Esther 4:16, Question 7. Why does Esther mention her maidens fasting?

  • The Maharal writes that Esther’s servants fasted because, if Achashverosh accuses Esther of lacking fear for him by approaching him without being summoned, she can explain that she feared him so much, she fasted. If she is no believed, she can point to the fact that even her servants fasted.
  • According to the Ohel Moshe, Esther has her maidens fast because of the Talmudic concept (Brachos 34b) that the agent of a person is the extension of that person.
  • The Sefer HaChaim writes that, grammatically, atzum (“I will fast”) is in the singular, and Esther meant that she could only encourage her servants to fast.
  • The Maharal writes that the idea that there is power in numbers is only relevant for men because women never lose their individual identities, as men should in gatherings like a minyan. This is why Esther uses the singular form of the word here.
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Esther 4:16, Question 1. Why does Esther ask Mordechai to gather the Jews?

טז לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶתכָּלהַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן וְצוּמוּ עׇלַי וְאַלתֹּאכְלוּ וְאַלתִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם גַּםאֲנִי וְנַֽעֲרֹתַי אָצוּם כֵּן וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶלהַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר לֹאכַדָּת וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי אָבָדְתִּי

16. “Go gather all of the Yehudim found in Shushan and have them fast for me, and not eat, and not drink three days, night and day. Also I and my maidens will fast so. And so I will go to the king, which is not like the law. And as I will be destroyed, I will be destroyed.”

  • According to Me’am Loez, Esther wanted to bring the Jews together in order to contradict Haman’s slander in Esther 3:5 that the Jews were not unified.
  • According to Vidibarta Bam, the sale of Yosef is one opinion in the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:25) for the Jews’ existence to be threatened. Unity for that prayer would be the correction of this sale.
  • According to Nachal Eshkol, the gematria of kinos (“gather”) (20+50+6+60= 136) is the same as kol, (“voice”) (100+6+30= 136). The voice is usually symbolic throughout Torah literature of prayer, and thus indicates that Esther also requested that the Jews pray for her, as is indicated in the fact that they did so in Esther 9:31.
  • Why, in fact, did the verse then not say explicitly that the Jews prayed? As Rav Avigdor Miller points out in Torah Nation, if the authors of Megillas Esther would write that the Jews prayed, they would also have to write to Whom they prayed. However, since Megillas Esther regularly performs mental acrobatics to avoid using H-Shem’s Name, it did not mention the Jews’ praying.
  • R’ Yechezkiel Levenstein quotes the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 7:19), which writes that after the decree against the Jews, the Torah dressed in widow’s garb, the angels cried, the sun and the moon dimmed, etc. Only the prayer of Mordechai, one man, could overturn the decree. Of course, prayer is powerful, but as the Maharal points out from the Talmud (Brachos 8a), prayer together in a gathering (at least a minyan) is amplified.

Esther 2:10, Question 2. What is the difference between nationality and lineage?

  • Is Judaism a nationality or a lineage? It is neither, really. Judaism is unique in that it breaks through all of the sociological definitions of groups. It is not a religion because one can be Jewish and yet not observant and not a believer in Jewish ideals, and still can be counted for a minyan. It is not a nationality because one has to be (or have parents who are) from a particular place, and Judaism has converts. It is not a “race” because Jews can have different colors, body types, hair textures, and any of the other qualifiers for this designation.
  • According to the Iyun Yaakov, everybody in Persia wanted to know Esther’s nationality because she looked like she could come from any nation, as the Talmud (Megillah 13a) asserts. Only the king was interested in her lineage to see if she was fitting for a king to marry. He would have less problem marrying her if she were not a commoner, but of royal blood.
  • The Rambam notes in his commentary on Megillas Esther that it is interesting that, although Achashverosh offered tax exemptions and other rewards for anyone who would share information regarding Esther’s background, the Jews unanimously refused to give her up, despite their dire poverty. Regarding this, the Rambam comments, paraphrasing a blessing in Mincha for Shabbos, “Mi ka’amcha, Yisroel!” (“Which nation is like you, Israel!”)