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Why are we specifically told that Mordechai was an Ish Yehudi as it says in the pasuk (Ester 2:5):

אִישׁ יְהוּדִי, הָיָה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה; וּשְׁמוֹ מָרְדֳּכַי

Would we assume he wasn't a Jew if we weren't told this? If we would know he was a Jew without the Pasuk specifically mentioning it, what is the reason for mentioning it?

As always, please cite your sources.

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The pasuk to which you refer describes Mard'chai as being both a Y'hudi and a Y'mini. The former term is the one that, in modern parlance, is translated as "Jew".

In this case Y'hudi is a demonym related to the kingdom of Y'huda, whose residents, when exiled, took on this title. Y'mini, on the other hand, is a patriname associated with the tribe of Binyamin.

Source: Rash"i's comments on 2:5

  • It describes Mordochai as Yehudi, but seemingly Kish as Yemini. – Double AA Jan 10 '14 at 5:30
  • @DoubleAA The Gemora seems to understand both descriptions as applying to Mordechai - קרי ליה יהודי אלמא מיהודה קאתי וקרי ליה ימיני אלמא מבנימין קאתי. – Michoel Jan 10 '14 at 6:36
  • @Michoel I'm well aware of that Midrash. I thought we were talking about what the Pesukim say. – Double AA Jan 10 '14 at 13:21
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Perhaps we would not know that Mordechai was a Jew. After all, his name is not a traditional Jewish name - in fact, it comes from the Babylonian god "Marduk."

My own speculation is that the term "Jew \ Yehudi" refers to his ethnic affiliation from the point of view of the Persians, whereas "Benjaminite \ Yemini" is from the "Jewish\Israelite" point of view. Thus the verse introduces his dual-identity of both a Persian and a Jew, a theme we see throughout the book.

  • This provides a parallel with Esther herself, whose name derives from the Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of love, fertility and war (appropriately). The text gives both her Hebrew name Hadassah and also states she was "his uncle's daughter" (2:6) perhaps to make her status as a Yehudit crystal clear. (One could infer that it was common practice for Yehudim to adopt Mesopotamian names as a result of inculturation since the Exile. The deity names could also be another way to subtly indicate that the text's central conflict is cosmic in nature.) – Meir Illumination Aug 2 '15 at 21:28

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