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"On that night the king's sleep stayed away from him" (Esther 6:1 - translation follows Radak).

Why does the passuk use a lashon of nadedah, "stay away," instead of the more simple wording, "On that night the king couldn't sleep"?

  • Perhaps it used what was likely a common word at the time since it was the most succinct way to phrase it. – mevaqesh Mar 12 '17 at 3:04
  • Also the more the king pursued it, the harder it bacame to catch. – sabbahillel Mar 12 '17 at 4:53
  • @sabbahillel Source? Answer? – DonielF Mar 12 '17 at 5:11
  • @DonielF - How is he supposed to source that? This question almost requires a highly opinionated answer. – ezra Mar 12 '17 at 7:14
  • @ezra By finding a Peirush that says that? It doesn't need to be opinionated. It just needs to be sourced. Like all questions on this site. – DonielF Mar 12 '17 at 11:17
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The root of "נדדה" denotes movement and, as you translated, distancing. Both of these contribute to Radak's generalization of the root's meaning in the Sefer Hasharashim (here), "כולם ענין התנועה וההרחקה". Of the two other references he gives that pertain directly to sleep/night activity one is from1 Ya'akov's self-report of the hardship of his life in the Lavan regime. He says

הָיִיתִי בַיּוֹם אֲכָלַנִי חֹרֶב וְקֶרַח בַּלָּיְלָה וַתִּדַּד שְׁנָתִי מֵעֵינָי

Often, scorching heat ravaged me by day and frost by night; sleep וַתִּדַּד from my eyes.

There, it is not a matter of interpretation that the word denotes a tortured and unrestful sleep rather than passively being awake at the wrong time. That is Ya'akov's point.

It may be fair to impute the same mode of sleep disturbance to Achashverosh. Back in the realm of interpretation, this could explain how some of the detailed midrashim on the untold events of this episode were informed. The g'mara in M'gila 15b understood that Achashverosh was greatly troubled over the possibility of his assassination and a missed opportunity for redress in his recent past, which led to his request to review the logs.

נפלה ליה מילתא בדעתיה אמר מאי דקמן דזמינתיה אסתר להמן דלמא עצה קא שקלי עילויה דההוא גברא למקטליה הדר אמר אי הכי לא הוה גברא דרחים לי דהוה מודע לי הדר אמר דלמא איכא איניש דעבד בי טיבותא ולא פרעתיה משום הכי מימנעי אינשי ולא מגלו לי מיד ויאמר להביא את ספר הזכרונות דברי הימים

Rashi is likewise explicit about the fact that he was being tormented by justice-seeking amends-makers:

שהיו מלאכים מבהילים אותו כל הלילה ואמרו לו כפוי טובה שלם טובה למי שעשאה

So it could be that נ.ד.ד was the most descriptive verb for the violent nature of Achashverosh's lack of sleep (which would fit nicely with the oscillation/flapping sense of several appearances of this root if it somehow hints at tossing and turning in one's sleep, but I have no source for that connection).


1 The other one is from Iyov and therefore less likely to be informative on its own: אִם־שָׁכַבְתִּי וְאָמַרְתִּי מָתַי אָקוּם וּמִדַּד־עָרֶב וְשָׂבַעְתִּי נְדֻדִים עֲדֵי־נָשֶׁף

  • 1
    Radak's work is called "Sefer HaSharashim" (not Michlol). The page referenced can more easier be found here (and OCR text can also be copied): hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43656&st=&pgnum=212 – IsraelReader Jan 21 at 19:21
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    @IsraelReader Thanks for the link! See here for the names of the book. – WAF Jan 21 at 19:28
  • From Wiki en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Kimhi : His book Michlol (מכלול‬) and his dictionary of the Hebrew language called Sefer Hashorashim (ספר השורשים‬) draws heavily on the earlier works of... These two books were originally written as one, although over the years they have come to be printed separately. / Not meaning to nit-pick, but I believe that since they have come to be printed separately, then the standard system of notation when referencing it, is "Michlol" for the first part, and "Sefer HaSharashim" for the dictionary. – IsraelReader Jan 21 at 19:54
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    @IsraelReader Duly edited. I see what you're saying. I'll have to think about the ethics of changing the name of a book by convention, but in the meantime. . . – WAF Jan 21 at 20:08
  • I don't think that it's an ethics question. As a bibliophile, I'm sensitive as to how books are referred to. In fact, I was thrown off by your reference to "Michlol", when I knew the Radak from Sefer Hashorashim. I thought that I would add that point as a comment. It was only when I followed the link, that I realized that we were both referring to the same source! – IsraelReader Jan 21 at 20:15

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