SHABBAT PURIM: The Megillah’s Life Lesson Regarding Getting Along With Others
For the eternal merit to the soul of my grandfather Yitzchak Aziz Ben Mashallah Hacohen A”H
When Haman was promoted to second-in-command, the king ordered that every passerby must bow down to him. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 61b) explains that it was halachically permissible to comply with this edict, for there was no issue of actual idolatry involved. As a result, most Jews maintained that it was necessary to bow to Haman to protect themselves and their coreligionists. Mordechai, on the other hand, felt that it was appropriate to be stringent even where not strictly required to do so, and he refused to bow down. True to their worst fears, when Haman learned of Mordechai’s intransigence, he was filled with rage and declared war on Jews around the world.
Rabbi Oizer Alport explains that from the perspective of the Jewish people, their reasoning was proven to be correct, and it was Mordechai’s misplaced piety that was responsible for the evil decree. Thus, when Mordechai approached them and asked them all to fast for three days (Esther 4:17), they could have easily refused by blaming his fanaticism for the predicament in which they found themselves and insisted that he find a way out of it on his own. Why indeed were they willing to agree to his request? Further, the Megillah ends by recording that Mordechai was great among the Jews and found favor among his brethren, as he spoke peacefully and sought out their well-being. Seemingly, it would have been more appropriate to conclude with the preceding verse, which sums up the Megillah by recounting that all the events of Mordechai’s might and power are recorded in the historical annals of the Persian kings. Why was the final verse appended to this?
Rav Mattisyahu Salomon explains that the final verse in the Megillah holds the key to answering the first question and to understanding how the entire miracle took place. After the narrative has finished, we are left perplexed how Mordechai succeeded in persuading the Jews to accept the three-day fast that enabled Esther’s successful intervention. The Megillah therefore concludes by telling us that the whole story happened – because – Mordechai was respected by the Jews as someone who conversed peacefully and sought their good. The reason they complied with his request was not his Torah knowledge or fervent prayers, but his ability to get along with others.
Along these lines, when Yaakov encountered a group of shepherds near a well, he rebuked them for ending their work prematurely (Rashi Bereishit 29:7) and implored them to continue caring for their flocks. Surprisingly, rather than reacting defensively to words of reproof received from a stranger, they expressed interest in complying with his instructions. The Ponovezher Rav points out that Yaakov began (Ibid., 29:4) by referring to them as יי – my brothers. Because they sensed that he spoke to them warmly, they were open to accepting his criticism, just as the Jewish people agreed to Mordechai’s fast because he was so close to them.