The wicked Haman was a descendant of the implacable enemy of the Jewish people, Amalek, and was the wealthiest man of his time. He had dishonestly acquired his riches by seizing the treasures of the Kings of Yehudah. King Achashverosh, who was greatly impressed by Haman's fabulous wealth, appointed him Prime Minister. Then the King issued an order commanding everyone in the palace to bow down in deference to Haman.

Now Haman wore on his chest an image of the idol he worshipped. Mordechai refused to bow before Haman, despite the many warnings he had received from various officials. When Haman himself reprimanded him for not extending to him the honor which was bestowed upon him by the King, Mordechai answered: I am a Jew, and would never bow down to any human being wearing the image of a pagan idol on his chest.

Mordechai and Haman had occasion to meet before under very different circumstances. It happened many years before, in the days of King Cyrus, when the Jews had just begun to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem. At that time there lived a certain tribe in Samaria whom King Sancherib had settled there after leading away many Jews into exile. These Samaritans partly accepted the Jewish faith, but did not fully identify themselves with the Jewish people and the Torah. Now that the special royal decree issued by King Cyrus permitted the Jews to rebuild their Temple, they wanted to be partners in it. But the Jews did not want to have anything to do with them. The Samaritans therefore tried to do everything possible to hinder the Jews in the fulfillment of their cherished ambition. When force was met with force, bringing the Samaritans no satisfaction, they turned to the royal house in Persia with an accusation to the effect that the Jews were not merely rebuilding the Temple, but were also organizing themselves to rebel against the Persian rule.

The Samaritans and other enemies of the Jews further chose a man called Haman to represent them at the court and press the charges against the Jews. The Jews chose Mordechai to represent them and plead their cause.

The two delegates set out on their way to Persia at the same time. As their way took them through a desert, they brought with them provisions for the journey. Haman, who was greedy, ate his all at once, while Mordechai allowed enough to remain for the whole journey. Soon Haman became very hungry and begged Mordechai to share the remainder of his fare with him. At first, Mordechai refused his request, but later, he relented on the condition that Haman agree to become Mordechai's slave. As they had no paper upon which to write a contract, Haman wrote the following pledge upon the sole of Mordechai's shoe: "I, Haman the Agagite, have sold myself to Mordechai as his slave in consideration of bread."

Since then Haman could never forgive Mordechai for his humiliation, and he was in constant dread lest Mordechai enforce his slave claim over him.

Mordechai, of course, never dreamed of doing it. Later, however, when Haman became Prime Minister, and demanded that Mordechai bow down to him, Mordechai would merely remove his shoe and wave it at him. Haman had to hold his tongue and keep silent. The enraged Haman swore he would destroy Mordechai and all the Jews.