By: Herschel Karp (11th Grade)
A monumental moment in the Purim story is Mordechai’s refusal to bow to Haman. This infuriated Haman both because of Mordechai’s refusal, and because of the reason Mordechai gave which was, “I am a Jew." This caused Haman to attempt to take revenge on all of the Jewish people, not just Mordechai. The fact that Mordechai could not bow because he was a Jew seems to imply that bowing to someone and being Jewish are mutually exclusive, meaning that it is something Jews just do not do. However, there is a difficulty with this supposed explanation given by Mordechai, as we see throughout the Torah, whether in the Chumash or Nach, that Jews bow before others. Therefore, we must say that there is something unique in the type of bowing in this situation than all the others.
In the Megillah, the bowing down before Haman is referred to as “kneeling and prostration," a phrase that is only used for bowing to Hashem. This whch indicates that there was a level of worship taking place. The Gemara even says that the reason Mordechai did not bow was because Haman considered himself a deity. Nevertheless, the question still remains: why couldn’t Mordechai have just bowed before Haman as a sign of respect and prevented the possible death of himself and the rest of the Jews?
Obviously, there is the well known concept that a Jew should give up their life for three things, one of them being idol worship. Therefore, it makes sense to say that Mordechai was simply following the Halacha by not bowing to Haman.