Esther 4:2, Question 1. Why does Mordechai go to the king’s palace at this point?

ב וַיָּבוֹא עַד לִפְנֵי שַׁעַרהַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי אֵין לָבוֹא אֶלשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ בִּלְבוּשׁ שָׂק

2. And he went until before the gate of the king because one could not go to the gate of the king wearing sackcloth.

  • The Vilna Gaon suggests that Mordechai went to the palace because he simply did not know that he would be barred from it.
  • The Malbim adds that Mordechai wanted to inform the king of the goings-on, not knowing that the king did not know that the Jews were targeted for genocide.
  • R’ Zalman Sorotskin in Mayleetz Yosher notes that Mordechai knew that he could change his clothing to discuss his issue with the king, and then change back into his sackcloth. The reason Mordechai chooses to act otherwise is because he actually felt a sense of mourning for the state of the Jewish people. Changing clothes would also show the Jewish people a lack of concern for their predicament.
  • R’ Eliezer Ashkenazi clarifies that Mordechai’s actions were a part of prayer. Prayer being the Jews’ strongest weapon, Mordechai knew he had to pray before performing any other activity, and therefore the removal of the sackcloth would have been considered tantamount to ceasing prayer.
  • Basing itself on a verse in Tehillim (85:14), the Talmud (Brachos 14a) teaches that we are not allowed to fulfill our own daily needs before performing our duties to H-Shem. This is also brought down in Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 89:3, Mishnah Berurah ibid., sub-paragraph 17). Even our forefather, Yaakov, in preparing for his meeting with Eisav prayed before doing anything else (Bireishis 32:10-13).
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