Today’s daf (Megillah 12b) decodes the information that we are told about Mordechai in the beginning of the Megillah (Esther 2:5) which states: ‘There was a Jewish man in Shushan the capital, and his name was Mordechai, son of Yair, son of Shimi, son of Kish, a Benjaminite’.
But why, asks the Gemara, are we told three names of Mordechai’s ancestors which is not done with other biblical figures? Moreover, given that the three people listed were not all immediate descendants of each other (eg. Shimi was not the son of Kish), what are we to learn from this?
The Gemara answers by explaining that these names are not merely cited to mention Mordechai’s ancestors, but also to highlight his various qualities: ‘‘The son of Yair’ means, the son who enlightened [he’ir] the eyes of Israel by his prayer. ‘The son of Shimi means, the son to whose prayer God hearkened [shama]. ‘The son of Kish’ indicates that he knocked [hikkish] at the gates of mercy and they were opened to him.’
Interestingly, all three terms are interpreted by the Gemara as a reference to prayer. Yet, as Rav Mordechai Kreiger (in his ‘Chasdei Hashem’ commentary to Ein Yaakov) points out, it is significant that Mordechai’s visible and persistent effort in prayer is emphasized no less than the efficacy of his prayers.
Given this he notes that, ‘we learn from this teaching that the value of prayer is not just achieved from the fact that the Holy One, Blessed be He, answers our requests, but that part of prayer is expressed by our coming closer to the Holy One, blessed Be He, by expressing our needs to Him.’
Personally, I think that this idea is often overlooked. We generally think of prayer as the words which we say to God, rather than the steps and actions we take towards God in order to say those words. Yet what we see from this description of Mordechai is that he is praised for both, and this comes to remind us that what we do in order to pray, and the effort we make to pray is, in many ways, itself prayer.