Not to Bow

Not to Bow


“And all the servants of the King that were in the gate of the King kneeled and bowed to Haman but Mordechai would not kneel nor would he bow” (Esther 3:2)

Mordechai’s refusal to bow infuriated Haman. It infuriated him to the degree that he was moved to destroy all of Mordechai’s people.

It seems that the Jewish refusal to bow does not sit well with God’s enemies. These people see the Jewish refusal to bow as legalistic, arrogant, and self-centered. Why can’t you be like everyone else? Everyone else is inspired by the wealth of Haman, by the power of Caesar or by the mystery of Jesus. Why does the Jew have to stand apart?

This is the question that fueled the fires of hate for generations. This question was in the mind of the Crusaders, the Inquisitors and the propagandists who inspired their crimes. They see the Jewish refusal to bend to the allures of finite existence as a smug disdain for the rest of humanity. Everyone else sees the reason that we need to bend and kneel to Jesus, why can’t the Jew just join us?

But nothing could be further from the truth. The Jews refusal to bend is not rooted in a disdain for humanity, it is rooted in a deep belief in humanity. You see the Jew believes that no human should bend to the beauty, the wealth, the mystery, the righteousness or the power that is contained in finite existence. The Jew believes that humans have a greater calling than submitting themselves to servants. The Jew looks forward to the day when all of mankind will bend to the One Creator of all (Isaiah 2:17).

While God’s absolute sovereignty is hidden from the hearts of men the Jew is called to be God’s witness (Isaiah 43:10). It is our duty toward God and man not to kneel and not to bow. It is our duty to testify that every last man woman and child can approach the Father without the services of another subject of God. Our testimony is that the happiness of man will be found when we recognize that we are all recipients of God’s love and that our deepest joy is to acknowledge this simple truth with every breath of life.

The Jew’s refusal to bow is not a reflection of arrogance or disdain; it is a reflection of love and reverence. It is an invitation to see every facet of finite existence as a recipient of God’s love. And it is a declaration of God’s absolute mastery over all.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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38 Responses to Not to Bow

  1. CP says:

    Honest Question;
    Are Jews expected to bow before the son of man from Daniel 7?

    • Eleazar says:

      Daniel was very puzzled by the dream/vision and did not know what it meant. The language, all of it, is symbolic not literal. You might be interested in this tidbit that accompanied the text on Biblegateway:

      “The Aramaic phrase bar enash means human being. The phrase son of man is retained here because of its use in the New Testament as a title of Jesus, probably based largely on this verse.” :

      In other words,according to the CHRISTIAN website, the phrase “son of man” was a mistranslation of the Aramaic used by NT authors as a way to revert back to this verse as an apologetic tying Jesus to the Tanakh as the one being spoken of in the dream.

      Anyway, the dream is then explained to him, including the identity of “one like the son of man”, or more accurately, “one like a human being”-

      “7:15 – I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this….”

      One of Daniel’s guides reveals the identity of the beasts and horns, and then speaks of this transferring of power to “one like a human being”-

      7:21 “As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people ( PLURAL) and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days (God) came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people (PLURAL) of the Most High, and the time came when THEY (PLURAL) possessed the kingdom.”
      “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever…. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people ( PLURAL) of the Most High ( God). His (God’s) kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him (God).’

      You see, CP. I discovered during my time as a Bible teacher and a pastor that Christian apologists/preachers are very easily tempted to read out of context to make a point, and once they do are not afraid to reach and write based on that. They fully understand that 99.999% of their audience will NOT study the text critically or question their knowledge. They will accept the point, commit it to memory and move on.

      Be honest, have you ever read the entire thing through to see the interpretation of the dream? If so, how did you miss this?

      • Eleazar says:

        Now, apply this to “My Servant” of Isaiah 53 and maybe a light bulb will appear above your head.

      • CP says:

        Thank you for the great answer.
        Yes, I do understand what you are saying in regards to this and Isaiah 53, I just wonder if this is the correct interpretation(s)?

        Even if it is, I’d wonder if the son of man could be considered a representative or leader (king) of his people.

        The use of “human being” is an idiomatic translation (interpretation) of the literal Aramaic “son of Adam”

        Btw, notice in verse 9; “Thrones” are set up, (plural) – there again is imagery of the divine council of gods I’ve been talking about in other posts.

        • Eleazar says:

          “I just wonder if this is the correct interpretation(s)?”

