Esther 7:3, Question 1. Why does Esther mention finding favor in the king’s eyes?

ג וַתַּעַן אֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה וַתֹּאמַר אִםמָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאִםעַלהַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב תִּנָּתֶןלִי נַפְשִׁי בִּשְׁאֵלָתִי וְעַמִּי בְּבַקָּשָׁתִי

3. And Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor/grace in your eyes, and if it is good on the king, give me my soul in my request and my nation in my petition.

  • The Midrash HaGadol (Shemos 33:17) writes that Esther mentions finding favor in the king’s eyes because the very definition of finding the favor of the king (or H-Shem) is that he (or He) would be willing to do all that is requested.

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 2:17, Question 3. Why does the verse mention both love and finding favor?

  • Rav Shlomo Kluger teaches that love generally has to refer to a known object. It is impossible to have love for a thing unknown and unseen. It has to be based on something. In our verse, Achashverosh’s “love” means that Achashverosh chose Esther over the women he already knew for any one or combination of her characteristics listed in previous blog posts here. According to Rav Kluger, finding favor, is different. It means choosing someone with no basis whatsoever. In other words, Achashverosh’s finding favor in Esther meant that he rejected the other women he had not even known yet, sight unseen.
  • Rebbetzin Heller stresses that it was Esther’s inner beauty that won the heart of the king.
  • According to the Ben Ish Chai, the gematria of “chen” (8+50=58) and “chesed” (8+60+4=72) (58+72 = 130) comes out to the same number as H-Shem’s Name multiplied by five (26 x 5), indicating that this choice was the work of H-Shem, with the five fingers of His Hand.

Esther 2:15, Question 6. Why does the verse repeat (see 2:9) that Esther found favor/grace in the eyes of others?

  • 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.