Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Queen Esther and her Niddah Status


The Gemara (rabbinic discussion) in the Talmud Tractate Pesachim 111 discusses the result of a woman walking between two men. On condition that this particular woman is a Niddah. Meaning, she is having her monthly period.

Especially haredi circles keep the Halacha that a man should not walk / pass between two women. No matter whether they are in Niddah or not. As far as I know, this particular prohibition comes from the Talmud.

The Gemara in Pesachim 111, however, teaches that a woman being a Niddah should not walk between two men and that Queen Esther was a Niddah when she gave the dinner for Achashverosh and Haman.

The Gemara says that when a woman is in her monthly Niddah status and walks between two men, a tragedy is supposed to happen. If the woman is just beginning her Niddah status, one of the men may die. If the woman is walking between two men towards the end of her Niddah status, the two men may end up in a quarrel.

The famous Vilna Gaon stated why Queen Esther invited Haman when she was planning a nice dinner with her husband Achashverosh. At this particular dinner, she intended to convince her husband to cancel the deadly decree against the Jews. Neither Achashverosh nor Haman knew that Esther was Jewish. But why did Esther invite evil Haman ? Wouldn’t she have had more success by only talking privately to her husband ?

The Gemara in the Talmud Tractate Megillah 15a teaches that Esther instantly became a Niddah after hearing about the evil decree against the Jews. Three days later she invited Achashverosh and Haman for dinner. From there we see that Esther had just begun her monthly impurity and when she walked between the two men, one of them was supposed to die. If one of the two men had died, the decree would have been annulled.

Here, the Talmud refers to Talmud Ta’anit 29a where it says that when a senate issues a decree and one of the senate members dies, it would be taken as an omen and the rest of the members would annul the decree. Nevertheless, the Gemara in Pesachim doesn’t provide us with any information about who of the two men should have died. Even if vicious Haman had died, the decree was signed with the ring of the king and thus valid.

Esther was anything but a young naïve woman. All those plans and considerations were part of her strategy. In the end, the two men quarrelled and Haman died.

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