          If its not, then Daniel’s guide was wrong? You see, I just posted what the text said. Not a single word is anything but scripture. The plain meaning is given in Daniel, not by me or anyone else. Nowhere in the explanation of the dream , 7:21-27, is the “son of man” figure EVER referred to as a single person. Only as “the people of God”, not the person. And this is the exact same visioned scenario as Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 8:23:

          1- Israel suffers at the hands of the nations.
          2- God decrees “enough” and comes to Israel’s rescue, making us the head and not the tail.
          3- World leaders who previously persecuted Israel are blown away by it and finally see that the Jews are God’s people.

          Zechariah 8:23- “This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'”

          It all comes together.

        • RT says:

          “Even if it is, I’d wonder if the son of man could be considered a representative or leader (king) of his people. ”

          This is possible, some interpret it as such. Regardless, I would discard Yeshua, as he is dead already. Saying that Yeshua will come back literally in the clouds of heaven is to take the passage away from what it really means. This is indeed a vision and should not be taken literally. Furthermore, to take the context of a future prophecy and conclude that it talks about Jesus is a bit foolish. As we both know, it has not happened yet and even if Jesus said he was that man, we have no reason to believe him. You see, Christians are so found of using second coming prophecies as proofs, but the truth is; it has not happened yet.

    • CP The Jews ARE the son of man from Daniel 7 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • RT says:

        Just as the beasts represent kingdoms, so the human being also represented a kingdom. That makes sense. As it was a vision, the Jewish People were represented as a human being to show their attributes. They were in the clouds of heavens as they were G-d’s emissary to the rest of the world. The other kingdoms were fierce and merciless and the best image that G-d could use was ferocious beast who do not mind to tear apart his pray. It’s a vision and what is seen should not be taken literally. You are missing the point if you imaging a “son of man” (Jesus) standing in the clouds of heaven speaking to G-d the Father.

        • CP says:

          No disrespect intended, Yeshua has been a far better emissary to the world than the Jewish people. The fact “son of man” was Yeshua’s favorite term for himself suggests a major point just by itself. However as much as Jews and Christians desire and try to separate Yeshua from the Jewish people, the reality is this cannot ever be done, truth is unchangeable.

          Therefore, I think Yeshua being the son of man in Daniel 7 is worth looking into..

          • RT says:

            So were the Romans who force everybody to believe in the New Testament. They were such great emissaries, spreading the “old” testament and righteousness through torture and so forth… Yeshua had 12 disciples and a few ladies following him. I would not say it is a great emissary. The Romans, in the other hand, spread it quite well throughout the whole world. In fact, in you did not agree, they would just make you agree. Or through torture or else, you wouldn’t stay too long. How do you think your new testament was spread? I actually think that looking into Christianity being one of the Beast would be something to look onto. Look onto the way they acted, and it sounds like a possible explanation, waging wars against the saints of the Most High and tearing them into pieces. Can you put yourself out of the last 50 years and see Christianity for what it really is?

          • CP says:

            I agree there is a great apostate Church; “the whore of Babylon”, but there has been much more than just that going on through history, admittedly she has taken center stage.

          • CP I beg to differ. The only way you could count Jesus as a better emissary is if you discount the negative impact. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • CP says:

        I wish it were that simple. While I agree it is a plausible interpretation, there are other plausible interpretations of who the “Holy ones of the Most High” are: Pious Jews of Daniels circle or the angelic host.

        The son of man is depicted as a celestial being / messiah figure fulfilling past predictions (b. Sanh. 97b) or future (Gen. Rab. 98.2). It wasn’t until later (after Christianity) the son of man was interpreted as Israel (Ibn Ezra, Rashi).

        • Eleazar says:

          So I take that as you have not read the rest of the chapter. You know, the part where it is explained to Daniel what the dream means and what the things symbolize. The part where it is explained that “one like the son of man” is a group of people. Is reading the rest of the chapter too painful? Rav B is not interpreting anything. The interpretation is given plainly in the remaining verses of the same chapter.

          • CP says:

            Yes friend, I’ve read the rest over and over. It doesn’t explicitly say the son of man = the people, although I am agreeing with you it is a plausible interpretation. However, it could also be the son of man is the leader of the people.

        • RT says:

          Where do you see that in Sanhedrin 97B? Please show me the text…

          Click to access

          Do you have the Gen. Rab. 98.2 text as well?

          Did you check the source?

          • CP says:

            I’d like to say I did, but I did not, I just summarized notes from a Jewish Study Tanach, hoping R’B had these resources at his finger tips and would discuss them.

          • RT says:

            What Jewish Study Tanach are you using?

        • CP The holy exalted ones are a nation – no mystery here. Sanhedrin and Genesis Raba are not providing “interpretations,” the angel is providing an interpretation. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • CP says:

            Since the text vacillates between an individual and a people, do you think it plausible the individual is the leader,a representative or ‘king’ of the same people?

