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It says in the Megilla "ויאמרו עבדי המלך אשר בשער המלך למרדכי מדוע אתה עובר את מצות המלך" - "The servants of the King (who were in the King's gates) asked Mordechai 'Why do you go against the command of the king'"?

It's known (Esther Rabbah 3:10) that "the King" in the Megilla refers to Hashem. Why did Mordechai do an Aveira?

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inspired by judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/15059/… –  Leitz Mar 9 '12 at 18:15
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This question would be more robust if you could edit in a source to back up the equation between "the king" and Hashem. –  Isaac Moses Mar 9 '12 at 18:24
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@DoubleAA, Found it. Gra on Esther (derech remez): ואמרו חכמינו ז"ל במדרש כל מקום שנאמר המלך סתם הוא הקדוש ברוך הוא וכל מקום שנאמר אחשורוש באחשורוש ממש מדבר. No idea what midrash he's referring to, though. Maybe he's just generalizing the above references from Esther Rabba. –  jake Mar 11 '12 at 18:13
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@DoubleAA, First, the Gra is probably referring to Esther Rabba 3:10, which I didn't see before (and turns out the Zohar also states this fact). Second, nobody is claiming to take this too literally. The claim is just that on some level, there is a reference to God included; not that we are to take it out of the context of referring to Achashverosh. –  jake Mar 11 '12 at 19:04
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@DoubleAA, I would translate, "And all the times we find 'the king' alone, it is being used as holy and profane." That is, it of course refers to Achashverosh, but also is referring to God, but on a deeper not-as-contextual level. –  jake Mar 11 '12 at 19:27
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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I once heard an explanation - will have to see if I can find the source - that these other servants (Jews, presumably) held with the opinion later expressed by Rambam (Hil. Yesodei Hatorah 5:1,4) that one who risks his life to keep mitzvos when not required to do so (i.e., when it's not one of the "big three," the non-Jew is doing it for his own benefit, it's not in public, and not at a time of religious persecution) is "liable for his own death."

In this case, then, the bowing wasn't being commanded as an act of idolatrous homage (or, even if it was, it might have been a case of עובד מיראה - see Tosafos to Sanhedrin 61b, ד"ה רבא). They thus protested that Mordechai is transgressing the halachah in endangering his life for this purpose.

(His reply, then, was אשר הוא יהודי - he is a prominent Jew and as such has to hold himself to a higher standard to make a public kiddush Hashem - see the second answer of Tosafos ibid.)

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It is true that in a case such as this the straight and dry halacha is to bow and not be killed, however being that all the other jews were bowing , Mordechai felt the need to protest. In the same way, Chananya Mishael and Azaryah refused to bow to a statue of Nevuchadnetzar even though strictly speaking it was not avoda zara (i forgot the source for that) being that they were not to worship the statue but show subservience to nevuchadnetzar. –  moses Mar 11 '12 at 21:23
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My first guess would be: "the servants of the King", i.e. the other rabbinic leaders, asked Mordechai why he violated the will of the King by abandoning his rabbinic role and getting involved with politics.

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Even if an unqualified "king" in the Megillah refers to Hashem, the instance you are citing is a quote of Achashverosh's servants. They were surely referring to Achashverosh.

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Hmmm... but as @YDK pointed out in the non-serious version of this question, the "servants of the king" should actually be the servants of Hashem... –  Dave Mar 9 '12 at 18:31
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Judging by the down votes in my other two questions, I would say that the principle (that 'the King' in the Megillah refers to Hashem) can not be universally applied.

And as the accepted answer proves, Mordechai did not actually "go against the command of Hashem"

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