Esther 5:2, Question 2. Why does Esther specifically win “chein” (“favor” or “grace”) in Achashverosh’s eyes?

  • The Malbim writes that, due to his great love for her, Achashverosh never intended to apply the death penalty to Esther even for this transgression of approaching him unbidden. This great love, added to her humble aspect as she approached him, gave her additional grace in his eyes.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 15b) writes that, as she was approaching the king, the castle was surrounded by idols, and she was unable to pray. When she movingly asked H-Shem why prayer – her only comfort and strength – was taken from her, H-Shem blessed her with additional favor.
  • Class participant YL suggested that the verse’s use of the word “king” instead of Achashverosh’s name indicates that the verse is discussing the favor Esther received from H-Shem.
  • The Talmud there further states that three angels encountered Esther at this time. One raised her neck. Another hung a string of kindness on her. The third stretched out Achashverosh’s scepter.1
  • The Maharal suggests that there were three angels present because each angel can perform one job at a time. Although these angels all seem to be doing the same thing, the Maharal explains that one angel was there to inspire Achashverosh love Esther, another was there to inspire Esther to love Achashverosh, and the third was there to unify them into a unit.
  • Class participant RS suggested that perhaps Esther earned these three angels for her three days of fasting.
  • Rav Dovid Feinstein suggests that, although Achashverosh indeed saw grace/favor in Esther upon their initial meeting (see Esther 2:17), this feeling seemingly slipped away as it may tend to do, but returned at this moment.
  • Ora v’Simcha quotes the Yalkut Shimoni (1056:5) that Achashverosh became blind upon meeting Esther. This explains why Achashverosh stopped searching for a wife at that point, why he did not proof-read Haman’s letter, and why he did not know he was sleeping with a sheid. At this meeting, however, the sight of Esther allowed the king to regain his eyesight.

1 The Vilna Gaon uses the language of the verse, itself, to demonstrate the need for the angels’ intervention. The verse should have said the active “ka’asher ra’a” (“when he saw”), but instead says “kir’ot” (“when seen by the king”) in the passive voice to allude to the assistance he received from angels. Similarly, the verse’s use of the passive “na’asa chein” (“she received favor”) is unusually passive since TaNaCh typically says this phrase in the more active “matza chein” (“he found favor”). Again, the angel holding up Esther’s head made her a passive participant in earning Achashveosh’s recognition. Finally, the verse’s seemingly unnecessary detail about the scepter being in Achashverosh’s hand shows that the scepter was originally at most long enough for the king to be able to hold it “in his hand.” If she was in the courtyard, the only way she could have reached it is if it was long enough for her to physically reach, which explains the purpose of the third angel.

Esther 3:1, Question 1. After what does the action in this verse occur?

פרק ג

א אַחַר ׀ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה גִּדַּל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶתהָמָן בֶּֽןהַמְּדָתָא הָאֲגָגִי וַיְנַשְּׂאֵהוּ וַיָּשֶׂם אֶתכִּסְאוֹ מֵעַל כָּלהַשָּׂרִים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ

Chapter 3

1. After these things, the king made Haman son of Hemdasa the Aggagite great, and he elevated him and gave him a seat above the officers with him.

  • The Talmud (Megillah 13b) uses this incident and this phraseology, as the case proof for the idea that H-Shem always creates the refuah before the machlah – the cure before the disease (as mentioned before). In other words, H-Shem first placed Esther and Mordechai in position to save the Jewish people, and only then is Haman elevated.
  • Ibn Ezra cites a later verse (Esther 3:7) that this is occurring in the twelfth year of Achashverosh’s reign. Esther was married to Achashverosh in the seventh year of his reign (ibid. 2:17). This means that five years had passed. Esther waited all of this time, married to an evil man, to figure out her role in this situation.

Esther 2:1, Question 5. What does the verse mean that Achashverosh remembered what was decreed against Vashti?

  • If it is true that Achashverosh had his wife killed for refusing to display herself in the nude at his party, Achashverosh must have regretted such an extreme punishment for so minor an offense. Considering H-Shem’s consistent use of “mida kineged mida” (“measure for measure”), Achashverosh realized that Vashti’s misuse of Jewish servant girls on Shabbos precipitated in her punishment being dealt on Shabbos.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 12a) tells us that she caused her Jewish maids to go around unclothed.
  • The Maharil Diskin asks why this has to be noted. Was it not bad enough that our sisters were forced to desecrate the Sabbath? Did their forced immodesty truly add to Vashti’s evil? He answers that Vashti’s participation in this was especially worthy of punishment because one can reason that poor servants surrounded by expensive goods may attempt to steal what their eyes see. One might think that nudity might thus be a legitimate way to curb theft, leaving potential thieves with less opportunity to hide their loot. (It has been reported that current manufacturers of illegal drugs use this very method with their employees.) However, it was especially evil of Vashti to force the Jewish girls to go unclothed on Shabbos because they would not have stolen, anyway, seeing as theft, coupled with the fact that carrying an object from one domain to another is forbidden on Shabbos (Mishnah, Shabbos 1:1), would have definitely prevented the girls from stealing.
  • Likkutei Anshei Sheim point out that the 180 day feast was held in the beginning of Vashti’s third year of being queen. This means that she had two full years (354 days twice) and the 180 days (354×2+180=888 days), which divided by seven, come out to be 127 Shabbosos (888/7 = 126.857143)1. For causing Jewesses to desecrate 127 Sabbaths, Vashti lost the reign over 127 states.
  • Tangentially, the Chasam Sofer adds that Vashti’s Sabbath desecration was part of the reason for the mystical custom (see Zohar on Bireishis 17b, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 297:4, Mishnah Berurah ibid., sub-paragraph 8) to use myrtle leaves for the spices in the Havdalah service after Shabbos. Since “Hadassah” (Myrtle) was one of Esther’s names, her defeating Vashti’s influence was alluded to in the verses in Yeshaya that we read on fast days (55:13, 56:4), in which the myrtle succeeds “from under [or, instead of] the thorn-bush,” (see 2:4 and 2:17 below for similar verbiage) the thorn-bush being the prickly Vashti, who caused Jewish girls to sin on Shabbos.

1Mathematically, one can round up to 127, or perhaps we can consider the last seven days as an additional week. Perhaps Vashti’s not surviving the whole day would account for the fraction missing from the whole number.