Esther 2:17, Question 2. Why does the verse mention both women and virgins?

  • The Malbim explains that the women referred to here are Achashverosh’s other wives and concubines, of which the king of Persia had a few. He therefore loved Esther more than them.
  • The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:11) teaches that this verse’s distinguishing between women and virgins implies that Achashverosh’s beauty contest ensnared the most beautiful women – without considering whether they were married or not.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 13a) adds that, with Esther, Achashverosh could feel he was with a married woman or a virgin. The Maharal explains that this means Esther could be like either kind of woman, innocent and experienced. Esther was experienced because she was a married woman (as she was married to Mordechai, as mentioned previously), but she was innocent because she was the “rebbetzin” of the great Mordechai, not the plaything of some deviant.
  • The Ohel Moshe and Shaul U’Meishiv point out that the other women in the contest came before the king bragging of their lineage in an attempt to win the king’s heart. Esther’s being secretive about her lineage actually made her more mysterious and attractive to the king.
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