Esther: Hiding, Revealing and Discovering Identity
1 א

(ז) וַיְהִ֨י אֹמֵ֜ן אֶת־הֲדַסָּ֗ה הִ֤יא אֶסְתֵּר֙ בַּת־דֹּד֔וֹ כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין לָ֖הּ אָ֣ב וָאֵ֑ם וְהַנַּעֲרָ֤ה יְפַת־תֹּ֙אַר֙ וְטוֹבַ֣ת מַרְאֶ֔ה וּבְמ֤וֹת אָבִ֙יהָ֙ וְאִמָּ֔הּ לְקָחָ֧הּ מָרְדֳּכַ֛י ל֖וֹ לְבַֽת׃ (ח) וַיְהִ֗י בְּהִשָּׁמַ֤ע דְּבַר־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ וְדָת֔וֹ וּֽבְהִקָּבֵ֞ץ נְעָר֥וֹת רַבּ֛וֹת אֶל־שׁוּשַׁ֥ן הַבִּירָ֖ה אֶל־יַ֣ד הֵגָ֑י וַתִּלָּקַ֤ח אֶסְתֵּר֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־יַ֥ד הֵגַ֖י שֹׁמֵ֥ר הַנָּשִֽׁים׃ (ט) וַתִּיטַ֨ב הַנַּעֲרָ֣ה בְעֵינָיו֮ וַתִּשָּׂ֣א חֶ֣סֶד לְפָנָיו֒ וַ֠יְבַהֵל אֶת־תַּמְרוּקֶ֤יהָ וְאֶת־מָנוֹתֶ֙הָ֙ לָתֵ֣ת לָ֔הּ וְאֵת֙ שֶׁ֣בַע הַנְּעָר֔וֹת הָרְאֻי֥וֹת לָֽתֶת־לָ֖הּ מִבֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַיְשַׁנֶּ֧הָ וְאֶת־נַעֲרוֹתֶ֛יהָ לְט֖וֹב בֵּ֥ית הַנָּשִֽׁים׃ (י) לֹא־הִגִּ֣ידָה אֶסְתֵּ֔ר אֶת־עַמָּ֖הּ וְאֶת־מֽוֹלַדְתָּ֑הּ כִּ֧י מָרְדֳּכַ֛י צִוָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־תַגִּֽיד׃

(7) And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter; for she had neither father nor mother, and the maiden was of beautiful form and fair to look on; and when her father and mother were dead, Mordecai took her for his own daughter. (8) So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was published, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the castle, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken into the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. (9) And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her ointments, with her portions, and the seven maidens, who were meet to be given her out of the king’s house; and he advanced her and her maidens to the best place in the house of the women. (10) Esther had not made known her people nor her kindred; for Mordecai had charged her that she should not tell it.

2 ב

Why does Mordecai ask Esther not to reveal her name?

The names Mordecai and Ester today sound very Jewish, but in reality, they are both names from Babylonian Gods, Marduk and Astarte. What does it mean to have two different names?

Are there times in your life in which you do not want to reveal your Jewish identity? How does that impact upon your life?

3 ג
אֵ֣ין אֶסְתֵּ֗ר מַגֶּ֤דֶת מֽוֹלַדְתָּהּ֙ וְאֶת־עַמָּ֔הּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וְאֶת־מַאֲמַ֤ר מָרְדֳּכַי֙ אֶסְתֵּ֣ר עֹשָׂ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר הָיְתָ֥ה בְאָמְנָ֖ה אִתּֽוֹ׃ (ס)

But Esther still did not reveal her birthplace or her people, as Mordecai had instructed her; for Esther obeyed Mordecai’s bidding, as she had done when she was under his tutelage.

4 ד
רבי יהודה אומר הדסה שמה ולמה נקראת שמה אסתר על שם שהיתה מסתרת דבריה שנאמר אין אסתר מגדת את עמה וגו'

Rabbi Yehuda differs and says: Hadassah was her real name. Why then was she called Esther? Because she concealed [masteret] the truth about herself, as it is stated: “Esther had not yet made known her kindred nor her people” (Esther 2:20).

