Esther 3:4, Question 1. Why is the word “bi’amram” (“in their speaking”), Masoretically written and pronounced differently?

ד וַיְהִי בְּאָמְרָם [כְּאָמְרָם] אֵלָיו יוֹם וָיוֹם וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֲלֵיהֶם וַיַּגִּידוּ לְהָמָן לִרְאוֹת הֲיַעַמְדוּ דִּבְרֵי מָרְדֳּכַי כִּיהִגִּיד לָהֶם אֲשֶׁרהוּא יְהוּדִי

4. And it was, in their speaking with him day and day, and he did not listen to them. And they related to Haman to see if Mordechai’s words would stand because he related to them that he is a Yehudi.

  • The Mishteh Yayin says that “bi’amram” (“in their speaking”) the way the word is written and not pronounced, the “ksiv,” implies that the event of the servants’ interrogating Mordechai actually happened. “Ki’amram” (“like their speaking”), the way the word is pronounced aloud, the “kri,” implies that it was as though they questioned him. Accordingly, they didn’t really speak to him, but it felt as if they did. When people are so set in their convictions, as Mordechai is here, there is no talking to them. Convincing them to change their opinion is no less futile than banging one’s head against the wall.
  • However, Rav Dovid Feinstein points out that the servants doubted Mordechai’s steadfastness. Although he told them he would not change his mind, they thought he was only “talking tough,” but he would likely start bowing once put to the test with threats and punishments. Therefore, the verse is written with “bi’amram” because he sounded convincing in his words, but is read “ki’amram” because they thought his actions would be otherwise.
  • Perhaps the two opinions need not be contradictory if the Mishneh Yayin is viewing the verse from the perspective of Mordechai, and Rav Dovid Feinstein is viewing it from the perspective of the king’s servants. In other words, Mordechai felt like they were wasting his time (and theirs) futilely convincing him to worship idols, while the servants thought they made headway, and that, when push comes to shove, Mordechai will submit.

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