There are two women that made a similar act. Esther went to Achashverosh to save Jews and Yael tempted Sisra to kill him and save Jews.

I want to compare among these acts.

  • Does Yael was forbidden to her husband as Esther (כאשר אבדתי אבדתי in Megila 15a)?
  • According to Yael we say "גדולה עבירה לשמה ממצוה שלא לשמה" (Nazir 23b,Horayot 10b) "Better a transgression for the sake [of heaven] than a mitzvah that is not for the sake [of heaven]". Does not the same apply to Esther?
  • I suspect (no source) that the answer may have something to do with who they were and what level they were on beforehand.
    – HodofHod
    Jul 15, 2012 at 2:02
  • 2
    Did Yael actually sleep with Sisera? I thought she just gave him milk. Jul 15, 2012 at 4:46
  • Your translation of the passage from Horayot is a bit strange. Why do you understand the first "לשמה" as meaning "for the name of God" and the second "לשמה" as meaning "[not] for personal enjoyment"? I think that it would be better to be more consistent. Maybe something like, "Better a transgression for the sake [of heaven] than a mitzvah that is not for the sake [of heaven]."
    – Shimon bM
    Jul 15, 2012 at 6:08
  • @ShimonbM thanks for help with translation, fixed.
    – jutky
    Jul 15, 2012 at 10:10
  • @CharlesKoppelman it is explicit gemorah, look at Horayot that I cited.
    – jutky
    Jul 15, 2012 at 10:13

1 Answer 1


To respond only to your second question, there is a relevant passage in the gemara on Sanhedrin 74b. An objection is raised that concerns how Esther could have submitted herself publicly to Ahashverosh when we learn that it is better to die than to commit the sin of 'forbidden relations'. The terse resolution of Abayye is to suggest that "Esther was like the ground" (אסתר קרקע עולם היתה) - in other words, she was completely passive (acc. to Rashi).

Given that this doesn't appear to resolve the gemara's problem, which is how what she did could have been done publicly, Tosafot (s.v. והא אסתר פרהסיא הואי) suggest that the crime of forbidden relations only applies in such a case as the person is actively involved. They learn this out by analogy from the crime of murder, which is one of the other three transgressions that a person must die rather than commit. In an event in which a person is only passively involved in murdering another (their example is of a person being thrown onto another), they can exempt themselves by applying the principle, "מאי חזית דדמא דחבראי סומק טפי דלמא דמא דידי סומק טפי" ("What do you see [to make you think] that my friend's blood is redder? Perhaps my own blood is redder").

Based on the understanding of Tosafot, you might therefore say that Esther didn't actually commit a transgression at all.


If you're interested, Reb Chaim Brisker has a fascinating analysis of this Tosafot, in which he attempts to resolve it with the Rambam's opinion (the latter being learnt out solely from the fact that he doesn't mention this resolution to the problem). I find Reb Chaim's discourses to be considerably beyond my level of competence, personally, and if you're like me in that regard, Rabbi Yonason Hughes has an excellent book called Understanding Reb Chaim (Israel: 2010). He addresses this passage in the first discourse: "Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah".

  • But isn't a woman required to at least initially try to resist rape for it not to be considered adultery? This comes from the expression that even if she ends up enjoying it in the end, as long as she resisted in the beginning she's patur. From Rambam IIRC. Jun 24, 2014 at 17:01

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