Question: Why did Mordechai refuse to bow to Haman, thus endangering the entire Jewish people? Couldn’t he have simply fled Shushan?
Answer: This question was posed by Rav Dovid ben Zimra, the illustrious medieval rav of the Egyptian Jewish community, known as the Radbaz, in his responsa (volume I, Orach Chayim 284). He offers the following answers:
1) Since Mordechai was an officer of the king, it would have been a criminal act, punishable by death, for him to simply move to another area.
2) Mordechai didn’t realize that Haman would take revenge against the entire Jewish people because of his refusal to bow to him. Also, he never thought that the king would agree to genocide. Mordechai was willing sacrifice his own life but never imagined that his behavior would jeopardize the safety of all of klal yisrael.
3) Mordechai saw b’ruach HaKodesh that a great hatzalah would result for klal yisrael due his defiance.
The implication of the second answer is that had Mordechai realized how dangerous his defiance would be to the safety of klal yisrael, he would never have acted the way he did. This teaches us that all our actions, no matter how pure in motive, must be weighed carefully to determine whether and how they impact klal yisrael as a whole. Even when we believe we are right in a certain matter, we have to assess whether it is good or bad for klal yisrael.
About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.
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