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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach



Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

Shemot, 30:23“And you, take for yourself high spices, pure myrrh [mor dror]…”
Targum Onkelot, Shemos, 30:23“…mara dachya…”
Talmud, Chullin, 139b“Where is Mordechai [alluded to] in the Torah? As it says, ‘mor dror’ and it is translated [by the Targum] as mara dachya…”

The Talmud asks where the name of Mordechai is alluded to in the Torah and answers that it is alluded to in this week’s Torah portion where the Torah lists the spices that were used in creating the anointing oil. The first and most important of the spices is called mor dror, which the Targum translates as mara dachia which sounds very similar to Mordechai.

The obvious question is what is the connection between Mordechai and a spice used for the anointing oil?

The Maharsha1 explains that the Hebrew word “dror“ refers to freedom2 and it was through Mordechai that the Jewish people were freed from the threat of destruction by Haman during the Purim story. In addition, he writes that mor dror was the highest of the spices used for the anointing oil. Likewise, Mordechai was the leader of the Jewish people. The Maharil Diskin3 adds that Mordechai is deliberately alluded to by a fine smelling spice, because such the aroma of such spices spread and benefit others. So too, Mordechai was one who benefited and helped others through his righteousness.

The commentaries take the connection between the mor dror and Mordechai to a much deeper level.4 The Rambam writes that this spice was actually made from the blood of a non-kosher animal from India. The Ra’avad strongly disagrees, arguing that no part of a treif animal could be part of something that is used in the Temple. The Kessef Mishneh answers on behalf of the Rambam that since the substance in question is dried out and ground into a fine powder, it is considered a totally different object and is therefore permitted even though it originally came from a non-kosher animal. This concept is known as panim chadashot bau lekaan – a totally new existence emerges.

The question still remains as to why Mordechai is compared to a spice that originates from a non-kosher animal? Rabbi Ozer Alport cites a Midrash that comments on a verse in Job: “Who will give pure from impure.”5 The Midrash6 explains that this verse refers to the concept of something pure coming out of something impure, such as the Red heifer making one person pure but another person impure. One of the examples given is the pure Mordechai who descended from the impure Shimi Ben Geira. Shimi was an enemy of King David and he viciously cursed David while David was escaping the rebellion of his son, Avshalom. Mordechai, on the other hand, was a tremendous Tzaddik who saved the Jewish people from the decree of destruction and selflessly led them after the events of the Megillah.

We can now understand the comparison between Mordechai and the non-kosher mor dror. Mordechai, a great man who descended from Shimi, a wicked man, is alluded to in the Torah by the mor dror, a substance which originates from forbidden blood but now it is changed to a pleasant-smelling powdery spice, which can be used in the most holy of places.

Just like something kosher can emerge from something non-kosher, so too, a pure person like Mordechai can descend from a wicked person such as Shimi.78

We learn from here that a person is not limited in his potential to achieve greatness if he has less than stellar ancestry and even if his forebearers are evil people. Just like the mor dror and Mordechai, a person can achieve great things, and make it is as if he is a totally new person.

By Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen


  1. Chiddushei Aggadot Chullin, 139b.
  2. As in when the Torah discusses the freeing of slaves (Vayikra, 25:10).
  3. Maharil Diskin Al Hatorah, 30:23.
  4. Based on teachings of Rabbi Ozer Alport and Rabbi Yissachar Frand in the name of the Chatam Sofer.
  5. Iyov, 14:4.
  6. Bamidbar Rabbah, 19:1.
  7. Interestingly, the Maharil Diskin, citing Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, teaches that another character in the Megillah, Haman is also subtly alluded to in the section of the spices in the Parsha. Of the eleven spices used to create the anointing oil, only one has unpleasant smell – chelbonah (galbanum).? The gematria of chelbonah is ninety-five, which is the same as that of Haman!
  8. One final question about the allusion of Mordechai is why his name is davke alluded to in the Targum translation as opposed to an actual Hebrew Passuk in the Torah. The Divrei HaPurim, p.152, cited by Rav Alport, explains that a critical part of the neis of the Megillah was due to Mordechai’s knowledge of other languages, so that he could understand the plot of Bigsan and Teresh who spoke in a foreign language, assuming that nobody could understand them. Mordechai’s name is therefore hinted to in a foreign language.

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