5 ה

ר' נחמיה אומר הדסה שמה ולמה נקראת אסתר שהיו אומות העולם קורין אותה על שום אסתהר

Rabbi Neḥemya concurs and says: Hadassah was her real name. Why then was she called Esther? This was her non-Hebrew name, for owing to her beauty the nations of the world called her after Istahar.

6 ו
אֵין אֶסְתֵּר מַגֶּדֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ. לְפִי שֶׁמָּרְדְּכַי יוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, הַמְזָרְזָהּ וְהַמְרַמְּזָהּ עַל כָּךְ:
Esther would not reveal [the identity of] her heritage. Because Mordechai was sitting in the king’s gate; he encouraged her and hinted to her about it.
7 ז

There are three different takes here on why Esther would not reveal her name. Who initiates her concealment in each of these takes? What are the different implications of these interpretations?

8 ח
(א) אַחַ֣ר ׀ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה גִּדַּל֩ הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֜וֹשׁ אֶת־הָמָ֧ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֛תָא הָאֲגָגִ֖י וַֽיְנַשְּׂאֵ֑הוּ וַיָּ֙שֶׂם֙ אֶת־כִּסְא֔וֹ מֵעַ֕ל כָּל־הַשָּׂרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִתּֽוֹ׃ (ב) וְכָל־עַבְדֵ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־בְּשַׁ֣עַר הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ כֹּרְעִ֤ים וּמִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִים֙ לְהָמָ֔ן כִּי־כֵ֖ן צִוָּה־ל֣וֹ הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וּמָ֨רְדֳּכַ֔י לֹ֥א יִכְרַ֖ע וְלֹ֥א יִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶֽה׃ (ג) וַיֹּ֨אמְר֜וּ עַבְדֵ֥י הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־בְּשַׁ֥עַר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ לְמָרְדֳּכָ֑י מַדּ֙וּעַ֙ אַתָּ֣ה עוֹבֵ֔ר אֵ֖ת מִצְוַ֥ת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (ד) וַיְהִ֗י באמרם [כְּאָמְרָ֤ם] אֵלָיו֙ י֣וֹם וָי֔וֹם וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵיהֶ֑ם וַיַּגִּ֣ידוּ לְהָמָ֗ן לִרְאוֹת֙ הֲיַֽעַמְדוּ֙ דִּבְרֵ֣י מָרְדֳּכַ֔י כִּֽי־הִגִּ֥יד לָהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־ה֥וּא יְהוּדִֽי׃ (ה) וַיַּ֣רְא הָמָ֔ן כִּי־אֵ֣ין מָרְדֳּכַ֔י כֹּרֵ֥עַ וּמִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה ל֑וֹ וַיִּמָּלֵ֥א הָמָ֖ן חֵמָֽה׃ (ו) וַיִּ֣בֶז בְּעֵינָ֗יו לִשְׁלֹ֤ח יָד֙ בְּמָרְדֳּכַ֣י לְבַדּ֔וֹ כִּֽי־הִגִּ֥ידוּ ל֖וֹ אֶת־עַ֣ם מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וַיְבַקֵּ֣שׁ הָמָ֗ן לְהַשְׁמִ֧יד אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֛ים אֲשֶׁ֛ר בְּכָל־מַלְכ֥וּת אֲחַשְׁוֵר֖וֹשׁ עַ֥ם מָרְדֳּכָֽי׃ (ז) בַּחֹ֤דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן֙ הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ נִיסָ֔ן בִּשְׁנַת֙ שְׁתֵּ֣ים עֶשְׂרֵ֔ה לַמֶּ֖לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֑וֹשׁ הִפִּ֣יל פּוּר֩ ה֨וּא הַגּוֹרָ֜ל לִפְנֵ֣י הָמָ֗ן מִיּ֧וֹם ׀ לְי֛וֹם וּמֵחֹ֛דֶשׁ לְחֹ֥דֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂ֖ר הוּא־חֹ֥דֶשׁ אֲדָֽר׃ (ס) (ח) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הָמָן֙ לַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ יֶשְׁנ֣וֹ עַם־אֶחָ֗ד מְפֻזָּ֤ר וּמְפֹרָד֙ בֵּ֣ין הָֽעַמִּ֔ים בְּכֹ֖ל מְדִינ֣וֹת מַלְכוּתֶ֑ךָ וְדָתֵיהֶ֞ם שֹׁנ֣וֹת מִכָּל־עָ֗ם וְאֶת־דָּתֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֵינָ֣ם עֹשִׂ֔ים וְלַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֵין־שֹׁוֶ֖ה לְהַנִּיחָֽם׃ (ט) אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ ט֔וֹב יִכָּתֵ֖ב לְאַבְּדָ֑ם וַעֲשֶׂ֨רֶת אֲלָפִ֜ים כִּכַּר־כֶּ֗סֶף אֶשְׁקוֹל֙ עַל־יְדֵי֙ עֹשֵׂ֣י הַמְּלָאכָ֔ה לְהָבִ֖יא אֶל־גִּנְזֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (י) וַיָּ֧סַר הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֶת־טַבַּעְתּ֖וֹ מֵעַ֣ל יָד֑וֹ וַֽיִּתְּנָ֗הּ לְהָמָ֧ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֛תָא הָאֲגָגִ֖י צֹרֵ֥ר הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃ (יא) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ לְהָמָ֔ן הַכֶּ֖סֶף נָת֣וּן לָ֑ךְ וְהָעָ֕ם לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת בּ֖וֹ כַּטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵינֶֽיךָ׃
(1) Some time afterward, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite; he advanced him and seated him higher than any of his fellow officials. (2) All the king’s courtiers in the palace gate knelt and bowed low to Haman, for such was the king’s order concerning him; but Mordecai would not kneel or bow low. (3) Then the king’s courtiers who were in the palace gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s order?” (4) When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s resolve would prevail; for he had explained to them that he was a Jew. (5) When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel or bow low to him, Haman was filled with rage. (6) But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone; having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to do away with all the Jews, Mordecai’s people, throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus. (7) In the first month, that is, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, pur—which means “the lot”—was cast before Haman concerning every day and every month, [until it fell on] the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar. (8) Haman then said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them. (9) If it please Your Majesty, let an edict be drawn for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the stewards for deposit in the royal treasury.” (10) Thereupon the king removed his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the foe of the Jews. (11) And the king said, “The money and the people are yours to do with as you see fit.”
9 ט