          • CP The text does not “vacillate.” In the vision its an individual, in the interpretation it is a nation. Just like every other figure in the vision was a single entity (beast) representing a nation. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • CP says:

            I agree my poor choice of words exaggerates the text.
            Therefore to rephrase my question;
            I assume you view the “man” as a representing the nation metaphorically. Is there any reason to rule out this man as a literal representative of the nation?

          • CP You could view the man as a literal representative of the nation – but that is a choice you are making – the text doesn’t force you into that choice. In other words – even if it was true – the Author didn’t bother making it clear. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  2. Sharon S says:

    Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

    Thank you for sharing this article . You have shown the universal lessons from a particular event involving the Jewish people. In understand Purim as commemorating the acts of Mordechai and Esther in saving the Jewish people from Haman’s plans to destroy them.

    I understand from your article that the Jew’s refusal to bow should be seen by the rest as a lesson that G-d is the absolute master of all.I see the Jewish survival despite all odds as a very strong proof that G-d exists and sustains those who are faithful to Him.

    However there is also another religion , another society that advocates the same universal truths as the Jewish nation and that is Islam .I first come to realise the errors of Christianity such as the Trinity and divinity of Jesus from Islam and Muslims.

    I live in a Muslim majority society which gives me significant exposure to their way of life . The Muslim , like the Jew show me that G-d is the absolute Master in every area of their lives, such as invoking His name before performing any act , thanking Him whenever they hear any good or bad news,taking time out to perform their daily prayers ,their patience and trust in what life brings them.

    It was the Muslim who first taught me that G-d is the absolute master of all-in word and deed. They are the first to teach me that life activities such as work is an opportunity to worship Him.

    I understand that many who follow and comment on this blog may not know Islam or encountered a Muslim, beyond what is reported about them.Perhaps there are many who are critical and have left Christianity through their interaction with Jews or by reading the Jewish Scriptures alone.

    I find the suffering and survival of the Jewish people as strong proofs of
    G-d’s faithfulness and sovereignity. However these truths you are advocating are nothing new to me for I have learnt it first hand from another religion/people group before.

    I do not wish to undermine the role of your people. The reason I regard the Jewish people as G-d’s witnesses is because the Jewish Scripture says so and because of history.

    My question-Scriptures and history aside ,is there anything unique about the universal truths Judaism has to offer which other faiths , such as Islam has not already taught?

    Thank you.

    • Dina says:

      There must be something uniquely wrong with Islam in that it has led, over the centuries, so many people astray into hatred and bloodshed of Jews and Christians, but especially Jews. This is not to mention the outrageous abuses of women and children that fundamentalists justify by quoting the Q’uran. The history of Islam’s treatment of Jews is nearly as terrible, if not as terrible, as the Christian one. (See Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial.)

      A few months ago, my daughter’s teacher was murdered by a Muslim simply because he was a Jew.

      • Dina says:

        Given the way many Muslim majority countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia treat Jews, women, homosexuals, and infidels based on Islamic ideology, it’s hard for me to see the attraction of Islam, especially compared to Judaism, even if it does teach some universal truths.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          I live in a Muslim majority country . The situation here is far better than the other Muslim majority countries that you mentioned . However there is always the fear that my country may go down the same road like these countries.

          Racial and religious oppression does not happen in Muslim majority countries alone . It also happens in countries like China and India , who are not Muslim. China is oppressing Christians and the Uighur Muslims , denying them the right to worship . The same is happening in India and the treatment of Christians and Muslims there.

          It all boils down to whether a racial or religious group is the majority or minority in a nation . Christianity had shown its ugly head in Europe when it was the dominant religion there.However the Christian attitudes in my country is far different than that of medieval Europe , perhaps because Christianity is a minority religion here.

          I have commented in this blog about the attitudes of Muslims living in the West about Sharia law and how their opinion differ from that of Muslims living in Muslim majority countries. I love to listen to videos and khutbahs (sermons) given by Western Muslims . They paint a far more pleasant picture of Islam ,perhaps because it is a minority religion in Western countries.

          Another question for you to ponder . Imagine you are a non Jewish Israeli residing in Israel and you are living among Jews there . How do you see your Jewish friends , neighbours or colleagues? How do you view the attitudes of the Jewish leadership or its religious authority?Do you see their behaviour or attitudes as bringing you closer to the beauty of Judaism , or far from it?

