What is her name?
(5) In the fortress Shushan lived a Jew by the name of Mordecai, son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite. (6) [Kish] had been exiled from Jerusalem in the group that was carried into exile along with King Jeconiah of Judah, which had been driven into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.— (7) He was foster father to Hadassah—that is, Esther—his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The maiden was shapely and beautiful; and when her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter.
- Esther comes from the ancient Persian word "star" which means the same in English.
- She has a Hebrew name as well, the same way the heroes in the Book of Daniel also have both local and Hebrew names.
- The King chooses Esther to be his new queen.
- Mordecai has an important position in the palace. He is 'head of security'.
- If we are to believe that the King and his advisers would not be able to know she was Jewish, then we can surmise they were also not aware Mordecai was Jewish and that it was safer then for both of them to be unknown as Jews.
- Although it appears Jews were tolerated, clearly Mordecai is concerned that revealing her identity will also reveal his and so there is likely some anti-Jewish feeling perhaps among some elites and possibly beyond.
...Help for the Jews will come from another place, and not by your hand, and if you think you will escape, you will be killed and all your relatives, too.
- Ibn Ezra argues if Esther does not intercede for the Jewish people, then while God may help all the others, she and her relatives will not receive help.
- Esther is the only person in a position to exert influence directly on the King.
- In order to save the people, Esther must reveal the identity that Mordecai had told her to keep hidden.
- Clearly, Ahasuerus' love for Esther must be greater than any Haman's hatred for the Jewish people, and it appears the King is not bothered in the least Esther is Jewish.
- Rashi has an interesting take on the second part of this verse, 'the adversary is not worthy of the King's trouble'...
- Rashi translates the second part of the sentence to mean the tzar (Haman the enemy) does not consider the nezek ha'melech, the King's loss.
- Rashi is suggesting the King may well be angry both at the fact that Haman (if unwittingly) targeted his beloved Queen and by exterminating the Jewish people he would be passing up on the revenue from their sale as slaves.
The three days appointed by Esther as fast days (Esth. 4:16) were the 13th, 14th, and 15th of Nisan. Mordecai sent back word complaining that these days included the first day of Passover! To which she replied: "Jewish elder! Without an Israel, why should there be Passover?" Mordecai understood and canceled the Passover festivity, replacing it with a fast (Esth. R. 8:6). Esther's motive in inviting Haman to the banquet was that he should not discover that she was Jewish, and that the Jews should not say: "We have a sister in the king's palace," and so neglect to pray for God's mercy. She also thought that by being friendly to Haman she would rouse the king's jealousy to such an extent that he would kill both of them (Meg. 15b) -- Encyclopedia Judaica Esther
- Esther, like Miriam, is in a unique and powerful position to intercede with the royal house on behalf Jews.
- Like Moses, Esther lives anonymously among the natives in the royal house until a 'moment of truth' when, for both characters, the Jewish people are suffering and in need of leadership to help them.
- With Moses, it's clear God intervenes and is the real source of saving power. With Esther, God is more hidden, some argue when Mordecai says "Help will come from another place", he means from God, but there is no direct mention of God here. The Purim story is a satire exploring Jewish identity in exile, and we may argue that Jewish ingenuity is the saving power here.
- However, the Kabbalists maintain that when we go into exile, the Shechinah also goes into exile with us, and so although, like today, God does not seem to speak directly to us, God clearly is eternal and present. If Esther descends from Saul, chosen by God through the prophet Samuel, then Esther is also part of that tradition.