How do Mordecai's actions reflect on Esther's?

Mordecai's decision to "wear his Judaism" on his sleeve leads to dangerous results? Why do you think the author of the story portrays the plot in this way?

10 י
(יג) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃ (יד) כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃
(13) Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. (14) On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.”
11 יא
(א) בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַה֔וּא נָדְדָ֖ה שְׁנַ֣ת הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לְהָבִ֞יא אֶת־סֵ֤פֶר הַזִּכְרֹנוֹת֙ דִּבְרֵ֣י הַיָּמִ֔ים וַיִּהְי֥וּ נִקְרָאִ֖ים לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (ב) וַיִּמָּצֵ֣א כָת֗וּב אֲשֶׁר֩ הִגִּ֨יד מָרְדֳּכַ֜י עַל־בִּגְתָ֣נָא וָתֶ֗רֶשׁ שְׁנֵי֙ סָרִיסֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ מִשֹּׁמְרֵ֖י הַסַּ֑ף אֲשֶׁ֤ר בִּקְשׁוּ֙ לִשְׁלֹ֣חַ יָ֔ד בַּמֶּ֖לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֽוֹשׁ׃ (ג) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ מַֽה־נַּעֲשָׂ֞ה יְקָ֧ר וּגְדוּלָּ֛ה לְמָרְדֳּכַ֖י עַל־זֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֨אמְר֜וּ נַעֲרֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ מְשָׁ֣רְתָ֔יו לֹא־נַעֲשָׂ֥ה עִמּ֖וֹ דָּבָֽר׃ (ד) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִ֣י בֶחָצֵ֑ר וְהָמָ֣ן בָּ֗א לַחֲצַ֤ר בֵּית־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ הַחִ֣יצוֹנָ֔ה לֵאמֹ֣ר לַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לִתְלוֹת֙ אֶֽת־מָרְדֳּכַ֔י עַל־הָעֵ֖ץ אֲשֶׁר־הֵכִ֥ין לֽוֹ׃ (ה) וַיֹּ֨אמְר֜וּ נַעֲרֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֵלָ֔יו הִנֵּ֥ה הָמָ֖ן עֹמֵ֣ד בֶּחָצֵ֑ר וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ יָבֽוֹא׃ (ו) וַיָּבוֹא֮ הָמָן֒ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ מַה־לַעֲשׂ֕וֹת בָּאִ֕ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֣ץ בִּיקָר֑וֹ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הָמָן֙ בְּלִבּ֔וֹ לְמִ֞י יַחְפֹּ֥ץ הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת יְקָ֖ר יוֹתֵ֥ר מִמֶּֽנִּי׃ (ז) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הָמָ֖ן אֶל־הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ אִ֕ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֥ץ בִּיקָרֽוֹ׃ (ח) יָבִ֙יאוּ֙ לְב֣וּשׁ מַלְכ֔וּת אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָֽבַשׁ־בּ֖וֹ הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְס֗וּס אֲשֶׁ֨ר רָכַ֤ב עָלָיו֙ הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר נִתַּ֛ן כֶּ֥תֶר מַלְכ֖וּת בְּרֹאשֽׁוֹ׃ (ט) וְנָת֨וֹן הַלְּב֜וּשׁ וְהַסּ֗וּס עַל־יַד־אִ֞ישׁ מִשָּׂרֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ הַֽפַּרְתְּמִ֔ים וְהִלְבִּ֙ישׁוּ֙ אֶת־הָאִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֣ץ בִּֽיקָר֑וֹ וְהִרְכִּיבֻ֤הוּ עַל־הַסּוּס֙ בִּרְח֣וֹב הָעִ֔יר וְקָרְא֣וּ לְפָנָ֔יו כָּ֚כָה יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה לָאִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֥ץ בִּיקָרֽוֹ׃ (י) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ לְהָמָ֗ן מַ֠הֵר קַ֣ח אֶת־הַלְּב֤וּשׁ וְאֶת־הַסּוּס֙ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבַּ֔רְתָּ וַֽעֲשֵׂה־כֵן֙ לְמָרְדֳּכַ֣י הַיְּהוּדִ֔י הַיּוֹשֵׁ֖ב בְּשַׁ֣עַר הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ אַל־תַּפֵּ֣ל דָּבָ֔ר מִכֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּֽרְתָּ׃ (יא) וַיִּקַּ֤ח הָמָן֙ אֶת־הַלְּב֣וּשׁ וְאֶת־הַסּ֔וּס וַיַּלְבֵּ֖שׁ אֶֽת־מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וַיַּרְכִּיבֵ֙הוּ֙ בִּרְח֣וֹב הָעִ֔יר וַיִּקְרָ֣א לְפָנָ֔יו כָּ֚כָה יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה לָאִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ חָפֵ֥ץ בִּיקָרֽוֹ׃ (יב) וַיָּ֥שָׁב מָרְדֳּכַ֖י אֶל־שַׁ֣עַר הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְהָמָן֙ נִדְחַ֣ף אֶל־בֵּית֔וֹ אָבֵ֖ל וַחֲפ֥וּי רֹֽאשׁ׃ (יג) וַיְסַפֵּ֨ר הָמָ֜ן לְזֶ֤רֶשׁ אִשְׁתּוֹ֙ וּלְכָל־אֹ֣הֲבָ֔יו אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר קָרָ֑הוּ וַיֹּ֩אמְרוּ֩ ל֨וֹ חֲכָמָ֜יו וְזֶ֣רֶשׁ אִשְׁתּ֗וֹ אִ֣ם מִזֶּ֣רַע הַיְּהוּדִ֡ים מָרְדֳּכַ֞י אֲשֶׁר֩ הַחִלּ֨וֹתָ לִנְפֹּ֤ל לְפָנָיו֙ לֹא־תוּכַ֣ל ל֔וֹ כִּֽי־נָפ֥וֹל תִּפּ֖וֹל לְפָנָֽיו׃ (יד) עוֹדָם֙ מְדַבְּרִ֣ים עִמּ֔וֹ וְסָרִיסֵ֥י הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ הִגִּ֑יעוּ וַיַּבְהִ֙לוּ֙ לְהָבִ֣יא אֶת־הָמָ֔ן אֶל־הַמִּשְׁתֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־עָשְׂתָ֥ה אֶסְתֵּֽר׃
(1) That night, sleep deserted the king, and he ordered the book of records, the annals, to be brought; and it was read to the king. (2) There it was found written that Mordecai had denounced Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the threshold, who had plotted to do away with King Ahasuerus. (3) “What honor or advancement has been conferred on Mordecai for this?” the king inquired. “Nothing at all has been done for him,” replied the king’s servants who were in attendance on him. (4) “Who is in the court?” the king asked. For Haman had just entered the outer court of the royal palace, to speak to the king about having Mordecai impaled on the stake he had prepared for him. (5) “It is Haman standing in the court,” the king’s servants answered him. “Let him enter,” said the king. (6) Haman entered, and the king asked him, “What should be done for a man whom the king desires to honor?” Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?” (7) So Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king desires to honor, (8) let royal garb which the king has worn be brought, and a horse on which the king has ridden and on whose head a royal diadem has been set; (9) and let the attire and the horse be put in the charge of one of the king’s noble courtiers. And let the man whom the king desires to honor be attired and paraded on the horse through the city square, while they proclaim before him: This is what is done for the man whom the king desires to honor!” (10) “Quick, then!” said the king to Haman. “Get the garb and the horse, as you have said, and do this to Mordecai the Jew, who sits in the king’s gate. Omit nothing of all you have proposed.” (11) So Haman took the garb and the horse and arrayed Mordecai and paraded him through the city square; and he proclaimed before him: This is what is done for the man whom the king desires to honor! (12) Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate, while Haman hurried home, his head covered in mourning. (13) There Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had befallen him. His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish stock, you will not overcome him; you will fall before him to your ruin.” (14) While they were still speaking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurriedly brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.
12 יב

