Esther 1:20, Question 3. To whom or what does the phrase “great is she” refer?

  • According to the Alshich, the phrase, “great is she,” refers to Achashverosh’s kingdom.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 4:10) has an argument regarding this, and says another possibility is that Vashti’s transgression was great. Ibn Ezra states that Vashti’s transgression was multiplied by the fact that she transgressed against such a great kingdom.
  • In citing these opinions, the Maharal in Ohr Chadash that both the kingdom and Vashti required a great amount of spiritual repair (tikkun). The Maharal (and the Malbim) also write that the decree, itself, was great1. Class participant ES suggested that this masculine/ feminine mixing demonstrates the gender confusion Achashverosh so feared.
  • The Vilna Gaon writes that it is the king who is being called great2.
  • Finally, the Maharal writes that what is great is what this decree will bring with it – namely, the miraculous rescue of the Jews of Persia.

1Grammatically, there is a problem in that the Hebrew for “it” here is “hee,” a feminine term. In his translation of the Malbim’s commentary of Megillas Esther, Rabbi Jonathan Taub suggests that the Malbim intends that the kingdom (feminine) is going to be improved by means of the decree.

2He does not seem to deal with the grammatical anomaly mentioned above.

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