Petachya is Mordechai

Shekalim (5:1) | Yisrael Bankier | a year ago

The fifth perek begins by listing the different positions and responsibilities in the Beit Midkash. The Mishnah also includes names of individuals alongside those responsibilities. The Batenura provides two explanations for the inclusion of the names. The first is that the individuals named were those who were exemplary in those positions. Alternatively, these were the individuals that first served in these positions, such that those that served after were called by those names. We shall focus on Petachya.

The Mishnah teaches that Petachya oversaw the kinim. A ken refers to a korban that consists of two birds. If the pair is obligatory it would consist of a chatat and olah, whereas if it were voluntary, they would both be olah offerings. The Bartenura explains that when one was obligated to bring a ken, they would place the money in a chest marked for that purpose. An appointee would then empty the chest and bring the kinim with that money. Given the complexity regarding the laws of kinim a wise expert was needed.

The Tifferet Yisrael however explains that mixtures of bird offering were common, and the resolution of such problem were very complicated. Consequently, an expert in these laws was necessary to rule on these matters. In other words, he was not responsible for executing the funds, but rather he was responsible the legal rulings.

Interestingly the Rambam (Klei Midkash 7:9) explains that this job was to supply the bird to the Beit Hamikdash.

The Mishnah however continues that Petchya was Mordechai. He was called Petachya since he was able to "open matters and expound them and knew seventy languages". How does his knowledge of languages relate to this role?

The Gemara (Yerushalmi) cites an incident where three women came to the Beit HaMikdash wanting to bring korbanot but each expressed the reason in strange ways. Initially they thought that each of the woman were zavot and needed to bring obligatory kinim. Petachya however understood that each woman really expressed a danger from which they were miraculously save. Consequently, the korbanot were volountary ones. The Maharsha (Menachot 65a) notes that we see from this incident, that it was necessary for the appointee to have a clear understanding of those that wished to bring the korban. Similarly, the Tifferet Yisrael's explanation that it was necessary for the appointee to have a strong command of language since subtle changes even in the sentence structure can change which korban must be brought.

The above appears to support the understanding that the command of the languages was important for the allocation of the funds. Nevertheless, we find in the final Mishnah in Kinim how subtle changes in how one structures their neder may lead to one needing to bringing seven replacement bird if the ken was not offered correctly. Consequently a strong understanding of the native tongue of the person that brought the ken is needed in the resolution of the mixtures or errors also.

The Gemara (Menachot 65a) however asks that the knowledge of seventy languages was not unique. All the Chachamim that sat on the Sanhedrin had to know all seventy languages. The Gemara explains that Mordechai was different since he was able to blend different languages to understand the intent of the speaker. That is why in Nechemya he is referred to Mordechai Bilshan. Two examples of this skill were also recording in the Gemara where individuals were trying to communicate where to source barley for the omer and wheat for the shtei ha'lechem. Petachya was able to interpret what they were saying despite it being a blend of two languages.

The Agadot Eliyahu however explains that he was referred to as Mordechi Bilshan due to the miracle that occurs because of his vast knowledge of languages. Recall for Megillat Esther, he overheard Bigtan and Teresh as the plotted to kill Achashveirosh. He was able to then save the king, which was recorded and was later a key piece leading to the downfall of Haman. Consequently, he was called Bilshan as a zecher le'nes -- a reminder of the miracle of the miracle of Purim.


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