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In the first chapter of Ester, Achashverosh is advised that his queen, Vashti, be removed from her position

‏…וּמַלְכוּתָהּ יִתֵּן הַמֶּלֶךְ לִרְעוּתָהּ הַטּוֹבָה מִמֶּנָּה. וְנִשְׁמַע פִּתְגָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל מַלְכוּתוֹ כִּי רַבָּה הִיא…‏

…and let the king give her queenship to her peer who is better than she. And let the edict of the king be heard — let him establish it in his entire kingdom — that she be a rabba

and Achashverosh did this.

  1. Why did he want his new queen to be a rabba?
  2. In the end, his search for a new queen landed him Ester. Was she, in fact, a rabba?

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closed as too localized by msh210 Feb 28 '13 at 18:40

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5 Answers 5

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1) He assumed only a rabba would be sufficiently well versed in Halacha to respect his decision to hold like the Rashba (Brachot 43a) that one must wash one hand before drinking wine. We see Achashverosh held like this opinion, as it says (Esther 1:7):

וְיֵין מַלְכוּת רָב בְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ
And the rabbi's wine in the hand of the king.

Did Achashverosh only have one hand? Rather he held of this Rashba.

We see Rabba Vashti held this way as well from her name, which properly pronounced is: Washti, a contraction of Wash and Tea. However, while Washti was strict on herself, she was lenient to others, as it says:

לֹא-עָשְׂתָה, אֶת-מַאֲמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, בְּיַד הַסָּרִיסִים
She didn't follow King Achashverosh's opinion to the hand of the servants

Hence she was killed as a Moredet beMalchut.

2) Esther was a rabba too, as were all the women Achashverosh collected, as it says:

וּבְהִקָּבֵץ נְעָרוֹת רַבּוֹת אֶל-שׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה, אֶל-יַד הֵגָי; וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל-בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֶל-יַד הֵגַי
And when maiden rabbot were gathered in Shushan the capital in the care of Hagai, Esther was taken to the kings house to the care of Hagai.

Rabba Esther, who was also a prophetess, certainly was careful about this Halacha. The Torah hints to this in Deut 25:11:

וקרבה אשת האחד להציל את אישה מיד מכהו ושלחה ידה
And the wife of the man (Esther) will come forth to save her husband (Mordochai) from the hand of his oppressor (Haman), and she will send forth her hand.

If Esther was using only one hand to get at Haman at the wine party, it must be because she had washed her other one and didn't want it to touch something impure. (Incidentally, that verse also implies Haman also washed one hand, but that clearly was just to fit in with the king. We know he didn't always hold this way because in 3:9 Haman promises אשקול על ידי עשי המלאכה to pour measured quantities of water on the hands (plural) of his workers.)

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Achashveirosh loved the garments of the Kohein Gadol, and would wear them himself (Megillah 12a). But then he found out that it was prohibited to do so. So he approached Shammai and Hillel and demanded that they convert him to Judaism on condition that he would be made the Kohein Gadol (Shabbos 31a).

When that didn't work, he figured he would marry a Jewish woman and she could be the "Kahana Rabba" (meaning Kohein Gadol in Aramaic). Other Jewish candidates were disqualified because of their pierced ears (B'choros 6:1, which applies to Kohanim as well as B'choros). Esther, however, avoided unnecessary adornments like ear piercings (Esther 2:15), so she was fit to serve as Kahana Rabba.

Note that Esther daughter of Dodo (Esther 2:7) was a bas Kohein as per the Yad Ramah (Bava Basra 160b): "חנמאל בן דודו נמי כהן הוה" ("Chanamel son of Dodo was also a kohein"), the Sefer Yuchsin "הלך על הורקנס דודו ויאסרהו ויקצץ אזנו לבלתי היות כהן" ("he chopped off Hyrcanus Dodo's ear so he could no longer serve as kohein"), the Mabit (Responsa Vol. 2, § 40) "הוא בן דוד כהן" ("he is the son of Dod the kohein"), and the Maharashdam (Responsa, Even HaEzer § 50) "כהן דודו" ("the kohein Dodo").

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Don't forget Shmuel 1:21:6 דודאתהכהן or parsed properly: דוד אתה כהן Dod you are a Kohein. –  Double AA Feb 13 '13 at 17:28

As Hillel taught, where there is no man, try to be a man (Avos 2:5). Since Achashveirosh wasn't much of a man, his wives adopted a traditionally male role.

However, as Abaye said: "באתר דאית גבר תמן לא תהוי גבר", meaning where there's already a man, don't try to be a man (B'rachos 63a). As the nephew of a Rabba, he went by the very masculine name Abaye as a not-so-subtle reminder that there was in fact a man present.

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Yes, Ester was a rabba. G-d gave this idea to Achashverosh in order to fulfill what we say in musaf for Shabbas:

יסמכו במלכותך שומרי שבת

Those who keep Shabbas will be ordained in your kingdom.

Note, however, that this is forbidden to a Jewish king (Devarim 17:17):

וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה-לּוֹ נָשִׁים

He may not have women rabbis.

In fact, whoever does so will go to hell (Avos 1:5):

ואל תרבה שיחה עם האשה ... מכאן אמרו חכמים כל זמן שאדם מרבה שיחה עם האשה ... וסופו יורש גיהנם

And don't even suggest having a woman rabbi. ... From here, the sages said: Whenever a person suggests having a woman rabbi ... his end is to inherit gehinom.

Appointing rabbas was also the cause of the great flood:

וַיַּרְא יְהוָה, כִּי רַבָּה רָעַת הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ, וְכָל-יֵצֶר מַחְשְׁבֹת לִבּוֹ, רַק רַע כָּל-הַיּוֹם

And G-d saw that rabbas are worse than men on the earth, and even for the men, all the thoughts of his heart were only bad all day.

And it was also Sdom's sin:

זַעֲקַת סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה כִּי-רָבָּה

The shout of Sdom and Amorah is that they appoint rabbas!

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Of course Esther was a Rabba! Her semicha dissertation has even been publicly available for centuries!

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