Bär Lewinsohn (Bikkure Ribal, p. 115, Warsaw, 1889), and was violently criticized by Mendelson (Orient, Lit. viii. 314 et seq.).

The full Hebrew of his commentary (where he says this) is available here.

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