ב וְכָל–עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר–בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ כֹּרְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהָמָן כִּי–כֵן צִוָּה–לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא יִכְרַע וְלֹא יִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה
2. And all the servants of the king who were at the king’s gate kneeled and bowed to Haman because this was what the king commanded him. And Mordechai will not kneel and will not bow.
- Megillas Sefer gives two reasons for the verse’s use of both kneeling and bowing. One answer relates to different classes of people in Persian society at that time. People of the upper class would give a short bow when a person of high rank would pass, whereas a member of the lower class would have to prostrate to the floor. His second opinion relates to distance. When Haman was still far away, everybody would have to give a short bow. As he came closer, they would kneel further.
- R’ Meir Zlotowitz in the Artscroll commentary on Megillas Esther (their first published work) suggests that these terms are reminiscent of the language of prayer. Indeed, in the “Aleinu” prayer, both terms “korim” (“kneel”) and “mishtachavim” (“bow”) appear in connection to the Jewish service of H-Shem. Haman wanted this religious behavior for the same reason Achashverosh earlier donned the clothing of the Kohen Gadol – they wanted to supplant the feelings and actions people had for G-d, and redirect it for themselves.