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What was the purpose of the two parties that Esther made for Haman and Achashverosh (Esther 5:4–8 and chapter 7), if one could have done the job? In other words, what happened that she needed a second party?

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@HodofHod, why tag this with history? Isn't this much more of a question of interpretation of text and tradition? – Isaac Moses Feb 22 '12 at 16:56
@IsaacMoses Perhaps history isn't the best fit, but it does seem that there are several questions in that tag already of the same nature. If you like I/you can remove it, though. – HodofHod Feb 22 '12 at 17:02
@hodOfHod If other questions have history that are like this one, they should be changed to Midrash as well. History is a question of what happened and can be verified by outside sources, not what people are guessing might have happened. – avi Feb 22 '12 at 17:16
@HodofHod This should be moved to meta, and I'm on a train so I can't do that... but yes, that is sort of the definition of midrash. – avi Feb 22 '12 at 17:30
Yeah internet connection on the train was more stable than I realized :) – avi Feb 22 '12 at 17:38
up vote 16 down vote accepted

R' Yonasan Eibeschutz explains as follows:

When Esther entered Achashverosh's throne room, a place full of idols, the Divine Presence left her (Megillah 15b). She realized, then, that such a place is not suitable for a miracle to take place. So she was going to have to get Achashverosh someplace where none of these would be present in order to be successful in her mission; the one place in the palace where that would be the case would be in her own private apartments. So she invited Achashverosh there for a party, and (for reasons listed in the Gemara there) had to invite Haman too.

The problem was that Haman came wearing his favorite outfit, the one on which he had embroidered a design of an idol (Esther Rabbah 7:5). So that spoiled her plan, and she needed to try again.

The next day was the one where Haman ended up having to lead Mordechai in procession around the city. Naturally, he didn't want his "god" having to witness his humiliation! So he wore a different outfit. Now Esther seized her chance: almost as soon as he got home, covered in filth and thoroughly discouraged, "the king's attendants arrived and made him hurry to Esther's party" (6:14) — that was at her instigation, so that he wouldn't have time to change into the outfit with the embroidered images. And so indeed the second party was free of idols, and Esther felt free to make her plea, which indeed was successful.

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This doesn't explain why she invited him to the second party at the first. She couldn't have expected he'd wear idol-free clothes. Or could she have? Can't show up to two state dinners in the same outfit? – msh210 Feb 11 '14 at 21:05

Some of the various reasons given in the g'mara (M'gila 15 amud 2) for Ester's inviting Haman — such as to make sure the Jews not depend on her being their friend in high places and cease praying, to appear to be befriending Haman so as to get him killed, and that pride comes before a fall — are strengthened by her giving two parties rather than one. (No source.)

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The Tora T'mima (note 16, to chapter 5 verse 4) gives, in the G'ra's name, something that may perhaps also serve as a reason she wanted to put off her revelation a day: she wanted him handy at sof nidasah, since that is a good time for instigating an argument between Haman and Achashverosh. (However, it's clear from there that she knew of this reason when she asked Mord'chay to fast, so I don't know why she couldn't put off the fast a day and have only the "second" party.) (No source for its being a possible answer to this question.)

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Simplest answer: it builds a lot more suspense.

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Why would suspense be a motivation? – yydl Jun 3 '11 at 2:46
@yydl, Achashverosh was more likely to respond to her plea if she'd built up more suspense first. – Shalom Jun 3 '11 at 13:00
oh, I thought you meant for the reader. +1 – yydl Jun 3 '11 at 19:37
Shalom, do you have a source for this reasoning? Either way, can you flesh the answer out a bit more? – Isaac Moses Jan 30 '14 at 15:48
Rule of Drama: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfDrama – Codes with Hammer Apr 30 '14 at 14:35

The Vilna Gaon (to Esther 5:8) explains that Esther was worried that Hashem was not interested in saving the Jews at this time, and therefore her entire mission would inevitably fail. So she wanted to delay another day before revealing herself to see if perhaps she would get a Divine sign that Heaven was looking at them favorably. The following night, Haman was instructed to lead Mordechai through the streets in royal garb, which was carried out the following morning. Having received her sign, Esther went ahead and revealed herself at the following party.

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