          This is my thought process when I am evaluating Islam and Judaism . I see the behaviour of those following these faiths as important and it influence my perception of these faiths. To be honest ,I have had a huge struggle in reconciling the behaviour of Muslims with the teachings of the religion for many years .

          However upon further reflection , I realise that it was through Islam that I first come to know the errors of Christianity .

          History has also shown that the condition of Jews in Muslim empires are somewhat better than the Jews in medieval Europe. Many Jewish sages flourished and came up with great works at this time . The golden age of Islam in Spain was also a golden age for the Jews there as well.The Babylonian Talmud was completed at this time . Maimonides himself was influenced by Muslim philosophy as well. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

          I ‘m sorry to hear about your daughter’s teacher . I am aware on the hate most Muslims have towards Jews. If I write a glowing comment or speak well about the Jews to Muslims ,I myself will be in deep trouble . To be honest , I don’t think I dare to do that to a Muslim .I apologize if you see my comment as inappropriate .Rabbi Blumenthal has shown far more tolerance than a Muslim ever would by responding in a pleasant manner , of which I am grateful.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, I agree with you that most of the time throughout history you will find that the racial/ethnic/religious majority oppresses the minority. Since you raised the case of modern Israel, I can say with confidence that Israel defies this description. The racial/ethnic majority in Israel is Jewish, but Arabs are better treated in Israel than anywhere else in the Arab world. This is why Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel than move to, say, Saudi Arabia, or even a moderate country like Jordan.

            One of the reasons Arab fled Israel in 1948 was for a self-inflicted psychological reason. Having oppressed the Jews for one and a half millennia, they assumed that once the Jews gained power they would retaliate. They did not.

            Israel remains the one and only democracy in the Middle East that grants all of its citizens equal rights and protection under the law.

            As for the relatively benign treatment of Jews by Islam in history–that is a myth. I refer you again to Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial, a thoroughly researched book that is eye opening.

          • Dina says:

            I also want to comment on this statement: “If I write a glowing comment or speak well about the Jews to Muslims ,I myself will be in deep trouble . To be honest , I don’t think I dare to do that to a Muslim.”

            If you already know this about Muslims, how can you find their religion attractive?

            I also want you to know that I never find your comments inappropriate or insensitive but rather sensitive, compassionate, and committed to truth. I appreciate and am grateful for our dialogue because I believe it helps us dig up the truth more deeply, and your insights and questions stimulate me to think harder about my own beliefs.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            It is quite hard for those who are not Muslim to see the beauty of Islam . It was difficult for me as well. I grew up with a negative perception of Islam ,so I understand your concerns.

            I was ignorant and did not know what Islam was all about -submission to the one G-d. I became attracted to Islam after learning about this. I did not know that this is also the central message of the Jewish Scriptures .Muslim missionaries do point out discrepancies between the Jewish and Christian Scriptures , but I did not check their claims further .I saw the Jewish Scriptures (aka Old Testament) as confirming prophecies about Jesus and did not realise that it has its own unique message.

            It is hard to for me shake off the negative perception of Islam even though I was impressed with its central teaching . However I did develop an appreciation of Islam and muslims. Muslims are G-d fearing and they embody the Islamic teaching of submission to G-d. Their example inspire me to be more reverent to G-d , to be more patient and grateful.

            Many converts to Islam claim that the above factors lead them to embrace the faith. Islam is winning many converts in the Western world even more so after 9/11 -especially among women.Most converts come from Christian backgrounds. Many started out as being critical of Islam -just like me.

            Living in a Muslim majority country gives me a significant exposure to the not so good side of Islam as well. I have to constantly weigh the good and the not so good side of Islam. I decided not to pursue Islam further in the end. However I cannot shake off the central teaching of Islam -submission to the one G-d from my mind.

            I realise now that this teaching is not unique to Islam alone . It is the central teaching of the Jewish scriptures as well . What I have learnt of Jews and Judaism has an impact on my perception of Islam . I appreciate the universal nature of Islam even more . I am also more aware of the anti semitic elements in the Quran . In my opinion they are far worse than the Christian Scriptures.

            I actually visited Israel a few years ago for a catholic pilgrimage tour. We visited many churches in shrines, both in Israel and in the West Bank , including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth,claimed to be the biggest church in the Middle East. I agree with you that there is freedom of worship especially for Christian Arabs there.

            Thank you for recommending the book by Joan Peters. I have not read the book, but I did check reviews of this book online . This book is quite controversial and there are a few notable names such as Yehoshua Porath and Daniel Pipes who have questioned the sources and the method Mrs Peters used in arriving at her conclusions.

