Following the time-line given by the text, since Achashverosh had his party and eliminated his wife in the third year of his reign (Esther 1:3), and Esther was brought to him in the seventh year of his reign (ibid. 2:16), accounting for the year it took to prepare the women (Ibid. 2:12). Therefore, the Vilna Gaon says that this verse is a praise for Esther for having hidden (see #118 above) from Achashverosh’s men for three entire years (7-3-1=3)!
- The Talmud (Rosh HaShanah 7a) uses this verse to suggest we usually count the years from Rosh HaShanah every Tishrei, but we count the individual months from Nissan. The names of the months we use are not even Jewish in origin (Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShanah 1:2), so why do we use them? By mentioning the names, Ramban writes (on Shemos 12:2) we remind ourselves that we are in exile, still awaiting Mashiach, speedily in our day.
- The Talmud (Megillah 13a) says that Achashverosh and Esther met in this month because Teves is a naturally colder month, and the warmth of bodies would be more enjoyable. This way, Achashverosh would be naturally predisposed to like Esther more than the other women. In this seemingly “natural” manner, H-Shem works His miracles.
The Malbim says Esther was brought to the king’s bedroom. Although we may think otherwise, a human king is not really in charge of everything all the time. In reality, he can only control his own, personal environment. His private quarters was the only place where Achashverosh was truly in control.
טז וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל–הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶל–בֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי הוּא–חֹדֶשׁ טֵבֵת בִּשְׁנַת–שֶׁבַע לְמַלְכוּתוֹ
16. And Esther was taken to the king Achashverosh to the house of his kingship in the tenth month, which is the month of Teves, in the seventh year of his rule.
- The Malbim says that Esther had to be taken because she put up a fight, and had to go by force. Despite the fact that all should seem lost for an ordinary person in this position, the Vilna Gaon points out that what makes Esther a righteous woman is that she continued to fight to preserve her purity when it was a foregone conclusion that all was lost.
- The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:10) interprets “vitilakach” as meaning “acquired,” and says the courtiers of the palace auctioned off the privilege to bring Esther to the king. Everybody seemed to see something special in her (as we said in the last post), and assumed she would be the future queen.
- There is an idea mentioned in the Zohar called “Nitotzei Kedusha” (“sparks of holiness”). When a person errs in behavior, that person’s soul loses some spiritual potential, and these are called sparks of holiness. Being holy, these sparks are immortal, and, according to the AriZal, it becomes the task of all people to collect these sparks with positive actions. The Jews living through the Persian exile seemed to commonly practice intermarriage (Ezra 10:2). Therefore, the Sfas Emes posits that the great Esther’s marrying Achashverosh rectified the sin of intermarriage as a way to gather all of those nitzotzei kedusha.
- The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:9) suggests a number of reasons for this verse’s repeating Esther’s description. One opinion (that of R’ Yuda) is that people considered Esther an icon (work of art representing a person) and was liked by all.
- Another opinion (R’ Nechemya’s) agrees that, in comparison to other women, Esther was the most beautiful.
- However, the Rabbis there say that Esther found favor in the eyes of the “upper ones and the lower ones.” In other words, she was liked by angels and men, as it says in Mishlei (3:4) “be’eyney elohim v’adam” (“in the eyes of angels and men”). Torah Temimah explains that people care about appearances, but angels care about character. They saw in Esther that she was gentle and had a pure character. We can perhaps add that there are people who become beautiful through their beautiful characteristics.
- The Talmud (Megillah 7a and 13a) says people found a kinship with Esther because she looked as though she could belong to any nation. Ben Yehoyada says the reason for this was miraculous, and its purpose was in order for people to not be able to know that this girl raised in Mordechai’s house was of a particular group – namely, Jewish. Although some want to assert that Esther’s green color (as we’ve mentioned before) may have been a beautiful, olive complexion, this favorable view is not the way the Talmud (Megillah 15a) understands Esther’s color. Her being green effectively removed her from the Talmud’s list there of the four most beautiful women in history. The Vilna Gaon wonders why the Talmud could suggest that Esther was pallid and green if the verse (2:7) itself testifies to her beauty. He answers that Esther was indeed beautiful at one point, but turned pale from sadness having to endure Achashverosh’s harem.
- The Pri Tzedek writes in his commentary on Shemos that there are different levels of love, with “chein” (“favor”) meaning a love without reason, and that is the appreciation Esther received from the people around her.
The Malbim says that the verse describes Heigai as both “eunuch of the king” “guard of the women” to emphasize the legitimacy of his advice. As an officer of the king, Heigai knew the king well enough to understand his particular likes. And as guard of the women, he was perceptive of their behavior and was familiar with their best beauty tricks.
Either Esther did not request anything because she did not want to be the queen, or perhaps this was her way of committing suicide by coming before the king in a disrespectful manner. The Maharal and the Malbim both suggest further that she wanted nothing in order to show that she did not want to be there.