Esther 4:16, Question 10. Why is “I will be destroyed” written twice here?

  • The Malbim points out how this verse shows how selfless Esther was. According to him, what Esther was saying was that, if she is punished for approaching the king, at least only she will die – and the rest of the Jews will remain.
  • The Talmud (Megillah 15a) writes that Esther’s repeating “I will be destroyed” means that, just as she lost her father by being orphaned, so is she expecting to lose to her relationship to Mordechai through this act.
  • R’ Henach Leibowitz explains the Talmud’s use of the phrase “my father’s house” that one of our duties in life is to utilize our past experiences to further our personal growth. He continues that an orphan, like Esther, should use the loss of their parents to reawaken the feeling of trust in H-Shem that orphan had when still with parents.
  • R’ Moshe Dovid Valle writes that Esther used this phrase to indicate that she knew she would be disappointing one king or another – either Achashverosh or the King of kings. Either way, she was concerned she would be losing one king.
  • R’ Shimon Schwab wonders why Esther is concerned about losing her husband if she is anyway using a sheid to get out of relations with Achashverosh. He explains that the demon was created miraculously in reward for her resisting the gentile king. Such a miracle would not occur once she submits to him.
  • R’ David Forman writes in The Queen You Thought You Knew that there is a parallel verse in the Torah where the word ka’asher is followed by a double-verb. When Yaakov allows his sons to bring Binyamin to Mitzrayim he says, “ka’asher shakolti, shakolti” (“as I am mourning, so I am mourning”) (Bireishis 33:14). The parallel phrasing also parallels similar situations of national strife; Just as there, friction between Jews caused the threat on Jewish existence, and peace between Jews would bring their redemption.
  • Class participant RS pointed out another parallel in the fact that Esther descends from King Shaul, who was from the tribe of Binyamin.
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Esther 4:14, Question 5. Why does Mordechai reference Esther’s “father’s house?”

  • R’ Dovid Feinstein points out that, since Mordechai raised and taught Esther, he is in a sense her father. When Mordechai references Esther’s “father’s house,” he is saying that her apathy to the needs of the Jewish people will be a mark of shame upon him.
  • Pachad Yitzchak writes that prayer is the tool of our ancestors, so Mordechai is telling Esther to utilize the power of her “father’s house” – prayer – to save the Jews from their current threat. When someone approaches an earthly king, it is one thing to provide him with a gift, but something altogether more powerful if one has the references. The king would be more likely to listen to the request because he feels like he has more of a connection with the requester.
  • In explaining this verse, R’ Henoch Leibowitz quotes a Midrash (Tehillim 22) that advises people to “push away with the right hand, and pull people in with the left.” In this case, Mordechai’s methods of convincing Esther to approach the king include “pulling with the left” by his reminding her of her noble, royal roots, and also “pushing away with the right” by warning her to not lose her chance. As R’ Leibowitz continues, if Esther – as righteous as she is – needs this form of convincing, how much more-so do we need to utilize this in our relationships with people. Instead of yelling at a child for doing something wrong, it is important to tell the child, “Doing this is beneath you.”
  • According to the Akeidas Yitzchak, Mordechai’s reference to Esther’s “father’s house” was meant to emphasize that, considering the precarious state of the Jewish people, she should use her Jewish lineage as an explanation as to why she should be allowed to visit the king unbidden.
  • The Alshich and the Megillas Sesarim both say that the “father’s house” is a reference to King Shaul, and his sin of allowing Agag to live when he had the chance to fulfill the command to obliterate Amalek. It thus become Esther’s duty to undo that error.
  • R’ Yehonason Eibshutz notes historically, there is always someone standing in the way of the Jews earning their rescue. In this case, it was Haman. Mordechai was thus telling Esther that he could, himself, get rid of Haman, but that would not make up for Esther’s ancestor’s mistake, which only she could accomplish. Halachically, Esther’s going to Achashverosh voluntarily would forbid her to Mordechai as a wife forever.
  • The Ginzei HaMelech also points out that Shaul did go through the steps of teshuva (Shmuel 1 15:26, 28). This being the case, why does Esther need to fix his error? Although regret is one step in teshuva, the result of his actions still remained. There is a story of a woman who felt her husband was emotionally abusive. The rabbi she consulted told her to purchase a block of wood and bag of nails. Each time she felt abused, he said, she should hammer a nail into the block of wood. After a few such incidents, the husband became curious about the loud knocking his wife would initiate after each fight. He asked her about it, and the wife told him what the rav had said, and showed him this porcupine of a block of wood. He instantly felt regret for his past deeds, and he made a deal that for every nice act of his toward her, she would remove one nail. Eventually, the block was nail-free. The husband said, “Look! It’s all better! There are no more nails!” “Yes,” she said, “The nails are gone…but the holes are still there.” A sin can be erased, but the consequences of that sin can last forever.

