It is customary throughout the entire Jewish world to read the Megillat Esther Purim night and again on Purim day. We start with “Vayehi bimei Achashveirosh — “And it came to pass in the days of Achashveirosh” and conclude with stating that Mordechai was “Dover shalom l’chol zar’o” — “concerned for the welfare of all his posterity” [lit. speaking peace to all his descendants].

While this is common knowledge and the universal practice, there is, however a discussion in the Gemara (Megillah 19a) as to from which point in the Megillah must one read in order to ful­fill his obligation. The Mishnah cites three opinions. Rabbi Meir says “one must read all of it.” Rabbi Yehudah says we read “from the verse ‘Ish Yehudi’ — ‘There was a Jewish man’ [in Shushan Habirah] (2:5). Rabbi Yose says we read from the verse ‘Achar hadevarim ha’eileh’ — ‘After these events [King Achash­veirosh promoted Haman — 3:1]. The Gemara adds a fourth opinion: Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says one must read from “Balaylah hahu” — “On that night, [the king’s sleep was dis­turbed” 6:1].

The Gemara goes on to explain the reasoning of each of these Sages as follows: Rabbi Meir says to read from the beginning because it emphasizes tokfo shel Achashveirosh — the power of Achashveirosh how mighty a king he was. Rabbi Yehudah says to read from “Ish Yehudi” — “There was a Jewish man etc.” — because it describes tokfo shel Mordechai — the strength of Mordechai. Rabbi Yosi holds to read from “Achar hadevarim ha’eileh”—“after these events etc.” — since that emphasizes tokfo shel Haman — the power of Haman. Finally, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says to read from “Balaylah hahu” — “On that night” — because it refers to tokfo shel neis — the power of the miracle.

Now one can easily understand how describing the vast kingdom of Achashveirosh and his lavish conquests emphasizes the strength of Achashveirosh. By the same token reading about how Haman was elevated to the highest government position of viceroy and how everyone was bowing and prostrating themselves to him depicts the strength he achieved. Likewise the story of the king’s sleepless night, the downfall of Haman and Achashveirosh’s change of heart towards the Jews demonstrate the strength and greatness of the miracle Hashem performed for His people.

But reading that “Ish Yehudi” a Jewish man named Mordechai lived in Shushan because it tells us tokfo shel Mordechai — the strength of Mordechai — is puzzling. What special strength of Mordechai is demonstrated here?

In the Megillah we find the expression “Shushan Habirah” — “Shushan the Capital” — ten times, and nine times “Ha’ir Shushan” — “The City of Shushan”— or just plain “Shushan.” Now, since we also find both expressions in the same passuk, “And the edict was given out in Shushan the Capital, and the King and Haman sat down to drink and the city of Shushan was perplexed” (3:15), obviously, this is intentional. Why the distinction?

Shushan Habirah was the capital of Achashveirosh’s kingdom. Near it was a suburb known also as “Shushan.” The two cities were separated by the Ulai river (see Daniel 8:2). It was forbidden for Jews to live in the capital city, but they were permitted to live in the City of Shushan. Hence, when the Megillah talks about Achashveirosh or the issuing of decrees, Shushan Habirah — Shushan the Capital — is mentioned. Whenever the Megillah talks about the Jewish people, Ha’ir Shushan — the City of Shushan — is mentioned.

During this period of history, many Jews unfortunately, suc­cumbed to the power and glitter of the kingdom of Achashveirosh at the expense of their Torah observance. Even the ones who were faithful to Hashem in their hearts did not demonstrate their Yiddishkeit openly. The Megillah is indicating that Mordechai was “Yehudi” — a devout Jew — not only in the confines of his home, but even in the middle of Shushan the Capital — whether in government circles or on the street among the public, he proudly demonstrated his Torah convic­tions.

By Divine Providence, Mordechai was the only Jew who happened to be living in the capital and was highly respected. Thanks to this, he had access to the King’s palace and was able to overhear the conversation of Bigtan and Teresh, which eventually brought about the downfall of Haman and the miracle of Purim.

The strength of Mordechai was that while, unfortunately, people were compromising on their religious convictions, Mordechai, despite being the only Jew in the Capital City of Shushan, remained “Mordechai Hayehudi” a Jew who stuck tenaciously to his observance of Torah and Mitzvot.

The Rebbe in Likkutei Sichot (Vol. 6, p. 381) makes an interesting observation. When Mordechai is introduced in the Megillah for the first time, he is described as Ish Yehudi hayah” — “There was a Jewish man [whose name was Mordechai],” and again at the last time he is mentioned it says “Ki Mordechai haYehudi — for Mordechai the Jew (10:3), why is the title “Yehudi” — “Jew” — added to his name in these two places?

The Rebbe answers that the Megillah wants to emphasize his greatness and righteousness. Not only was he “Yehudi” — a proud observant Jew when he was an ordinary citizen of Shushan, but even when he became the viceroy, he remained “Mordechai Hayehudi” — “Mordechai the Jew.” Neither the prestige nor the power caused him to deviate one iota from his absolute convictions concerning Torah and Yiddishkeit.

My berachah to you, my dear Bar Mitzvah, is to follow in the ways of Mordechai of old, and also the guidance of the Rebbe — the Mordechai of our generation. Throughout your entire life, regardless of any position you achieve, and in any society that you may live, show your personal tokef — strength and convic­tion — and be a true Yehudi — proud Torah observant Jew.