“And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not down, nor prostrated himself before him, then was Haman full of wrath.” (Book of Esther 3:5)
In a few weeks we will celebrate Purim, the holiday that rejoices over our being saved from annihilation at the hands of Haman the Agagite. Most of us remember the Hamantachen, the masks, the carnival and the Megillah reading. But did anyone ever think of it as a holiday revolving around insecurity and courage. Sometimes, I think and ask questions around, “What if?”
First let us look at Haman’s actions in the Megillah. Mordechai refused to bow down before Haman(3:5). Then Haman went before the King to condemn our people.
I find myself thinking when I read this,” Why didn’t Haman just walk over to Mordechai and ask, ‘Why didn’t you bow before me? Everybody else did!” Mordechai, being the good, upstanding citizen he was would probably have said, “I am commanded by G-d, not to bow before any mortal, only the One God”.
Perhaps, Haman would have still been angry but he could have responded, “In the future don’t be here at the start of day or the end when I come out, so I don’t feel embarrassed!”
It seems to me annihilating a whole group of people over one man’s perceived disrespect seems excessive. Haman is the personification of evil to our people. But, perhaps he was just an insecure public figure ? Anyone with the same amount of power as he had does not need 100% obedience, anywhere in the nineties would be certainly acceptable. But, I don’t think we should pity Haman. His actual actions speak for themselves, but maybe we can use the Haman-Mordechai situation to teach us about ourselves and others. How many times have we had dealings with people who insult us or who become insulted by our actions? Mordechai was not bowing to Haman out of disrespect, but out of respect for God. Something definitely within his own right.
We need to ask ourselves, how many times have we over reacted to a perceived slight instead of questioning the ‘offender’ regarding the action? How many times has it ruined a potential success? True, it takes courage to walk over to someone who has ‘hurt’ you and ask for an explanation. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable always demands courage, but aren’t we in charge of ourselves and therefore have personal power?. The tragedy is that people do not use their personal courage. The power to construct bridges of understanding is used, instead, to destroy any potential bondings.
Another example from the Purim story of power and courage comes from Esther and Ahasuerus. The law was clear, ‘anyone going to the King’s chambers unannounced would be killed.’ Then how could Esther go, knowing she faced certain death? Esther went because she was secure in her position. She was never arrogant, a sign of insecurity, but truly known as the ‘graceful one (Hadassah).
We know how the story ends, Esther pleads for our people, they are rescued and Haman is hanged.
But the deeper lesson is that even when we are insecure in our place or position, we must still ask, “What’s did you mean by that?” or simply, “What’s up with that? “And then truly listen to the answer!
Understand that true courage in the face of potential disaster will be rewarded. It may not be half of the Kingdom of Shushan, but it will be the entire empire of Honesty and Respect.
B’ahava and Happy Purim,