Esther 2:20, Question 1. Why does the verse repeat “lineage and nation” as in 2:10?

כ אֵין אֶסְתֵּר מַגֶּדֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ וְאֶתעַמָּהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ מָרְדֳּכָי וְאֶתמַאֲמַר מָרְדֳּכַי אֶסְתֵּר עֹשָׂה כַּֽאֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה בְאָמְנָה אִתּוֹ

20. And Esther did not reveal her lineage and her nation as Mordechai commanded her, and the instruction of Mordechai Esther did just as she did in being raised by him.

  • Eitz Yosef writes that, earlier (2:10), before Esther was introduced to Achashverosh, Mordechai did not want the knowledge of Esther’s royal lineage to encourage the king to choose her (as we’ve said before). Now that she was already chosen, she no longer had this reason, and she refused to identify her royal stock out of modest humility.
  • The Malbim writes that, despite the fact that she was no longer under Mordechai’s direct influence, and despite the many tactics of the king, she still refused to identify her people. The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 6:12) comments that Esther’s silence was an innate, genetic family trait learned from Rachel, her ancestor. Rachel famously stayed silent in the face of her sister marrying her beloved Yaakov (see Bireishis 29:25 and Rashi there). Decades later, Rachel’s son, Benyamin, stayed silent about the sale of Yosef, despite mourning for his brother to the point of naming all of his ten sons after him (see Bireishis 46:21 and Rashi there). King Shaul, Rachel’s descendant, too, was silent (Shmuel 1 10:16) about being made king by the prophet Shmuel. The Midrash is teaching, therefore, that it was due to Esther’s lineage – her ancestral ability to stay silent in the face of adversity – that allowed her to stay silent now.
  • The Ohel Moshe points out that silence is not always good. Although the Mishnah praises silence (Avos 1:17) as the best thing “for a body,” this seems to contradict the verse in Koheles (3:7) which states that “there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” The Alshich and Maharal both point out that the Mishnah specifically says silence is good for the body, meaning that silence is always good for the physical body, but silence is not always ideal for the soul. The Ohel Moshe concludes from this that all of Esther’s relatives praised in the Midrash for being silent were pure enough to know when to speak, and when to be silent.

Esther 2:10, Question 1. Why does Esther not reveal this information?

י לֹאהִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר אֶתעַמָּהּ וְאֶתמוֹלַדְתָּהּ כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר לֹאתַגִּיד

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.”

Esther 2:5, Question 4. Why does the verse mention Mordechai’s lineage?

  • In the Talmud’s lengthy exposition on this verse (Megillah 12b-13a), the Rabbis note that the verse seemingly mentions these ancestors of Mordechai out of order, skipping around generations. For example, Shimi was a distant descendant of Kish (Targum Sheini to Esther 2:5), not his son. The Rabbis therefore expound on these names as indicating Mordechai’s characteristics. He was the “son of Yair” in that he brightened (“hey’ir”) the eyes of the Jews to prayer; he was the “son of Shimi” in that his prayers were listened to (“shema”) by H-Shem; he was the “son of Kish” in that he knocked (“hikish”) at the Gates of Mercy. The Ohel Moshe asks the question: should not the fact that his prayers were listened to be more important – thus listed before – than his act of “brightening the eyes” of others to pray? After all, his prayers being answered saved the Jews! He answers that, indeed, as powerful as Mordechai’s prayers were, the combined power of the Jews he roused with his “great cry” (Esther 4:1) led to an unprecedented era of teshuva, return, whose cornerstone is prayer.
  • But like every great man, he was not without his detractors and controversy. Another opinion in the Talmud there (Rava) states that the tribes would deflect from themselves responsibility for Mordechai’s seemingly causing Jewish existence to be threatened in the Purim story, as we will discuss (iy”H) when we get to it (in Esther 3:6). The Jews blamed Yehudah for King David’s (a member of Yehudah) not killing Shimi ben Geira (Shmuel 2 16:7-13 and Melachim 1 2:9), and they blamed Benyamin for King Shaul’s (a member of Benyamin) not killing Agag, ancestor of Haman. Interestingly, Rav Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz notes that Shaul is noticeably missing in this list of ancestors (see Shmuel 1 9:1). Possibly, this could be a way to avoid embarrassing Mordechai for this relation, especially in light of Shaul’s embarrassing failure to wipe out Amalek leading to the Purim story. Otherwise, Rav Alkabetz ventures to opine that Mordechai could be a “gilgul,” (“reincarnation”) of King Shaul.