The Malbim says that the verse describes Heigai as both “eunuch of the king” “guard of the women” to emphasize the legitimacy of his advice. As an officer of the king, Heigai knew the king well enough to understand his particular likes. And as guard of the women, he was perceptive of their behavior and was familiar with their best beauty tricks.
י לֹא–הִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר אֶת–עַמָּהּ וְאֶת–מוֹלַדְתָּהּ כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא–תַגִּיד
10. And Esther did not reveal her nation and her lineage because Mordechai commanded her not to reveal.
- Rashi gives two reasons for Esther to not reveal her lineage. First, if she were to reveal that she was Jewish, she would be dismissed from the contest since Jews were then seen as the lowest of the low. On the other hand, her lineage was from King Shaul, and Achashverosh might prize that information, reveling in the fact that he’s marrying Jewish royalty. Either she will get dismissed and lose the opportunity to do this important deed for her people, or she will have to sacrifice her holiness in being chosen by the king.
- Malbim writes that this verse demonstrates that Esther resisted being swayed by the luxuries and creature comforts afforded her by Heigai (see previous verse).
- The Binyan Ariel points out that the reason Vashti was removed to begin with is that Achashverosh wanted to show off the beauty of her nation to the dignitaries at his party to prove that women of her nation were the most beautiful. If Achashverosh does not know Esther’s nationality, he would not do the same with her. If he were to have attempted this, Esther would have refused, leading to another dead queen.
- A Purim-Torah suggestion regarding the actual word “higida” (“related”): Perhaps this word is used because, as we shall see with H-Shem’s Help when we get to 4:16, Esther and Mordechai annulled Pesach in the year of the Purim miracle (Talmud, Megillah 15a), and there was therefore no Pesach Seder with its accompanying Haggadah. Thus, “lo higida Esther” may be interpreted as “Esther annulled the Haggada.”
Rav Chaim Kanievsky says that all three opinions in the Talmud regarding the food Esther ate (as we in the last post) can be correct. First, Heigai tried to give her non-kosher food. When she refused it without telling the reason, he tried “Jewish food,” and then seeds and whatever else might work. Therefore, “tamrookeha” (“her cosmetics”) is spelled in full because he gave her the same variety of cosmetics as the other women. However, “manoseha” (“her portions”) is spelled missing a letter yud because Esther’s portion of food was lacking in variety, as can happen with a kosher diet.
- One opinion in the Talmud (Megillah 13a) tells us that the “changes” mentioned here refer to Heigai giving Esther “Jewish food,” which presumably means kosher food.
- Another opinion is that he gave her pork bacon.
- A third opinion, that of Rabbi Yochanan, says Heigai fed Esther seeds. His proof is that, in regard to Daniel and his comrades, the verse (Daniel 1:16) says “The cook took away the bread, and also gave them to eat seeds.”
- If she did eat kosher food, Ben Ish Chai in Ben Yehoyadah wants to know why this did not give away her Jewish identity. He answers that, first of all, everybody knew she was from Mordechai’s house (as we mentioned in a previous blog), so it was possible she became used to kosher food in his house even if she were not Jewish. He also says that kosher food has a reputation for being more healthy than non-kosher food (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129649433), anyway, and it was safe to assume Esther may have preferred it for that reason. Perhaps this last idea is alluded to in the Talmud’s use of the phrase “Jewish food” rather than “kosher food.” In other words, he gave her food to eat the way a Jew is supposed to eat, primarily for health reasons and nothing more (Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Deyos 4:1).
- Actually, regarding seeds, there is a custom (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:2, Mishnah Berurah ibid., sub-paragraph 11) on the night of Purim to eat edible seeds (sunflower seeds, etc.) because of this verse. What is interesting is that the custom is to eat the seeds specifically at night. Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss suggests that we do this at night because Esther was eating seeds in an attempt to hide her identity while simultaneously abiding by Jewish dietary laws. We, too, follow suit by eating the seeds at night, a time of secrecy.
ט וַתִּיטַב הַנַּעֲרָה בְעֵינָיו וַתִּשָּׂא חֶסֶד לְפָנָיו וַיְבַהֵל אֶת–תַּמְרוּקֶיהָ וְאֶת–מָנוֹתֶהָ לָתֵת לָהּ וְאֵת שֶׁבַע הַנְּעָרוֹת הָרְאֻיוֹת לָתֶת–לָהּ מִבֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיְשַׁנֶּהָ וְאֶת–נַעֲרוֹתֶיהָ לְטוֹב בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים
9. And the young woman was good in his eyes and performed kindness before him, and he hurried to prepare her cosmetics and her portions and to give her seven maidservants fitting to give her from the house of the king, and he changed for her and her maidservants to the good of the house of women.
Both the Malbim and Rav Dovid Feinstein remark that Heigai hurried to bring Esther her cosmetics because he was sure that she would be chosen as queen. He saw from her appearance and her behavior that she was exactly what the king wanted. He therefore attempted to ingratiate himself with her to get in the good graces of the future queen.
In a previous verse (2:3), Heigeh’s name is spelled hey, gimel, alef. Here, it is spelled hey, gimel, yud. Perhaps the alef became a yud because there is a difference of nine in gematria (10-1=9), and Heigai is treating nine people differently. Which nine people? Although Esther and her seven maidservants would appear to be eight people, Esther’s other name (Hadassah) is an added personality. Therefore, Heigai had nine new personalities with which to deal.