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Esther 4:16 says:

גם אני ונערותי אצום כן

Me and my "girls" will also fast

Who were these "girls", and Why did she make these girls fast? Were they Jewish (converted, perhaps)? I assume that they were appointed by the king, and, I guess the king would check in on things, no? So, if they were Jewish at the end, wouldn't the king know about this, or did they become faithful to Esther moreso than to Ahashverush?

  • I had a similar question about Hasach -- he is a singular but when he relays information, the verb is in the plural as if he traveled with a group. – rosends Mar 5 '15 at 20:55
  • A medrash, brought down by the Artscroll Youth Megillah, says that Esther had 7 maidservants, to keep track of the days of the week incognito...I always assumed that these were they, but I don't have a source on-hand that makes the connection explicitly. – Shokhet Mar 5 '15 at 22:00
  • See this post. – Fred Mar 6 '15 at 1:31
  • @Fred - This is a good answer, I think! – DanF Mar 6 '15 at 2:21
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I looked at the commentaries on this, but didn't find anything. If i had to take a guess, i'd say they are the 7 girls given to Ester while in the harem (see 2:9 -- וְאֵת שֶׁבַע הַנְּעָרוֹת הָרְאֻיוֹת לָתֶת לָהּ מִבֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ).

These girls are also mentioned in Ester 4:4: וַתָּבוֹאנָה נַעֲרוֹת אֶסְתֵּר וְסָרִיסֶיהָ

So, it's highly likely that these maids are the girls who fasted with her.

  • Sounds like a plausible answer. If you can find support to this, later, please edit. – DanF Mar 6 '15 at 1:14
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A good question. The Aramaic Targum repeats the ambiguity of the passage, "אנא ועולימתי נצום" (Me and my young women will fast), and there is almost no discussion of this issue in the classic biblical commentaries.

The only explanation I could find was in Ibn Ezra (in his second commentary to Esther), who writes that these girls are "השפחות" (the female slaves/handmaidens to Queen Esther). Thus, they were likely "the seven suitable girls who were given to her from the king's house" (Es. 2:9, and as noted by Cnsersmoit).

According to the commentaries and midrashim on 2:9, these were Persian girls who were not Jewish, but chosen for their virtue and good character. There is a midrash that Esther arranged every girl to see her one day a week, so that the Shabbat girl would not think anything strange and assume Esther rested all week long.

The Me'am Lo'ez for Esther (written by Rabbi Raphael Chiyya Pontremoli in the 1860s), in reference to the Yaarot Devash, describes the palace women's understanding of Esther in a way that would aptly fit her handmaiden's understanding of the command to fast:

[The women] did not know enough about Judaism to realize that this was the reason for her actions. They knew that she was an aristocratic stranger with a good chance of being queen, and they assumed that her idiosyncrasies were part of the image that she was trying to protect.

  • There is a midrash that Esther arranged every girl to see her one day a week - Sometimes Midrash has a tendency to explain what appears as "coincidence". I.e. - Hashem had the number 7 in mind for Achashverush's maiden appointment so that Esther could use them in this way. – DanF Mar 6 '15 at 14:20
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In his Peirush to Megilat Esther, R. Saadia Gaon writes that these maidservants were chosen by Esther, not Ahashverosh. He says that this posuk indicates that she picked only the ones who were monotheists, since if they were idolaters Esther would not have asked them to fast too.

The Peirush Rabi Yosef ben Nahmias to Megilat Esther comments similarly:

ויראה שהי׳ לה נערות עובדות ה׳ כי אם היו עובדות האלילים מה תועלת בצומם

And also, Sefer Eshkol haKofer, p. 74, but there it brings that they were Jewish like Esther:

ואמרה וגם אני ונערותי אצום כן להורות שהיו יהודיות כמוה

I would assume that Ahashverosh didn't knew their background, as well as he didn't knwe Esther's background at that time.

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