While many of us know Mordechai HaTzaddik from the story of Purim, he was also one of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah – Men of the Great Assembly. He was a man endowed with heavenly wisdom and vision and he used these gifts to benefit his people and to work for the resurgence of Torah in the dark days immediately following the Babylonian exile and the return to Zion.
When the Jews returned to their homeland they were a poor and weak group of people. Because of the great number of enemies and wild animals that had inhabited the land during their exile, they huddled together in a few communities such as Jerusalem in order that they might find protection. Thus, vast areas of former farmland were left neglected.
Soon it was time for the cutting of the omer. However, to the great dismay of the people, there was not one among the Kohanim who knew where a barley field could be found.
Inquiries were made to see if there was anyone who remembered where the barley fields had been.
“Any man who knows were the barley grew, come forward and inform the elders.”
Just as it appeared that no one remembered, a man approached. When he stepped forward he indicated that he was mute, unable to speak.
As the people watched, he approached a little Sukkah whose roof was made of sticks. Raising his right hand he pointed to the roof of sticks, and placing his left hand on the sticks he nodded his head as if indicating an answer to those assembled.
The Kohanim looked at each other in puzzlement. What did that mean? What was the man trying to tell them?
Mordechai, sitting there with the other elders, also pondered the man’s actions.
“The sticks,” he said to himself, “are called tzrifin by the people and the roof gag. Perhaps there is some place that was formerly known as Gag Tzrifin?”
Turning to some of the assembled people he asked: “Is there a place that is known as Gag Tzrifin, or some such name?”
“There is a place that was formerly called Gagos Tzrifin,” answered one of the people.
“In that case let us go there and see if barley grows there and if it is the place the mute alluded to.”
Sure enough, when the people arrived they found barley growing and they cut it for the omer as they had been commanded.
The Sacred Bread
As Shavuos approached, the need for the sacred bread was apparent and once again a problem arose. The bread had to be made from wheat and no one seemed to know where such a field could be found.
Once again, the call went out for someone who knew where the proper field was. And once again, as before, the mute came to impart the information.
This time he stood before the elders and placed one hand over his eyes while putting the other over a hole that had been sealed.
The Kohanim were now more puzzled than before. What could this possibly mean?
Once again, Mordechai pondered the meaning of the man’s actions.
“He has covered his eyes and a sealed hole. Is there a place in Judea which is known by such a name, perhaps something like Eyn Socher?”
Indeed there was, the people informed him and when they arrived there, they found the wheat that they sought.
When the people saw Mordechai’s wisdom, he became deeply respected and beloved by all the people and they said: “No longer shall he be called Mordechai, but rather Petachyah, for the L-rd has opened his eyes and allowed him to see the light of wisdom and Torah.
“In the same way have our eyes opened so that we now know things that we had not known before.”