The Malbim writes that, earlier, the king wanted to know Esther’s nation for political reasons, so “nation” was written before “lineage.” Here, he wanted to know who her family was to reward them with gifts, so the verse mentions “lineage” before “nation.”
כ אֵין אֶסְתֵּר מַגֶּדֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ וְאֶת–עַמָּהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ מָרְדֳּכָי וְאֶת–מַאֲמַר מָרְדֳּכַי אֶסְתֵּר עֹשָׂה כַּֽאֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה בְאָמְנָה אִתּוֹ
20. And Esther did not reveal her lineage and her nation as Mordechai commanded her, and the instruction of Mordechai Esther did just as she did in being raised by him.
- Eitz Yosef writes that, earlier (2:10), before Esther was introduced to Achashverosh, Mordechai did not want the knowledge of Esther’s royal lineage to encourage the king to choose her (as we’ve said before). Now that she was already chosen, she no longer had this reason, and she refused to identify her royal stock out of modest humility.
- The Malbim writes that, despite the fact that she was no longer under Mordechai’s direct influence, and despite the many tactics of the king, she still refused to identify her people. The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:12) comments that Esther’s silence was an innate, genetic family trait learned from Rachel, her ancestor. Rachel famously stayed silent in the face of her sister marrying her beloved Yaakov (see Bireishis 29:25 and Rashi there). Decades later, Rachel’s son, Benyamin, stayed silent about the sale of Yosef, despite mourning for his brother to the point of naming all of his ten sons after him (see Bireishis 46:21 and Rashi there). King Shaul, Rachel’s descendant, too, was silent (Shmuel 1 10:16) about being made king by the prophet Shmuel. The Midrash is teaching, therefore, that it was due to Esther’s lineage – her ancestral ability to stay silent in the face of adversity – that allowed her to stay silent now.
- The Ohel Moshe points out that silence is not always good. Although the Mishnah praises silence (Avos 1:17) as the best thing “for a body,” this seems to contradict the verse in Koheles (3:7) which states that “there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” The Alshich and Maharal both point out that the Mishnah specifically says silence is good for the body, meaning that silence is always good for the physical body, but silence is not always ideal for the soul. The Ohel Moshe concludes from this that all of Esther’s relatives praised in the Midrash for being silent were pure enough to know when to speak, and when to be silent.
It was Mordechai’s position as adviser to the king that allowed for him to propose the above-mentioned advice, and for him to be taken seriously.
יט וּבְהִקָּבֵץ בְּתוּלוֹת שֵׁנִית וּמָרְדֳּכַי ישֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר־הַמֶּלֶךְ
19. And virgins were gathered a second time and Mordechai sat at the king’s gate.
- The Talmud (Megillah 13a) says the king asked advice of Mordechai to help get Esther to open up regarding her background. Surprisingly, Mordechai’s advice was to make Esther jealous by making another contest to pick a wife, similar to the first. Nevertheless, after this additional contest, she still did not reveal her lineage, as it says in the following verse (2:20). In his commentary on the Talmud there, Rashi explains that Mordechai actually hoped the king would find a more suitable wife, and would leave Esther alone.
- The Ben Ish Chai suggests that it is possible Mordechai was seeking assurance that Esther’s being chosen by the king came from a Divine source and was part of H-Shem’s master-plan.
- The Malbim, however, sees this gathering as Achashverosh’s attempting to seem like a nice guy by gathering the virgins with whom he had not yet had relations, and releasing them!
- Rav Elisha Gallico says Achashverosh gave these gifts to the states to reward them for their gifting him with their most beautiful women, and to compensate them for the loss of such talent.
- The Vilna Gaon says that he gave to everyone because the king did not know which nation to thank for Esther, so covered his bases by rewarding all of the states.
- Since the Jews were not a distinct state, Rav Eliezer Ashkenazi writes, they were the only people still paying full taxes. Accordingly, this is the reason why Haman will later offer to cover the costs of killing off the Jews (3:9), since their extermination would have a negative impact on the king’s coffers.
The Talmud (Megillah 13a) says that Achashverosh made a party, and yet Esther did not reveal her identity. He then relaxed the taxes, and Esther did not reveal her identity. He finally gave her gifts, and she still did not reveal her identity. The Me’am Loez and the Malbim point out that these were meant to work psychologically. The first tactic was meant to show how loving he was. The second trick as to emphasize her generosity. The third tactic was meant to show, through his generosity to all the nations, how much more-so he would reward generously whichever nation from which Esther hails.
- The Maharsha says that, as we shall see in the next answer, the party was meant to endear Achashverosh to Esther specifically for her to divulge her lineage. It was therefore named after her. The Me’am Loez reminds us that “Esther” also means “hidden,” and this feast was thus meant with the express purpose of her revealing her secret identity.
- Also, the above-mentioned concern for the poor also makes this uniquely “Esther’s” party.
- The Ben Ish Chai adds that this party demonstrated to the people conclusively that the icons of Vashti were down, and the king’s heart belonged wholly to Esther.
- Rav Chadidah says this party was made by Achashverosh for Esther, as opposed to Vashti’s party, that she made for herself (1:9). Rav Chadidah points out that this proves a great affection the king had for his new bride.
יח וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל לְכָל–שָׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו אֵת מִשְׁתֵּה אֶסְתֵּר וַהֲנָחָה לַמְּדִינוֹת עָשָׂה וַיִתֵּן מַשְׂאֵת כְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ
18. And the king made a great party for all of his ministers and servants – the party of Esther – and made an easement for the states, and he gave gifts like the hand of the king.
- The Vilna Gaon points out that the verse is contrasting this party with the previous party mentioned in Megillas Esther (1:1-10). Perhaps it was not quantitatively better, but it was qualitatively better. It was for a better person, thus engendering more real joy and happiness.
- The Me’am Loez adds that this was a superior party because Esther insisted that only the nobles should be invited, and not the poor. Why would Esther not want to treat the poor to her party? She was extremely sensitive to the costs and discomfort the poor would have to endure if they had to attend such a party.
The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:11) teaches that these words emphasize that Achashverosh had icons (paintings and statues) of Vashti throughout the palace, and they were razed to make room for icons of Esther “in the place of” Vashti’s image. Maharal reminds us that this part of the story occurred three years after the death of Vashti, and yet Achashverosh still mourned his wife.
- Rav Shlomo Kluger teaches that love generally has to refer to a known object. It is impossible to have love for a thing unknown and unseen. It has to be based on something. In our verse, Achashverosh’s “love” means that Achashverosh chose Esther over the women he already knew for any one or combination of her characteristics listed in previous blog posts here. According to Rav Kluger, finding favor, is different. It means choosing someone with no basis whatsoever. In other words, Achashverosh’s finding favor in Esther meant that he rejected the other women he had not even known yet, sight unseen.
- Rebbetzin Heller stresses that it was Esther’s inner beauty that won the heart of the king.
- According to the Ben Ish Chai, the gematria of “chen” (8+50=58) and “chesed” (8+60+4=72) (58+72 = 130) comes out to the same number as H-Shem’s Name multiplied by five (26 x 5), indicating that this choice was the work of H-Shem, with the five fingers of His Hand.