1. And it was in the third day, and Esther dressed in royalty. And she stood in the courtyard of the inner house of the king, facing the house of the king. And the king was sitting on the seat of his royalty in the house of royalty facing the opening of the house.
M’nos HaLevi writes that Esther usually avoided wearing royal garb. From her humility and modesty, she did not want to wear any clothing that would demonstrate her accepting her role as queen. The Talmud (Megillah 15a) points out that the verse seems to be missing the word, “clothing.” Accordingly, Esther wore “royalty” not in the physical sense, but in the sense of her enveloping herself in the Holy Spirit – Ruach HaKodesh.
Iyun Yaakov wonders why this would occur now. After all, Esther is a prophetess, and one would imagine she was constantly connected to H-Shem’s Messages. He answers that this was a time of great hester Panim, of H-Shem hiding His Face, as it were. In response to the Talmud’s famous attempt to find the story of Esther alluded to in the Torah, the Talmud (Chulin 139b) quotes the verse “v’Anochi hastir astir Panai bayom hahu” (“And I will surely hide My Face from them on that day”) (Devarim 31:18). Since this was a time of great Divine concealment, and there was great doubt in the world, the Jews attempted to change things by fasting for three days, and praying to H-Shem, and managed to merit their prophetess receiving the Divine Presence.
The Vilna Gaon adds that there is a concept that the Divine Spirit only rests upon a person whose body is “broken down.” This means someone who wants spiritual growth needs to realize that one’s soul is more important than one’s body.
The Midrash (Bireishis Rabbah 56:1) writes that the royalty referred to here is the royalty of Esther’s father’s house, being descendant from King Shaul. Preparing for her disobeying a royal edict to meet the king, she took with her the dignity and air of monarchy she inherited from her ancestry. This idea certainly supports the contention of the Malbim and M’nos HaLevi that Esther’s wearing “royalty” simply meant that she seemed regal to casual observers.
R’ Shlomo Kluger in Ma’amar Mordechai, says that Esther had been forced to be the queen, and at this point, she owned up to that responsibility. He points out that, from this verse and onwards, Esther is consistently called Queen Esther by the authors of Megillas Esther.
Pachad Yitzchak notes that this verse indicates that Esther became the queen of the Jewish people. Interestingly, the Jews can only fulfill the command to eradicate Amalek when they have a sovereign ruler (Talmud, Sanhedrin 20a), and Esther took on that role to enable this.
Rabbi Eliezer Ginzburg asks how she was given authority to be the queen. The Shem M’Shmuel (on Devarim 33:19) writes that the main function of a Jewish king or queen is to unite the Jewish people. Therefore, by enveloping herself in an intense love for the Jews, she took on the role of royalty, becoming what a royal is supposed to be.
Rav Ginzburg also quotes the Nefesh HaChaim (3:12) that even if there are other spiritual forces in the world, they will have no affect on a person who totally submits oneself to H-Shem’s sovereignty. There are numerous stories concerning the Rav of Brisk, Rav Yitzchak Soloveitchik, whose concentrating on this idea of “ein od milVado” (“there is nothing beside Him”) from the Nefesh HaChaim at different times rescued him from Russian conscription and Nazi persecution. Accordingly, this is the idea of royalty with which Esther adorned herself, making her impervious to any harm.
The Pachad Yitzchak notes that this is a rare example of Jewish royalty wearing non-Jewish garments, and this may be yet another reason for the custom of wearing masks and disguises on Purim.
11. “All of the servants of the king and nation of states of the king know that any man and woman who go to the king to the inner courtyard who was not called have one law – to kill, unless that the king would extend to him his gold scepter, and live. And I have not been called to come to the king these thirty days.”
The Alshich gives three reasons why Esther refuses Mordechai’s order, at least for the time being:
First, he points out that Esther points out to Mordechai that there were eleven months between the decree (in Nisan) and its fulfillment (Adar). There would therefore not be a need to risk the death penalty for coming to the king without having been summoned.
Incidentally, the Targum writes that this rule was established by Haman in order to avoid the possibility of Jews petitioning the king unannounced to beg him to change the decree against them. Besides, the king also did not want to be petitioned by Jews for permission to rebuild the Temple.
The Alshich’s second reason for Esther’s desire to delay approaching the king is that she felt there was a high probability of her appeal failing.
Finally, with eleven months left until the fulfillment of the decree, Esther saw no need to come before the king since there was a good chance that he would summon her at some point before then, anyway.
R’ Eliezer Ginzburg writes that Esther’s refusal here is because she felt that she had been suffering all of the humiliations of this forced marriage to Achashverosh to create a “tikun” (“repair”) for the sins of that generation.
Perhaps, since Esther was a humble person, she felt unworthy of such this monumental mission.
R’ Ginzburg then quotes the Zichron Shmuel who notes that the initial letters of “me’asher yosheet lo hamelech” (“that the king would extend to him”) spell out “milah” (“circumcision”). This is a hint to the idea mentioned earlier that, in reluctance to have relations with an uncircumcised gentile, Esther would ordinarily send a sheid to take her place. Now, she was afraid that she would have to appear before Achashverosh alone, without the aid of a demon.
Rav Dovid Feinstein writes the king should be expected to ask advice before proclaiming a major ruling. In a case like this, though, he also needed a sense of what was best – not just what was right. This required both knowledge and justice. The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 4:1) points out that Achashverosh, though not a righteous man by any stretch of the imagination, still had a “mida tova” (good characteristic) of seeking advice before making big decisions. Rabbi Eliezer Ginzburg writes in Ginzei Hamelech that “justice” implies going beyond the letter of the law.
As is typical of Torah texts, the Megillah offers rare details, so the enumeration of the length of the party seems odd. Furthermore, since the verse already testifies to its lasting “many days,” the actual number of days seems all the more redundant. In his brilliant Ginzei HaMelech, Rabbi Eliezer Ginzburg brings the Vilna Gaon from his allegoric “al Derech Remez” commentary on Esther. The entire story of Esther, according to the Vilna Gaon, is an allegory for the struggle between one and one’s evil inclination, Yetzer Hara. On this verse, the Vilna Gaon quotes a Midrash that the phrase “many days” is indicative of pain. The Vilna Gaon proves from the Talmud (Shabbos 89b) that there are potentially 180 days out of the year when a person would not even consider sin, and those are the “many days of pain for the Yetzer Hara.” Rabbi Ginzberg posits that the monicker “many days of pain” can be equally applied to the other half of the year, the 180 days of pain for the the person fighting the Yetzer Hara, as the evil one “watches over the righteous, seeking his death” (Tehillim 37:32). How can a man be successful in this struggle? Rabbi Ginzburg suggests (from Toras haChida, Tazria 12:3) that there are 180 hours from the birth of a baby boy until it is appropriate to give him a bris. For those 180 hours, the father of the boy is too anxious about the mitzvah before him to even consider sin. In the merit of the 180 hours when the Yetzer Hara has no grasp on the father before the bris, both the father and the boy can be shielded from the Yetzer Hara for all of the difficult 180 days of the year for all the years of their lives.