Why does Mordecai have to warn Esther?

Why would Esther continue to hide her identity?

What are the conflicts a Jew (or other minority) might feel when they have attained positions of power?

Do you feel the necessity to reveal or hide your identity at certain critical moments?

13 יג
(ה) וַ֠תֹּאמֶר אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֨לֶךְ ט֜וֹב וְאִם־מָצָ֧אתִי חֵ֣ן לְפָנָ֗יו וְכָשֵׁ֤ר הַדָּבָר֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וְטוֹבָ֥ה אֲנִ֖י בְּעֵינָ֑יו יִכָּתֵ֞ב לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶת־הַסְּפָרִ֗ים מַחֲשֶׁ֜בֶת הָמָ֤ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֙תָא֙ הָאֲגָגִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֣ר כָּתַ֗ב לְאַבֵּד֙ אֶת־הַיְּהוּדִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּכָל־מְדִינ֥וֹת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (ו) כִּ֠י אֵיכָכָ֤ה אוּכַל֙ וְֽרָאִ֔יתִי בָּרָעָ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־יִמְצָ֣א אֶת־עַמִּ֑י וְאֵֽיכָכָ֤ה אוּכַל֙ וְֽרָאִ֔יתִי בְּאָבְדַ֖ן מוֹלַדְתִּֽי׃ (ס)
(5) “If it please Your Majesty,” she said, “and if I have won your favor and the proposal seems right to Your Majesty, and if I am pleasing to you—let dispatches be written countermanding those which were written by Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, embodying his plot to annihilate the Jews throughout the king’s provinces. (6) For how can I bear to see the disaster which will befall my people! And how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred!”
14 יד

In the end, Esther reveals her identity to King Ahashverosh and thereby saves her people.

What gives her the motivation to do so in the end?

