You May Say that Esther has a Bad Name yet She was Worthy that the Holy Spirit be Clothed by Her
“Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehotsadaq: By a majority vote, it was resolved in the upper chambers of the house of Nitsa in Lydda that in every law of Torah, if a man is told, ‘Transgress and you will not be killed,’ he may transgress and not be killed, except for idolatry, incest [including adultery], and murder.… But Esther [her transgression] was public! Abbaye said: Esther was [merely] soil, and the self pleasure [of the aggressor] is different” (BT Sanhedrin 74a–b).
“Rabbi Zera said: Why was Esther compared to a doe [see BT Megillah 15b]? To tell you that just as a doe has a narrow womb and is desirable to her mate at all times as at the first time, so was Esther precious to King Ahasuerus at all times as at the first time” (BT Yoma 29b).
“The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the other virgins (Esther 2:17). Rav said, ‘If he wished to taste the flavor of a virgin he tasted it; the flavor of a married woman, he tasted it’” (BT Megillah 13a, cf. Zohar 3:58b).
“[And it happened on the third day that Esther donned מַלְכוּת (malkhut), royal, garb] and stood in the inner court of the king’s house (Esther 5:1). Rabbi Levi said: When she reached the chamber of the idols, the Shekhinah [Malkhut] left her. She said, My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Psalms 22:2). Perhaps You judge an inadvertent offence as intentional, or one done under compulsion like one done willingly? Or is it because I called [Haman] ‘cur,’ as it says, Save from the sword my life, from the cur’s hand my person (ibid., 21). She immediately retracted and called him lion, as it says, Rescue me from the lion’s mouth (ibid., 22)” (BT Megillah 15b).
“[The Faithful Shepherd said:] ‘Rabbis: We are commanded to punish whoever defames someone, as is written, And they shall fine him a hundred weights of silver and give it to the young woman’s father, for he put out a bad name for a virgin in Israel (Deuteronomy 22:19). This is after the wedding, since he says, ‘I found no signs of virginity for your daughter’ (ibid., 17). Not all bad names are alike, since the scouts who put out a bad name on the Land were punished for it by dying and not meriting her, and a woman is as soil [or: earth] like the explanation that Esther was [merely] soil.
You may say that Esther has a bad name, that she was defiled by Ahasuerus, yet she was worthy that the Holy Spirit be clothed by her, as is written, Esther donned מַלְכוּת (malkhut), royal, garb (Esther 5:1). Yet the blessed Holy One said, I am YHWH, that is My name, and My glory I will not give to another nor My acclaim to the idols (Isaiah 42:8). [And yet,] the Holy Spirit is the Shekhinah, a name that was clothed by Esther….’
The Masters of Mishnah say: It is said of the Matronita: And מַלְכוּתוֹ (malkhuto), His kingdom, rules over all (Psalms 103:19). After Esther donned [royal garb, i.e., Shekhinah/Malkhut] she ruled over Ahasuerus and his people, and it is said of them, [And the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled and defended their lives and had respite from their enemies] and killed of foes, [seventy-five thousand, but they did not lay hands on the spoils] (Esther 9:16). If you say that [Ahasuerus] coupled with her, perish the thought, though they were in the same house. Rather it was like Joseph [and the wife of Potiphar] of whom it says, and she laid out his garment by her (Genesis 39:16). בִּגְדוֹ (Bigdo), his garment—similarly traitors betrayed, בָּגָדוּ (bagadu), in betrayal, betrayed (Isaiah 24:16) [on the numerous parallels between the stories of Joseph and Esther, see BT Megillah 13b; Midrash Abba Guryon 11b; Panim Aherot B, 64, 66, 72; Ester Rabbah 7:7. Cf. Tanḥuma (Buber), Va-yiggash 11: ‘Come and see: All that befell Joseph befell Zion’].
There is a great סִתְרָא (sitra), mystery, here, which is why אֶסְתֵּר (Ester), Esther, is derived from סֵתֶר (seter), secret, as is written, You are seter, a hiding place, for me (Psalms 32:7) [cf. BT Ḥullin 139b], since the Shekhinah hid her from Ahasuerus and gave him a שִׁדָּה (shiddah), concubine, instead while she returned to Mordecai’s arm. And Mordecai, who knew the explicit Name and the seventy tongues, did all this with wisdom [on having the knowledge of seventy languages, see BT Megillah 13b; Sanhedrin 17a]. And thus the Masters of Mishnah said, even still, a man must coo with his wife before he unites with her, for perhaps she has been swapped with שֵׁידָה (sheidah), a demoness [see BT Nedarim 20b]” (Zohar 3:276a–b, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Zohar 2:277a).
“יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים (Yom ha-Kippurim), the Day of Atonements (Leviticus 23:27)—in the future we will delight in that day and transform it from suffering to delight [i.e., יוֹם כִּפּוּר (Yom Kippur), the Day of Atonement, will become יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים (yom ha-ki-Purim), the day like Purim (a joyous holiday)]…. and just as on that day [the priest (Ḥesed)] adorns himself with the garments of atonement so too, regarding Esther it is written, she donned royal garb (Esther 5:1). Just as with these [white garments of the priest] he enters the innermost sanctuary [hoping to obtain atonement for Israel], so too, she stood in the inner court of the king’s house… and she found favor in his eyes (ibid., 2) [cf. Zohar 3:67a; ibid., 109a: ‘And with each and every mere (mention of), הַמֶּלֶךְ (ha-melekh), the king (in the Book of Esther), this is the blessed Holy One’].
Now, what caused the Shekhinah to suffer exile? The mystery of the matter: And so, I shall come to the king not according to rule (Esther 4:16). Because she came without her husband, of whom it says, at His right hand was a fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2). They abandoned Torah and this caused the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, as is written, and if I perish, I perish! [alluding to two destructions] (Esther ibid.).
Nevertheless, even though she entered without her husband, [namely] words of Torah, she still entered with the [merit of the] Patriarchs [who are]: three days, night and day (ibid.), for which she fasted. They were witnesses that the young woman went before the king, as it says, and in this fashion would the young woman come to the king (ibid. 2:13). She who went in to the king indeed remained a virgin, for no man knew her other than her husband….
Regarding this it is written, and he became guardian to Hadassah (Esther 2:7) [cf. BT Megillah 13a]—[Mordecai] was faithful to her, and she was faithful to him, as is written: and Esther did what Mordecai said, for she was under his guardianship (ibid. 2:20)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 21, 57b).