Esther 2:14, Question 1. Why does the verse stress the time of the day?

יד בָּעֶרֶב ׀ הִיא בָאָה וּבַבֹּקֶר הִיא שָׁבָה אֶלבֵּית הַנָּשִׁים שֵׁנִי אֶליַד שַֽׁעֲשְׁגַז סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַפִּילַגְשִׁים לֹאתָבוֹא עוֹד אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי אִםחָפֵץ בָּהּ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְנִקְרְאָה בְשֵׁם

14. In the evening she would come, and in the morning she would return to the second house of women by the hand of Sha-ashgaz, eunuch of the king, guard of the concubines. [She] would not come again to the king unless she was desired by the king and he called her by name.

  • In this verse, one gets a glimpse into the pure evil that is Achashverosh. What we had been calling a beauty contest turns out to have been infinitely more immoral. Not only were these women gathered against their will, but after having relations with the king, one at a time, they were taken to the harem to be available – along with all of the other gathered beauties – whenever the king requested them.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 13a) teaches that, evil as he was, one characteristic of Achashverosh which is worthy of praise is his decision to at least not have relations in the daytime. There is a Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha’Ezer 25:5 and Orach Chaim 240:11) that a couple should ideally have intimate relations at night. This is the tznius to which the Maharal refers in regard to Achashverosh (as we said earlier).
  • On a more mystical level, the Zohar says that this verse is discussing how H-Shem operates in this world. Half of the elements of life refer to the Midas HaChesed, the Attribute of Kindness, and the other half refer to the Midas HaDin, the Attribute of Strict Judgment. The Midas HaDin comes before H-Shem every night requesting His judgment. It complains about all of the evil committed during the course of the past day saying, “Enough already! Punish these people already!”
  • The Rema contends that, since it speaks about going from evening to morning, this verse is the source of the idea of “gilgul” (“reincarnation”). Although not all Jewish authorities believe in this idea (see Saadya Gaon), those authorities that contend that it is a Jewish idea (see Ramban to Iyov 33:30) that souls may be sent back to this world to complete a task they had previously left unfinished. In “the evening” of one’s life, a person dies, and “in the morning” of the next life that person may go to the second house. He adds that if a person chooses material pleasures in life, then that person would have to redo life. In the end, the Rema’s contention is far from tenuous when one considers that the months preparing (Esther 2:12), the myrrh (ibid.), the items the girls requested (ibid. 13) – they all add up to a vapid, materialistic existence. And a material focus in life will force the soul to return after death to focus on spirituality.

Esther 2:11, Question 3. What was Mordechai hoping to accomplish by visiting the courtyard of the harem?

  • According to the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:8), Mordechai had two purposes in visiting Esther. One was to answer her questions about whether she was considered a niddah, woman having her monthly period. One of the lessons from this is that we must always make the best of our situations. No, Esther’s situation was not ideal, but even there – in the king’s harem – she cared about maintaining her spiritual state.
  • Mordechai’s other reason listed in the Midrash (ibid.) was to make sure Esther was not the victim of witchcraft from the other women in the harem, who were seemingly desperate to become the future queen. If they were so desperate to avoid marrying Achashverosh earlier, why would they now perform witchcraft to accomplish just that? Perhaps living in a harem for the rest of their lives was that much worse a fate. Perhaps this is what the Ibn Ezra and Vilna Gaon mean when they say Mordechai visited Esther to heal her. As great as he was, he may have possessed power to remove the effects of any curses placed on Esther.
  • Alshich says Mordechai was concerned that Esther, being a descendant of King Shaul, was going through this tragedy to make up for Shaul’s sin of letting Agag – and thus Amalek – survive.
  • Rav Moshe Meir Weiss takes Mordechai’s checking on his wife every single day without fail, as a lesson for all husbands. He mentions that one of his congregants asked him once to daven for the congregant’s wife while she was having a procedure because the husband would be at work at that time, and unable to be in shul. Rav Weiss responded, “How can you be going to work if your wife is going to the doctor?!” That is a reason to take the day off.