M’nos HaLevi writes that Esther was to mollify Achashverosh by beautifying herself and wearing her best robes.
- 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 contends that Esther, besides possessing health and beauty, also had great character because of her distinguished father. We know that he was a great man because it says in the Talmud (hinted at in Megillah 10b) that all prophets must have good genealogy.
- Another reason for her father to be mentioned here comes from the Maharal. He quotes the verse in the Torah (Bireishis 2:24) that says a man who finds his intended should cling to her. Maharal continues that a woman, too, clings to her husband after marriage. Therefore, Esther was connected to Mordechai up until this point, and will now have to cling to her new “husband,” Achashverosh.
- The Talmud (Megillah 13b) says that Esther’s ancestors Rachel, Benyamin, and Shaul were all able to keep secrets. This characteristic was passed down through Avichayil to Esther. Rav Chaim Kanievsky says this verse emphasizes this genetic link to secrecy. This is why Esther’s father was not mentioned earlier when her secrecy was first mentioned (2:10 above), because there, she was commanded to be secretive by Mordechai, and this verse is attesting to her innate ability to do so for this long period of time.
יג וּבָזֶה הַֽנַּעֲרָה בָּאָה אֶל–הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵת כָּל–אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר יִנָּתֵן לָהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהּ מִבֵּית הַנָּשִׁים עַד–בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ
13. And with this a young woman would come to the king – anything she would say would be given her – to come with her from the house of women to the house of the king.
The Malbim says the young women brought with them the very beauty and health discussed in the previous verse. That was the only things they had.
The Talmud in multiple places (Megillah 13a, Shabbos 80b, Pesachim 43a, Moed Katan 9b, Menachos 86a) teaches that myrrh is either balsam, or olive oil that had not reached a third of its ripeness. Although it smelled bitter like vinegar either way, it was used to remove unwanted hair and to make the skin glowing and smooth. Like sanding a car before painting it, these women used myrrh to prepare their bodies for the beautification process. The verse’s stressing the usage of myrrh (for six straight months!) gives us a better picture of the lengths to which these beauty contestants were subjected in order to please the king.
י לֹא–הִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר אֶת–עַמָּהּ וְאֶת–מוֹלַדְתָּהּ כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא–תַגִּיד
10. And Esther did not reveal her nation and her lineage because Mordechai commanded her not to reveal.
- Rashi gives two reasons for Esther to not reveal her lineage. First, if she were to reveal that she was Jewish, she would be dismissed from the contest since Jews were then seen as the lowest of the low. On the other hand, her lineage was from King Shaul, and Achashverosh might prize that information, reveling in the fact that he’s marrying Jewish royalty. Either she will get dismissed and lose the opportunity to do this important deed for her people, or she will have to sacrifice her holiness in being chosen by the king.
- Malbim writes that this verse demonstrates that Esther resisted being swayed by the luxuries and creature comforts afforded her by Heigai (see previous verse).
- The Binyan Ariel points out that the reason Vashti was removed to begin with is that Achashverosh wanted to show off the beauty of her nation to the dignitaries at his party to prove that women of her nation were the most beautiful. If Achashverosh does not know Esther’s nationality, he would not do the same with her. If he were to have attempted this, Esther would have refused, leading to another dead queen.
- A Purim-Torah suggestion regarding the actual word “higida” (“related”): Perhaps this word is used because, as we shall see with H-Shem’s Help when we get to 4:16, Esther and Mordechai annulled Pesach in the year of the Purim miracle (Talmud, Megillah 15a), and there was therefore no Pesach Seder with its accompanying Haggadah. Thus, “lo higida Esther” may be interpreted as “Esther annulled the Haggada.”
Let’s recall that Achashverosh was looking for a number of characteristics. He was attempting to replace Vashti, a woman whose beauty was unequaled and irreplaceable (as we’ve said here before), so he therefore needed to find a woman who was superior to her in other ways. The Malbim’s view is that this number of women is one of eight indicators in theses verses that Mordechai broke the law of King Achashverosh.
- The verse (2:5) tells us Mordechai was “in Shushan” to tell us that he knew of the law. He could not feign ignorance since he lived in the capital city, and it was well-publicized everywhere.
- The verse (ibid.) also says “his name” was Mordechai, indicating that he had a “name,” or level of fame, and should have seen it as an honor to bring his adopted daughter to the king.
- The next verse (ibid. 6) informs us that Mordechai was “exiled.” As an immigrant, he should have felt gratitude to his host nation, wanting to give back by giving his daughter.
- The next verse (ibid. 7) tells us that Esther was “daughter of his uncle” meaning that he was responsible for her, and thus had the final say of whether or not she should be a part of this contest.
- More than that, the verse (ibid.) tells us Esther “did not have a father and mother” to stress that he had ultimate authority over her, having to answer to nobody.
- The additional fact that Esther had a “beautiful form” (ibid.) was all the more reason for Mordechai to bring her!
- By describing Esther “as daughter” to Mordechai, the verse is saying that Esther would not go without his approval, making him ultimately culpable for her being absent at the king’s casting call.
- In our verse, the phrase “word and law” indicates that he knew the law well, and even knew of the consequences for ignoring it.
Additionally, Mordechai saw that “many young women” were taken to the king, and could not say he was ignorant of what was going on. As the Malbim continues, despite all of this, Mordechai nevertheless ignored the law, and placed himself in great peril in order to protect Esther.