On the verse of Megilas Esther (4:16)

אשר לא כדת וכאשר אבדתי אבדתי

the Talmud (Meg 15a) says that Esther said, she was going to "violate the Law, because now she was going to intentionally" having an adulterine relation, and [then(?)] "she could not return to her husband"

שלא כדת היה שבכל יום ויום עד עכשיו באונס ועכשיו ברצון כאשר אבדתי מבית אבא אובד ממך

  1. Why this was considered ברצון , she did not go to Achashveirosh in intent of having a relation, she just invited him to a meal?

  2. If it was an issur, so why she did it? And Mordechai even asked her to do so.

  3. So, was there an "heter"? Which? Giluy arayos is יהרג ואל יעבור isn't it? We sometimes hear the notion of להציל כלל ישראל ; is there a difference between a lonely יהרג ואל יעבור and a global one?

  4. And if there was an heter, combined with לא תעמוד על דם רעך , it probably became an obligation; so, why was Esther prohibited to Mordechai? She had no choice and should be considered oness! She even should not be considered מעלה באישה , because her husband also agreed to do so? See also Kesuvos 19a,

השתא אילו אתו לקמן לאימלוכי אמרינן להו זילו חתמו ולא תתקטלון והשתא דחתמו אמרינן להו אמאי חתמיתו

Some thoughts from the discussions below:

On 1: Can we link this with פסיק רישיה ? (So why she was still permitted after saving Achashverosh from Bigtan&Teresh?...)

On 2: Was this kind of aveira lishma, as Talmud (Nazir 23a) says about Yael?

  • 2
    1. Good question. 2. She did an issur to save klal yisroel, i.e. aveira lishma. 3. The fact that he agreed doesn't allow gilui arayos. Wife swapping is not muttar.
    – user6591
    Mar 12, 2017 at 23:05
  • 1. It could be that there was more than just a meal, 2. It could be that she thought that there would be more than just a meal, which didn't materialize, 3. It could be that since she went voluntarily this time, she wasn't considered an Ones anymore. Mar 13, 2017 at 1:36
  • @user6591 2. What exactly means "aveira lishma" please? (You probably think of Nazir 23a on Yael with Sisera, but justly there what is the pshat?) 3. But Mordechai did not just agreed, he ordered her to do so to save the community. Maybe she even can not refuse, somehow like אנוס על פי הדבור ...
    – yO_
    Mar 13, 2017 at 18:27
  • 1
    @yO aveira lishma means that at times it will make make Hashem happier if we sin. This of course is a great line for corrupt cult leaders to destroy everything holy. One thing to consider is that the sin should not be appealing to us. Consider the gemara's statement that Yael had no pleasure from Sisra. This may be hard for us regular people to consider along with Esther doing this lisheim shomaim. The only mashal I can give is somewhat crude. Any straight male can imagine Achashveirosh or Sisra being gay and choosing you. Would you do what they did to save klal Yisroel? Thats aveira lishma.
    – user6591
    Mar 13, 2017 at 18:34
  • 1
    @yO as far as 3. Commanding doesn't matter. See the first sources in the answer. It still does not constitute rape which is the only case where the wife remains permitted to her husband. Take the wife of a Cohen. If she saves the entire nation even through rape she is no longer permitted to her husband. There are laws to arayos. Some are sadder than others. Esther's becoming disallowed to Mordechai is one of those tragedies that not everyone considers.
    – user6591
    Mar 13, 2017 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


See here (footnotes on the commentary on the verse): Two halachik works, the Mahari"K (167) and the Beit Shmuel (178:4) learn from here that even though a woman may commit adultery in order save the community, it still forbids her to her husband.

See there as well that a married woman who had relations with someone else against her will is still permitted to her husband. But if she then goes and has relations with that person willingly, that indicates that even the previous times are retroactively not considered against her will. Therefore the double language of "כאשר אבדתי אבדתי"

There is a great blog that goes through the megilla verse by verse and gathers commentaries on those verses. We can see another reason why she wasn't forbidden to Mordechai until now.

From here:

According to the Zohar (Devarim 226a), H-Shem kept Hadassah hidden by allowing her to utilize mystical powers to create a “sheid,” or demon, to get out of having relations with Achashverosh.

From here:

R’ Ginzburg then quotes the Zichron Shmuel who notes that the initial letters of “me’asher yosheet lo hamelech” (“that the king would extend to him”) spell out “milah” (“circumcision”). This is a hint to the idea mentioned earlier that, in reluctance to have relations with an uncircumcised gentile, Esther would ordinarily send a sheid to take her place. Now, she was afraid that she would have to appear before Achashverosh alone, without the aid of a demon.

From here:

R’ Shimon Schwab wonders why Esther is concerned about losing her husband if she is anyway using a sheid to get out of relations with Achashverosh. He explains that the demon was created miraculously in reward for her resisting the gentile king. Such a miracle would not occur once she submits to him.

So until now, she'd never had relations with Achashverosh. As such, she was still permitted to Mordechai. Now, that she would go herself (and not the demon), she would no longer be permitted to Mordechai.

Note this does not answer your 1st question. As a possible answer, from here:

The Talmud (Megillah 16a) explains that Achashverosh would previously usually speak to Esther through an interpreter. Now that she tells him that she is Jewish, and a descendant of King Shaul – and thus also royal – he speaks to her directly, as is fitting for nobles. For all of this time, he did not respect her as an equal.

If so, perhaps her only interactions with Achashveros until that point were sexual. (see Rashi d"h Lo Ra'inu Sheina Megilah 13b)

  • 1
    But the question was according to the Talmud; not the Zohar. By every indication the Talmud desnt hold if this Zohar. If these passages weren't clear enough, cf. Sanhedrin 74.
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 13, 2017 at 3:42
  • until then she had done nothing to forbid her to Mordechai. Now there would be no sheid to take her place (I didn't look up R' Shimon Schwab inside, but it seems to indicate that there would no longer be a sheid). Now she would have done something that forbid her to Mordechai.
    – Menachem
    Mar 13, 2017 at 3:52
  • see my additions to my answer. Also, I understood the 3rd question to mean that if there was a heter to have relations with Achashverosh until now, why did she suddenly become forbidden. On reading it again, it is possible that the question is only on the willing part, not the previous times.
    – Menachem
    Mar 13, 2017 at 4:28
  • 1
    @Menachem Thank you for this long answer. Indeed, the third question concerns only the willing part. About the essential part of the answer, interesting idea; but, as already pointed, it is very difficult to conciliate with the Talmud, that doesn't alludes somewhere on a sheid, and oppositely says that Esther was עומדת מחיקו של אחשורוש טובלת ושוכבת בחיקו של מרדכי ...
    – yO_
    Mar 13, 2017 at 18:22
  • @yO_ : The first part of the answer, which I added last, addresses your questions and is in line with the Gemara
    – Menachem
    Mar 13, 2017 at 21:18

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