15 טו

Presentation of Mordekhai and Esther in Chapter 2

Prof Yonatan Grossman

Why did [Mordekhai] command Esther not to reveal her national identity? The question is even more puzzling when we consider that Mordekhai himself reveals the fact that he is a Jew: "For he had told them that he was a Jew" (3:4). This being so, why did he command Esther not to reveal her Jewish identity to those who would ask?...

Why, then, does Esther avoid revealing her ethnic identity? I believe that Bush's (World Bible Commentary, Esther) suggestion is correct: the simplest explanation for Esther's avoidance of revealing her national identity is related to the basic experience shared by many people when they find themselves in a foreign country. The immediate inclination of a foreigner – especially if we are speaking of a Jew living in an anti-Semitic country – is to hide one's Jewish identity. Mordekhai, concerned for the welfare of his adopted daughter, asks her not to reveal that she is Jewish, to try to act like a local girl. This sows the seeds for the background to the national struggle that is going to develop upon publication of the decrees of the anti-Semitic Haman.

But even after we have considered the various different solutions proposed to answer this question (and there are more, in addition to those mentioned above), it is clear that the text itself offers no clue as to the meaning of the concealment of Esther's national identity. The reader hears nothing, either from Mordekhai or from the narrator, and it seems that the concealment of the motive plays an important role in the molding of the reader's experience in this scene. The very fact that Esther's identity is hidden is important for the story, from two different perspectives. First, this fact will play a role in the development of the plot, when it turns out that Haman and his advisors have no idea that Esther is Jewish. Secondly, Esther, in this context, represents a mirror image of the situation of the Jewish nation as a whole. At the beginning of the story they hide their Jewish identity, participating in the feasts of the Persian king ("For all the people who were in Shushan, the capital" – 1:5) and even going by Persian names (Mordekhai, Esther). During the course of the narrative Esther will reveal her Hebrew identity when she stands before the king to plead for her people; reflecting back on the nation, they too will return to their identity when they decree a fast for themselves and afflict themselves. In this context, the narrative emphasizes the hiding of Esther's Jewish identity not because of its reason or purpose, but rather as the point of departure for a narrative in which the issue of Jewish identity in exile is one of the key themes to be explored throughout the text.

