The Hidden Meaning in Mordechai’s Hebrew Name

By Dr Bert (Boruch Mordechai) Miller, 2014

Posted on 03/20/19

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The Megilla, which was written by both Mordechai and Esther, does not tell us Mordechai’s real name, his Hebrew name.  Neither the name Mordechai (arguably, a form of the avoda zara,

Mar-duch) nor the name Esther (arguably, a form of the avoda zara, Eesh-tar) has the Hebrew characteristic of three osios in the shoreish, i.e. three letters in the root.  Neither name appears to be Hebrew.  Even though we see from Esther 2:5 that Mordechai’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather had Hebrew names, I assumed initially that Mordechai, though apparently born in Eretz Yisrael, had only a Persian name and not a Hebrew name.  I do not believe that Mordechai was called to the Torah on his Bar Mitzva with, “Ya-amod, Mor Dror ben Yair.”    

Consider the pasuk, Es 3:7 “… pur, hu hagoral…,” in which an apparent Persian word, “pur,” is translated into Hebrew as “goral (lot).”  If the word pur would be Hebrew, there would be no need to provide the Hebrew translation, goral.  Compare the structure of that pasuk, “____ hu ____” with Es 2:7 where we learn that Esther had a Hebrew name, “…Hadassah hee Esther ..."  I concluded that Hadassah was her Hebrew name and Esther was her Persian name.   

Then, I found that both Gemara Menachos 65a and Mishna Shekalim 5:1 report that Mordechai did have a Hebrew name - Pesachya.  Usually we relate the hester panim theme to Esther, but here, the hester panim appears to be related to Mordechai.  Given that Mordechai had a Hebrew name, I wondered why Mordechai and Esther did not mention it in the Megilla, which they wrote.  Perhaps this indicates Mordechai's humility.  Maybe the fact that he and Esther wrote the Megilla entirely in the third person was another indication of his/their humility.

To understand the lack of symmetry (Esther is introduced with her Hebrew name, but Mordechai is not introduced with his Hebrew name), I searched the free HebrewBooksOnline software for “Mordechai” within 20 words of “Pesachya.”  I was certain that some authority must have commented on this.  I got about 200 “hits.“  Many of those hits related to sefarim written by distinguished rabbis in Morocco with the name Mordechai Pesachya.  I also found a “hit” on a vort by the Apter Rav, the Ohaiv Yisroel. 

Though he did not answer my question, he described a stunning mathematical pattern in the names Mordechai and Pesachya.  Mordechai is spelled, mem-reish-daled-chaf-yud and Pesachya is spelled, pay-sav-ches-yud-hay.  He created the following ratios, letter-for-letter, in the names Mordechai and Pesachya.  Mem (40) is half of pay (80), reish (200) is half of sav (400), daled (4) is half of ches (8).  Then, chaf (20) is twice yud (10), and yud (10) is twice hay (5).  That is, 

         Mordechai  =  mem   reish   daled  chaf   yud  = 40  200  4  20  10  =  1   1   1   2   2                     

           Pesachya        pay     sav     ches   yud    hay     80  400  8  10    5       2   2   2   1   1

Note that the letter-for-letter ratio is 1/2 for the first three letter pairs and then 2/1 for the last two letter pairs.  

I extended the Apter Rav’s discovery as follows.  We mathematicians have a name for this relationship in which a fraction is turned “upside down,” reciprocal.  I realized embedded, letter-for-letter, in the names Mordechai and Pesachya is the basic theme of the Megilla, “V'nahafoch hu” (turnabout)!     

Originally published by OU Israel in Torah Tidbits 2013.