Midrash Esther Chapter Three IX: Vashti v Esther
“Also Queen Vashti made a party for the women.” Why does the verse record Vashti’s party? Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Karcha said: Why all this about Vashti? To show how great was the wealth that eventually became Esther’s.
Rabbi Meir said: If God does so much for those who provoke Him, how much more so will He do for those who perform His will!
Another comment on, “Also Vashti the Queen.” The word ‘gam‘ always signifies something in addition to the plain meaning: Just as Achashveirosh opened six treasuries; so Vashti opened six treasuries. Just as he went to all kinds of expense; so she went to all kinds of expense. Just as he feasted after the style of the Land of Israel, so she feasted after the style of the Land of Israel. Just as he wore the clothes of the Kohen Gadol; she too wore the clothes of the Kohen Gadol.
Rabbi Berechiah said: She was like the bird that decks itself with its own feathers and with those of others.
Another explanation of, “also Vashti the Queen,” the time has come for Vashti “also” to be raised – legamem – to her foundation; the time of Vashti has come to be plucked; the time of the Vashti has come to be trodden.
Rabbi Huna said: The time of the Vashti has come to doggie: compared to this, “She took of the fruit and ate; and she gave gam, also, to her husband (Genesis 3:6).”
Rabbi Yehoshua sees Vashti only in terms of how her story affected Esther. When we later read that Achashveirosh offered Esther, “up to half my kingdom,” Achashveirosh was testing his new wife to see if she was as money hungry as Vashti. Esther earned the trust of Achashveirosh when she made it clear that she was not interested in money or power. Rabbi Yehoshua sees this as one of the keys to her success.
Rabbi Meir sees in the Vashti story a hint to the great reward promised to those who perform God’s will.
The midrash then describes Vashti as doing whatever Achashveirosh did in order to prove that she was his equal.
Whatever Vashti did contributed to her doom. Although we read the story as one in which her refusal to listen to Achashveirosh led to her punishment, this midrash is telling us that Vashti’s party instigated Achashveirosh’s summons.
Rabbi Huna sees in Vashti a parallel to the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Vashti was not trying to copy her husband, or to prove that she was his equal; she was determined to instigate him to do what he always wanted to do but was too fearful to put into action. Just as Eve, “The Articulator,” forced Adam to confront that he wanted to eat of the forbidden fruit, Vashti wanted Achashveirosh to openly rebel against the Jewish God.
Vashti spoke to the lowest parts of Achashveirosh. Esther, however, always addresses the King as if she sees only his goodness.