16 טז
(א) בִּשְׁנַ֣ת שָׁל֔וֹשׁ לְמַלְכ֖וּת יְהוֹיָקִ֣ים מֶֽלֶךְ־יְהוּדָ֑ה בָּ֣א נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּ֧ר מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֛ל יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם וַיָּ֥צַר עָלֶֽיהָ׃ (ב) וַיִּתֵּן֩ אֲדֹנָ֨י בְּיָד֜וֹ אֶת־יְהוֹיָקִ֣ים מֶֽלֶךְ־יְהוּדָ֗ה וּמִקְצָת֙ כְּלֵ֣י בֵית־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים וַיְבִיאֵ֥ם אֶֽרֶץ־שִׁנְעָ֖ר בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהָ֑יו וְאֶת־הַכֵּלִ֣ים הֵבִ֔יא בֵּ֖ית אוֹצַ֥ר אֱלֹהָֽיו׃ (ג) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לְאַשְׁפְּנַ֖ז רַ֣ב סָרִיסָ֑יו לְהָבִ֞יא מִבְּנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וּמִזֶּ֥רַע הַמְּלוּכָ֖ה וּמִן־הַֽפַּרְתְּמִֽים׃ (ד) יְלָדִ֣ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֵֽין־בָּהֶ֣ם כָּל־מאום [מוּם֩] וְטוֹבֵ֨י מַרְאֶ֜ה וּמַשְׂכִּילִ֣ים בְּכָל־חָכְמָ֗ה וְיֹ֤דְעֵי דַ֙עַת֙ וּמְבִינֵ֣י מַדָּ֔ע וַאֲשֶׁר֙ כֹּ֣חַ בָּהֶ֔ם לַעֲמֹ֖ד בְּהֵיכַ֣ל הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וּֽלֲלַמְּדָ֥ם סֵ֖פֶר וּלְשׁ֥וֹן כַּשְׂדִּֽים׃ (ה) וַיְמַן֩ לָהֶ֨ם הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ דְּבַר־י֣וֹם בְּיוֹמ֗וֹ מִפַּת־בַּ֤ג הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ וּמִיֵּ֣ין מִשְׁתָּ֔יו וּֽלְגַדְּלָ֖ם שָׁנִ֣ים שָׁל֑וֹשׁ וּמִ֨קְצָתָ֔ם יַֽעַמְד֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (ו) וַיְהִ֥י בָהֶ֖ם מִבְּנֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֑ה דָּנִיֵּ֣אל חֲנַנְיָ֔ה מִֽישָׁאֵ֖ל וַעֲזַרְיָֽה׃ (ז) וַיָּ֧שֶׂם לָהֶ֛ם שַׂ֥ר הַסָּרִיסִ֖ים שֵׁמ֑וֹת וַיָּ֨שֶׂם לְדָֽנִיֵּ֜אל בֵּ֣לְטְשַׁאצַּ֗ר וְלַֽחֲנַנְיָה֙ שַׁדְרַ֔ךְ וּלְמִֽישָׁאֵ֣ל מֵישַׁ֔ךְ וְלַעֲזַרְיָ֖ה עֲבֵ֥ד נְגֽוֹ׃ (ח) וַיָּ֤שֶׂם דָּנִיֵּאל֙ עַל־לִבּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹֽא־יִתְגָּאַ֛ל בְּפַתְבַּ֥ג הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וּבְיֵ֣ין מִשְׁתָּ֑יו וַיְבַקֵּשׁ֙ מִשַּׂ֣ר הַסָּרִיסִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר לֹ֥א יִתְגָּאָֽל׃ (ט) וַיִּתֵּ֤ן הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־דָּ֣נִיֵּ֔אל לְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽלְרַחֲמִ֑ים לִפְנֵ֖י שַׂ֥ר הַסָּרִיסִֽים׃ (י) וַיֹּ֜אמֶר שַׂ֤ר הַסָּרִיסִים֙ לְדָ֣נִיֵּ֔אל יָרֵ֤א אֲנִי֙ אֶת־אֲדֹנִ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֣ר מִנָּ֔ה אֶת־מַאֲכַלְכֶ֖ם וְאֶת־מִשְׁתֵּיכֶ֑ם אֲשֶׁ֡ר