Ties that Bind

Recently, I received exactly the same answer from two separate people to whom I had asked two separate questions. I asked the first about marriage and the second about business.

The first person told me that his daughter was engaged to a ‘gem’ of a man. I challenged him on how he knew that his daughter’s beau was indeed a ‘gem’.

His response: I know several men with whom he served in the army.

The second question I asked of a client who had consulted me on succession issues in his company. I asked him why he had bypassed the procedures we had set up by abruptly finalizing the hire of one particular candidate.

His response: I know several men with whom he served in the navy.

Other responses which could generate similar confidence might be (i) We’ve served together on the board of our synagogue for years; (ii) All the folks in his Rotary Club have known him for ages and think the world of him.

What factor contributed to the sense of trust about the person being discussed? The individual was a respected part of a respected group.

Examine your own life to ensure that you are adequately connected to worthwhile and identifiable groups. Being isolated damages your income producing potential and being a loner harms your capacity to find love and lasting happiness.

While building and maintaining relationships within groups it is important to recognize the restraints that such affiliations place upon us. Serving in the United States military is a privilege but it also restricts one from criticizing the president. Being part of a family bestows benefits but it also carries responsibilities and restraints.

About 2,500 years ago, Persian Jews faced genocide. The plot was launched when the Jewish community leader, Mordechai, refused to bow to Haman. See the following verses from Esther, chapter 3.

After these events, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman…and elevated him, setting his position above all the aristocrats…

All the king’s servants in the king’s gate bowed and prostrated before Haman for so had the king commanded… However Mordechai did not bow and did not prostrate himself.

Then the king’s servants…said to Mordechai, Why do you violate the king’s commandment?

As they repeatedly spoke to him daily and he did not listen to them, they told Haman in order to discover whether Mordechai’s words would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordechai neither bowed nor prostrated himself, he was filled with fury.

He scorned the idea of attacking only Mordechai because they had told him Mordechai’s people and Haman resolved to destroy all the Jews in the entire kingdom of Ahasuerus, the people of Mordechai.

The giant question is why Mordechai didn’t bow just as everyone else did? After all, bowing was (and still is) a very common way to express humility and respect.

Many in Scripture bowed for this reason: Abraham to three travellers (Genesis 18:2); Abraham to the Hittites (Genesis 23:7, 12); Jacob to Esau (Genesis 33:3); Jacob’s sons to the ruler of Egypt (Genesis 43:28); Moses to his father-in-law (Exodus 18:7). There are many other similar instances.

In most cases, Mordechai would have been quite comfortable showing respect and humility. But Haman was known as a notorious anti-Semite. As a leading member of the Jewish people Mordechai knew he was representing his people, not only himself. Bowing would have diminished the Jewish people as a whole conceding power over the Jews to a human being rather than to God. The group affiliation circumscribed his behavior.

This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Esther, Purim. Purim is way more than the celebration of a historical event. Esther’s adventures long ago in faraway Persia are part of a chain which formed the DNA for today’s headlines about Iran, Islam and Israel. The deceptively simple Book of Esther contains hints to recent events and to those yet to happen. Travel through history with me in my audio CD set Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam, only $19 through Purim.

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