And when Haman saw that Mordechai would neither kneel nor prostrate himself before him, Haman became full of wrath. But it seemed contemptible to him to lay hands on Mordechai alone, for they had told him Mordechai’s nationality, and Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout Ahasuerus’s entire kingdom, Mordechai’s people. (Esther 3:5-6)
And Haman went out on that day, happy and with a cheerful heart, but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and he neither rose nor stirred because of him, Haman was filled with wrath against Mordechai. But Haman restrained himself, and he came home, and he sent and brought his friends and Zeresh his wife. And Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches and the multitude of his sons, and all [the ways] that the king had promoted him and that he had exalted him over the princes and the king’s servants. And Haman said, “Esther did not even bring [anyone] to the party that she made, except me, and tomorrow, too, I am invited to her with the king. But all this is worth nothing to me, every time I see Mordecahi the Jew sitting in the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:9-13)
This is all very strange. Haman’s tragic flaw is on display for all to see. It’s crying out for analysis. When Haman sees Mordechai not bowing to him, he goes ballistic. He is not content to go after Mordechai alone but rather he launches into a plan to wipe out all of the Jewish people. If he has a problem with Mordechai then let him take revenge on Mordechai alone. Why then attack all Jews!? In Haman’s own words, every time he sees Mordechai the Jew sitting in the gate, “all this is worthless to me”. Why is it all worthless? That’s very strange. We need to invite Haman to the couch for psychoanalysis. What’s his problem with Mordechai?! What’s his problem with all the Jews? Why is it all worthless? How does Mordechai’s presence negate all his glory?
The key may be found earlier on in Jewish history. When Yosef sat to eat with his brothers. The Torah tells us that the Egyptians sat separately. The reason that the Torah gives is that the Hebrews are disgusting to the Egyptians because they are shepherds. Why is that such a despicable profession?
The answer is simple. The Egyptians worshipped and idealized the sheep, for whatever reason. Now in a world where sheep are holy the biggest enemy is the one who knows how not-holy they really are. Who might that be? Shepherds! They see sheep being born and dying, eating and sleeping, mating and making. They easily see through the entire scam. It’s like Toto in The Wizard of Oz pulling back curtain and revealing the feeble wizard. “Don’t mind the man behind the curtain!” A Jew would easily see through the falseness and with a glance shatter their idol.
Imagine a young man sitting down to play a monopoly game with a group of kids. After a short while he has amassed a wealth of properties and houses and hotels. Then somebody enters the room and noticing what is going on, chuckles knowingly to himself. The one dominating the game becomes visibly annoyed and agitated by his presence. He demands that this man be removed from the room. Why? The mere presence of this individual who sees him building his glory on monopoly money, a child’s game, nullifies the entire basis of his inflated esteem.
The Talmud tells us that a Yehudi is someone who denies idolatry. Idolatry is based on the belief that there is some force in this world that works independent of HASHEM. Mordechai is titled early in the Megilla as Ish Yehudi. He saw clearly through all the political intrigue. Haman’s rise to power concerned him but did not impress him. Haman was from Amalek. Their entire existence, their mission statement is to undermine a belief in HASHEM. Mordechai’s noncompliance with Haman represented an existential threat to his non-belief in HASHEM as much as Haman’s power represented an existential threat to the people of Israel. Now the stage is set for real cosmic drama. Who’s right?
Modechai as a representative of the Jews saw right through the illusion of Haman’s masquerade. Haman could not hide in front of him. He was unnerved. Everything, admittedly became worthless! In the beginning it was “Ish Yehudi”, one Jew who got it. Haman was right about one thing. In the end it was “L’Yehudim Haisa Ora v’ Simcha”. Every Jew knew just like Mordechai. Haman’s worst fear became our greatest source of joy!