לָמָּה֩ יִרְאֶ֨ה אֶת־פְּנֵיכֶ֜ם זֹֽעֲפִ֗ים מִן־הַיְלָדִים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר כְּגִֽילְכֶ֔ם וְחִיַּבְתֶּ֥ם אֶת־רֹאשִׁ֖י לַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (יא) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר דָּנִיֵּ֖אל אֶל־הַמֶּלְצַ֑ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר מִנָּה֙ שַׂ֣ר הַסָּֽרִיסִ֔ים עַל־דָּנִיֵּ֣אל חֲנַנְיָ֔ה מִֽישָׁאֵ֖ל וַעֲזַרְיָֽה׃ (יב) נַס־נָ֥א אֶת־עֲבָדֶ֖יךָ יָמִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וְיִתְּנוּ־לָ֜נוּ מִן־הַזֵּרֹעִ֛ים וְנֹאכְלָ֖ה וּמַ֥יִם וְנִשְׁתֶּֽה׃ (יג) וְיֵרָא֤וּ לְפָנֶ֙יךָ֙ מַרְאֵ֔ינוּ וּמַרְאֵה֙ הַיְלָדִ֔ים הָאֹ֣כְלִ֔ים אֵ֖ת פַּתְבַּ֣ג הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְכַאֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּרְאֵ֔ה עֲשֵׂ֖ה עִם־עֲבָדֶֽיךָ׃ (יד) וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע לָהֶ֖ם לַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וַיְנַסֵּ֖ם יָמִ֥ים עֲשָׂרָֽה׃ (טו) וּמִקְצָת֙ יָמִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֔ה נִרְאָ֤ה מַרְאֵיהֶם֙ ט֔וֹב וּבְרִיאֵ֖י בָּשָׂ֑ר מִן־כָּל־הַיְלָדִ֔ים הָאֹ֣כְלִ֔ים אֵ֖ת פַּתְבַּ֥ג הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (טז) וַיְהִ֣י הַמֶּלְצַ֗ר נֹשֵׂא֙ אֶת־פַּתְבָּגָ֔ם וְיֵ֖ין מִשְׁתֵּיהֶ֑ם וְנֹתֵ֥ן לָהֶ֖ם זֵרְעֹנִֽים׃ (יז) וְהַיְלָדִ֤ים הָאֵ֙לֶּה֙ אַרְבַּעְתָּ֔ם נָתַ֨ן לָהֶ֧ם הָֽאֱלֹהִ֛ים מַדָּ֥ע וְהַשְׂכֵּ֖ל בְּכָל־סֵ֣פֶר וְחָכְמָ֑ה וְדָנִיֵּ֣אל הֵבִ֔ין בְּכָל־חָז֖וֹן וַחֲלֹמֽוֹת׃ (יח) וּלְמִקְצָת֙ הַיָּמִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־אָמַ֥ר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ לַהֲבִיאָ֑ם וַיְבִיאֵם֙ שַׂ֣ר הַסָּרִיסִ֔ים לִפְנֵ֖י נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּֽר׃ (יט) וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר אִתָּם֮ הַמֶּלֶךְ֒ וְלֹ֤א נִמְצָא֙ מִכֻּלָּ֔ם כְּדָנִיֵּ֣אל חֲנַנְיָ֔ה מִֽישָׁאֵ֖ל וַעֲזַרְיָ֑ה וַיַּֽעַמְד֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (כ) וְכֹ֗ל דְּבַר֙ חָכְמַ֣ת בִּינָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־בִּקֵּ֥שׁ מֵהֶ֖ם הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַֽיִּמְצָאֵ֞ם עֶ֣שֶׂר יָד֗וֹת עַ֤ל כָּל־הַֽחַרְטֻמִּים֙ הָֽאַשָּׁפִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּכָל־מַלְכוּתֽוֹ׃ (כא) וַֽיְהִי֙ דָּֽנִיֵּ֔אל עַד־שְׁנַ֥ת אַחַ֖ת לְכ֥וֹרֶשׁ הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (פ)

