Esther 2:19, Question 1. Why is there a second gathering of virgins?

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!