In an op-ed released prior to Purim, prominent Zionist Rabbi Zalman Melamed stated that “when an IDF soldier is given an order which contradicts halacha or Jewish law, he must not find ways to evade acting as ordered or make excuses for not following orders, but state outright and directly that he refuses to act in any manner which contradicts halacha.”
The article was published in the Komemuyot Movement's pamphlet.
In an illustration stemming directly from the story of Purim itself, the rabbi noted that Mordechai’s adamant refusal to bow down to Haman, as told in the Book of Esther, teaches us that soldiers must proudly refuse to follow orders which contradict Jewish law, even if this comes at great personal risk.
Furthermore, stated the rabbi in his article, being a prominent member of the king’s court, Mordechai was not obligated to bow down to Haman as were the lowly servants.
His staunch refusal to show Haman this tribute was therefore a fierce act of defiance. “Mordechai emphatically stated that he refuses to bow down to Haman because he is a Jew, not because he is one of the king’s ministers. Even if he were a lowly servant he would not bow down to Haman and act against Torah law.”
This tale teaches us, stated Rabbi Melamed, that when IDF soldiers are ordered to act in a manner contrary to halacha, they, too, must defiantly refuse such orders. In lieu of making excuses or evading acting as ordered, they must “boldly declare that they refuse to act contrary to halacha, and so cannot follow such orders. This is the proper course of action and true, bold leadership even it comes at great personal cost.”
The happy ending of the Purim story, noted the rabbi, is a direct result of Mordechai’s bold actions. “This defiance not only did not harm the Jewish people, but led to their ultimate salvation and redemption, turning tragedy into joy and celebration”.