Rabbi Label Lam
We Don’t Know!
After these things King Achashveros promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha
the Agagite, and advanced him and he set his seat above all the officers
who were with him. All the King’s servants at the King’s gate would bow
down and prostrate themselves before Haman, for this is what the King had
commanded concerning him, but Mordechai would not bow down nor prostrate
himself. So the King’s servants at the King’s gate said to
Mordechai, “Why do you disobey the King’s command?” Finally, when they
said this to him day after day and he did not heed them, they told Haman
to see whether Mordechai’s words would avail; because he told them that he
was a Jew (Yehudi). When aman Haman
Haman himself saw that Mordechai did not bow down and prostrate himself
before him then Haman was filled with rage. However it seemed
contemptible to him to lay hands on Mordechai alone, for they had made
known to him the people of Mordechai. So Haman sought to destroy all the
Jews (Yehudim) who were throughout the kingdom of Achashveros the people
of Mordechai. (Megillas Esther 3: 1-6)
Anyone who denies the validity of idolatry is called a (Jew) Yehudi.
Any matter which appears to man as a controlling factor independent of G-
d’s will and able to do good or evil is included in idolatry (Talmud
It’s amazing to consider that Mordechai is the hero and all-time
protagonist of the Purim story. Just as Esther is the probably the most
famous lady to be emulated by the little girls, so Mordechai is still the
most popular costume for many a Jewish boy on Purim. Why is it amazing?
Picture this! A certain person is pictured on the front page of all the
local newspapers receiving the key to the city by the mayor. He is being
touted as a hero. The by-line tells of the heroism he displayed by jumping
into icy waters to save a fellow citizen who found himself in one instant
fallen off the deck of the Circle Line cruise. When we read the story
inside on page 3 we find out that the alleged hero was the one who pushed
the man off the boat in the first place. How can we be blind to the first
part of the story and declare than man a hero?
It looks like Mordechai instigated Haman. On the surface he seems to have
caused the problem he was later to solve. Why does he remain the hero?
Perhaps he could have made himself absent or invisible when Haman passed
by. Why did he have to confront him and inspire his rage?
Mordechai made a well calculated risk here. What was there to lose? Haman
was from the seed of Amalek that carried on through King Agag that Shaul
faltered in executing. The children of Israel have an old track record
with Amalek. When one is up the other is down. Amalek attacked by Refidim
when the question was asked, “Is HASHEM within our midst or not?” Then
Amalek came, at the moment of weakness. When Jewish belief is high as the
hands of Moses are raised Amalek is being vanquished. When we are
spiritually weak the forces of Amalek feed on our doubts and gain
If Haman is nothing more than a lucky politician with a last name
like “Agag” then Mordechai would be risking not more than his own life by
standing in open defiance. However, Haman was not satisfied to go against
Mordechai alone. He saw not only that Mordechai did not bow down but that
he would never bow down. As a Yehudi he stands forever ideologically
The Jew understands, “There’s nothing other than HASHEM”. The universe is
densely packed with meaning. Haman believes that the world is a random
place where the roll of dice might determine a nation’s fate. In the end
Haman’s hatred unified the Jewish people at the core and perversely he was
the catalyst of our dramatic change of heart.
Who then was the real hero of the story? With a few extra sips of wine on
Purim we may be fit to submit that there’s so much more going on that we
Text Copyright © 2004 Rabbi Label Lam and