(1) In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. (2) The Lord delivered King Jehoiakim of Judah into his power, together with some of the vessels of the House of God, and he brought them to the land of Shinar to the house of his god; he deposited the vessels in the treasury of his god. (3) Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief officer, to bring some Israelites of royal descent and of the nobility— (4) youths without blemish, handsome, proficient in all wisdom, knowledgeable and intelligent, and capable of serving in the royal palace—and teach them the writings and the language of the Chaldeans. (5) The king allotted daily rations to them from the king’s food and from the wine he drank. They were to be educated for three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s service. (6) Among them were the Judahites Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. (7) The chief officer gave them new names; he named Daniel Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Mishael Meshach, and Azariah Abed-nego. (8) Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or the wine he drank, so he sought permission of the chief officer not to defile himself, (9) and God disposed the chief officer to be kind and compassionate toward Daniel. (10) The chief officer said to Daniel, “I fear that my lord the king, who allotted food and drink to you, will notice that you look out of sorts, unlike the other youths of your age—and you will put my life in jeopardy with the king.” (11) Daniel replied to the guard whom the chief officer had put in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, (12) “Please test your servants for ten days, giving us legumes to eat and water to drink. (13) Then compare our appearance with that of the youths who eat of the king’s food, and do with your servants as you see fit.” (14) He agreed to this plan of theirs, and tested them for ten days. (15) When the ten days were over, they looked better and healthier than all the youths who were eating of the king’s food. (16) So the guard kept on removing their food, and the wine they were supposed to drink, and gave them legumes. (17) God made all four of these young men intelligent and proficient in all writings and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding of visions and dreams of all kinds. (18) When the time the king had set for their presentation had come, the chief officer presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. (19) The king spoke with them, and of them all none was equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so these entered the king’s service. (20) Whenever the king put a question to them requiring wisdom and understanding, he found them to be ten times better than all the magicians and exorcists throughout his realm. (21) Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.