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The Megilla makes a big deal about Mordechai not bowing to Haman. However, we don't see any reference to him bowing or not before the actual king.

Did he?

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    Why would you have thought he might or might not have? – DonielF Mar 14 at 16:21
  • I remember being taught that he didn't bow to Haman since "Jews only bow to Hashem". I'm wondering if he applied the same logic to the king. If he did bow to the king out of deference/honor/respect why wouldn't he honor the king's command to bow to Haman? Where does he draw the line? – Reverend Bubbles Mar 14 at 17:25
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    Please make sure to include all pertinent information in the OP itself. – DonielF Mar 14 at 17:26
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He may well have. Bowing to people as a gesture of respect, honor, love, fear is allowed:

-Abraham bowed to his guests: And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground. [Genesis 18:2].

-Abraham bowed to the people from whom he was buying a burial plot for Sarah: And Abraham stood up, and bowed to the people of the land, to the Hittites. [Genesis 23:7]

-Jacob bowed to his brother Esau seven times: And [Jacob] bowed to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother… Then the maidservants came with their children, and they bowed down. Then Leah came with her children came and they bowed down. Then Joseph came with Rachel and they bowed down. [Gen. 33:3-7]

-Joseph’s brothers bowed to him: Now Joseph was the ruler over the land and Joseph's brothers came and prostrated themselves to him, with their faces to the ground. [Genesis 42:6].

-Moses bowed to his father-in-law: So Moses went out toward Jethro, prostrated himself and kissed him. [Exodus 18:7]

  • The prophet Nathan bowed to King David: And they told the king: Behold: Nathan the prophet. And when he came before the king, he bowed before the king with his face to the ground. [1Kings 1:23]

However, a Jew may not bow before an idol. Halacha forbids engaging in idolatry even to save a life.

Now, the Talmud tells us: The wicked Haman put himself up as an object of worship. [Meg. 10b, 19a]

The Midrash explains: [Mordechai] declared the uniqueness of the name of the Holy One in the face of all the inhabitants of the world. Thus, it is written: But Mordechai did not bow down and would not prostrate himself before [Haman]. [Est. 3:2]. Now, was Mordechai a troublemaker, that he should [gratuitously] disobey the king's command? [No.] The fact is that when Ahashverosh ordered that all should bow down to Haman, Haman engraved an idol over his breast, to make everybody bow down to an idol. When Haman saw that Mordechai did not bow down to it, he was filled with wrath. Mordechai said to him: “There is a Master who is exalted above all who are exalted. How can I abandon Him and bow down to an idol?” [Esther R. 6:2]

That is why Mordechai refused to bow to Haman.

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