            According to the author,the population of the non Jews in Israel (known as Palestine during the British mandate)grew in proportion to Jewish population ,due to economic prospects arising from Jewish immigration during the British Mandate . Arab presence in Palestine is quite recent and not from time immemorial as claimed.

            There might be some truth to the author’s claims. However , I see this as questioning the existence of one group of people in order to deny their rights . This is the similar to the UNESCO resolution denying Jewish link to the temple Mount in 2016. In my opinion this is not the right way to assess the whole issue.

            I recommend that you watch the video produced by Jews for Judaism-“Israel/Palestine for critical thinkers” presented by Richard Bass which is factual and honest.

            I appreciate our dialogue as well. I learn so much from our conversations and have thought deeply about them . Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Thanks for your thoughtful and honest response, Sharon. I see we are probably mostly on the same page here. About the book, I had read it many years ago. I was not aware that Daniel Pipes (who I believe can be trusted on the Middle East) had criticized the methodology, so I will gladly look at other sources.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, here is a website that gives a brief overview of what life was like for Jews under Arab rule.


          • Dina says:

            Oh my goodness, Sharon, it never fails to amaze me how two people can read the same thing and reach a completely different conclusion. I just read Daniel Pipes on From Time Immemorial. While he acknowledges the flaws in Peters’s scholarship, he insists that her central thesis is correct and stresses the importance of her book. In a letter to the editor, he strenuously defends her from critics such as Professor Yehoshua Porath.

            So might still be worth a read?


          • Dina says:

            I also listened to the lecture you recommended and it was great! Thanks for telling me about it.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            Thank you for making clear Daniel Pipe’s position on the book and sharing the link from his website . I did not go to his website , instead I came across his quote on the book from another link here . There was a link to Daniel Pipe’s letter in that webpage but I did not read it in full. My mistake.

            I guess it’s better to read the book .

            Thank you for sharing the link on the treatment of Jews in Islamic countries. It is truly eye opening. I will need to think further about this.

  3. Concerned Reader says:

    Sharon S, I am not a Muslim, but I have friends who are, and I also have a Quran. The issue that I personally have seen with Islam is that while Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad is only a complete human being, and that god has no partners, Muhammad inadvertently becomes a partner. Muslims work so hard not to venerate something unduly, (such as the prophet) that they inadvertently through their zeal do exactly that.

    In what sense you may wonder? Muhammad becomes a partner in that since Muslims regard the Quran as the final, clearest, and most authoritative recounting of God’s interactions with humans, Muhammad’s words and deeds become the only true prism through which to look, the only litmus test.

    As you know, Muhammad wishes peace upon the people of the book, Jews, Christians, and also the Sabians, but this is only if they eschew what Muhammad’s revelation views as their additions to the Injil and the Torah.

    It may seem to be such a small thing, but it has the effect that Muhammad becomes the only true words of prophecy to a Muslim.

    The Christian world by contrast accepts the truth of the books of the Jewish people, and also (with some exceptions) trusts that their tradition was true and accurate up until the time after Jesus died, with pockets of the Church even being observant of uniquely Jewish customs up until the 2nd-3rd century.

    Even though the Christian deifies the Nazarene, their own scripture dictates that it is his job to be obedient to the father;s will and to hand the kingdom over to God at the end.

    Also, it seems to me that God as expressed in the Quran has a different character and personality alltogether than God as expressed in the Hebrew Bible. Allah would never for example, call a creature his only begotten, nor would he be a father. Also, a covenant with Allah is not an everlasting promise, it is contingent upon obedience.

    The only way we know that Allah has such qualities of love and mercy is presumably because of the life of the prophet Muhammad.

    Muslims are monotheists for sure, but their view of God seems drastically different.

    • Sharon I am not familiar with Islam. In a general sense the traditional Jewish sources see Islam as a step in the right direction in their rejection of idolatry and acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God. The little interaction that I did have with Islam gave me the same feeling that Concerned Reader spelled out, that the reverence for Mohammed goes too far. I would say, looking from afar, and I am open for correction, that their respect for human life and the human experience, is different. They do not see man in the image of God the same way Judaism does. I would also agree with Concerned Reader that their concept of the character of God is different than the character of God presented in the Jewish Bible. But I think the most important answer to your question is the concept that they were not chosen by God to be witnesses, so they do not have God’s promise to preserve His truth in their midst. But after everything is said and done, the truths that they teach; God’s sovereignty, man’s subservience to God, rejection of idolatry and whatever other truths they posses remain truth. Truth is truth no matter who teaches it and truth is what we all ought to be looking for and appreciate in our journey to connect with the God of truth. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

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