8. “If I have found favor in the eyes of the king, and if it good on the king, to give my request and to do my petition, the king and Haman should come to the drinking party that I have made for them. And tomorrow do according to the word of the king.”
The Malbim writes that Esther is very wise. In giving two qualifications, she is implying that pleasing the king is her main objective. Her question is secondary, making the king feel like he is primary on Esther’s esteem.
Consistent with his opinion that the request and petition refer to a personal request and a national petition, respectively, the Vilna Gaon here writes that Esther requests the king’s grace for the personal request and wants the king’s “good” for the good of the group for whom she will petition him. She is thus preparing the king for her eventual requests.
The Ginzei HaMelech writes that the letter vuv connects the request and the petition, making both one. In doing so, she is saying that her request is the same as the Jews’ because she finally felt the Jews’ pain as if it were her own, despite the fact that she could feel confident in the palace as a secret Jewess. This manner of caring for other Jews as if we are parts of one whole can be learned from Moshe, when he left the palace of Pharoah to see (and feel) the burdens of his brethren (Shemos 2:11). Like the famous story of Rabbi Aryeh Levine, who took his wife to the doctor and said, “My wife’s foot is hurting us,” we are expected to keen feel the needs of others as if they were our own.
On a yet deeper level, Esther’s submitting to the king is a form of tikun for her ancestor, Shaul’s, ignoring the order of the prophet Shmuel to kill out Amalek.
7. And Esther answered and she said, “My request and my petition:
The Targum says Esther repeats this language to stress to Achashverosh that he is wrong in thinking Esther wants half the kingdom.
However, the Vilna Gaon says she was saying that he is right that she has both a personal request and a public need, but she was not yet ready to submit either of these.
According to the Midrash, this is because she was looking for a miraculous sign from H-Shem indicating that she should continue with her request. Not receiving one, she invited the king and Haman to another feast as a sort of do-over.
Rav Moshe Dovid Valle writes that Esther was implying that the request is a minor issue, just something she wants, whereas a petition is for a major issue, a national need.
Regarding a Talmudic passage (Brachos 55a) that describes H-Shem figuratively wearing a ring with the word emes (“truth”) imprinted on it, Rashi says one can uncover the true essence of something from its beginning, middle, and end. The letters of emes, are aleph, mem, and suf, the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, respectively. Rav Yosef Tropper applies this concept to Megillas Esther. The beginning of the sefer shows the Jews in mortal danger, while the end shows the Jews prepared to embark upon the resettlement of the end and the rebuilding of the second Temple. The middle of the sefer contains “my request and my petition.” In other words, the way to bring the Jews from being threatened to thriving is requesting (i.e. praying) to H-Shem.
Perhaps another reason is because the last word of this verse is te’as, (“and it will be done”) and the first word of the next verse is ta’an (“and she answered”), which look somewhat alike and have a difference in gematria of 250 (tzarich iyun). Perhaps there should be a split between what Achashverosh is willing to do and what Esther wants.
On a simple level, the Vilna Gaon explains that, as before (Esther 5:3), a request is personal, whereas a petition is for the needs of others. After all, it is the duty of a queen to petition her king.
Similarly, the Maharal writes that a “request” is a natural desire. A “petition” is an above-average request.
Rav Moshe Dovid Valle writes that “request” can be answered immediately, but a “petition” would require more time and effort.
The Malbim writes that a “request” is just the act of asking for something. A “petition” is the providing of a reason for that request. A child can request from his father money with the petitioned purpose of acquiring some land. A father may want to hear both the plea and its reason, especially if he may want to provide both the money and the land.
The Dubno Maggid writes that this was Achashverosh’s intent – to provide Esther with both her desired goal and its means.
Perhaps, as suggested by class participant CL, Achashverosh was suspicious of Esther, and wanted to know the core intent of her request.
6. And the king said to Esther in the drinking party, “What is your request and it will be given you, and what is your petition? Until half of the kingdom, and it will be done.”
The Ben Ish Chai writes that this is not the first wine party in Megillas Esther. In fact, after Haman and Achashverosh sign the decree meant to threaten Jewish existence, the verse (Esther 3:15) writes that they drank together. At that party something happened that this party will help to undo. Besides this, the verse there says that the city of Shushan was left bewildered. Among the reasons for this confusion is that the Jews were not privy to the content of the decree. They were left unclear as to the veracity of the inevitable rumors that this decree intended their demise. The Ben Ish Chai writes that this party, providing the tikkun to the previous party in the manner of “zeh l’umas zeh,” will leave no confusion.
The Kotzker Rebbe writes that we are all supposed to remember that H-Shem listens to our requests not only when we are praying in a holy environment, but also when we are sitting at a table, eating and drinking in the measured way in which we are instructed. This is why H-Shem, the King in our verse tells Esther, who represents the Jews, that He will do what she requests. This is one reason why we request in Birkas HaMazon a number of things besides sustenance.
The Dubno Maggid adds that King David unified his requests with his goals (see Tehillim 27:4). The Talmud (Avodah Zara 19a) says that one should do mitzvos for their own sake. This is what Dovid was doing. This is particularly relevant in the area of prayer because the Talmud (Brachos 20a) calls Yerushalayim “the hill towards which all mouths are directed.” We all have different mouths – or requests – but they are all for the same goal. Everything we want should be for the sake of our personal relationships with H-Shem.
The M’nos HaLevi writes that Esther used the singular form of the verb (vayavo) instead of the plural (vayavo’u) because she wanted to evoke the king’s jealousy by equating him with another man, Haman. This fits with the Talmud’s (Megillah 15b) statement that Esther’s goal in inviting Haman was to produce such a jealousy.