These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Haman and Mordechai: A Third Story

Posted on March 6, 2012 by Eliyahu B.

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Cross-posted from my Facebook note.

In my Peace and Conflict class today we wrote what is called a “Third Story” regarding Amalek (the nation whose descendants have plagued Israel with wars and attempted exterminations). Here is what a Third Story is, and then I will share my “Third Story” of the conflict between Haman and Mordechai, which is at the very center of the story of Purim:

“In addition to your story and the other person’s story, every difficult conversation includes an invisible Third Story. The Third Story is the one a keen observer would tell, someone with no stake in your particular problem… One of the most helpful tools a mediator has is the ability to identify the invisible Third Story. This means describing the problem between the parties in a way that rings true for both sides simultaneously. It’s easy to describe the problem so that only one of the disputants would agree with it–in fact, that’s what each of us does when we begin inside our own story. The trick is being able to get two people with different stories to sign on to the same description of what is going on.”

And now, here is my Third Story between Haman and Mordechai:

Haman: Always cheated out of the respect I deserve! My family is always cheated out of getting our just due, and it always comes from one side–Jacob’s descendants! It’s not fair. Why do they get the Lord’s favor when simple folk like me don’t even ask for much! Finally, FINALLY, I am noticed, recognized and promoted, and what does Mordechai do? He will not acknowledge me! This is not right, in my eyes. I deserve this position, and I deserve respect!

Mordechai: Who does Haman think he is that I will bow down before him? In the tradition of my forefathers of which I am well aware I know it is a grave sin to bow down before this proud man who would not have me bow just to him, but to that wretched idol upon his chest as well! I respect tradition, and most of all I respect myself, which is why I will not bow in worship to anyone other than Adonai. What I have been asked to do is not right in my eyes and the eyes of my G-d, so I will not stand for it, no matter what the cost may be.

Haman to Mordechai: Mordechai! Why will you not bow before me, like your King has ordered?

Mordechai to Haman: It is not you I will not bow to, but what you represent! You see, I am a learned man steeped in the tradition of my fathers, and part of that tradition is not bowing before other gods. I see it in your eyes and on your chest–You seek to make yourself a god among us, and I cannot oblige. My tradition forbids it.

After this, proud Haman becomes angry and resentful, and he storms off to plot Mordechai’s destruction.