The Megilla (chapter 2) describes the procedure that was followed when young women were brought to Achashverosh so he could choose a queen. We read that on the day each young woman went for her turn with the king, she was given anything she wanted to bring with her (2:13). Ester was unique in this regard, in that she did not ask for anything, and brought with her only that which had been given to her by Hegai, the servant assigned over the women. The question arises as to the significance of this detail and how it contributes to the story of Ester’s ultimate selection as queen.
Malbim explains that the Megilla here seeks to emphasize that Ester did not want to be chosen, and everything that she did took place against her will. The reason why the women were allowed to request gifts, Malbim claims, was to make it clear that they slept with the king willingly, that they were giving themselves to him in exchange for the lavish goods he granted them. Ester, however, did everything she could to make it clear that she underwent this process out of coercion, and had no desire at all to be with the king. To that end, she did not ask for anything, sending the message that she wanted no part of this arrangement. The verse concludes, “Ester earned the favor of all who saw her” to say that despite her begrudging attitude, her attractive appearance earned her everyone’s affection.
Rav Moshe Amiel (Derashot El Ami, vol. 3, p. 163) explained differently. Rather than viewing Ester’s decision not to request gifts as a strategic tactic, Rav Amiel suggests that this reflected a noble character trait. Namely, she was not demanding or finicky. She was content with what she was given and neither expected or wanted more. Whereas the other women jumped at the opportunity to obtain elaborate gifts from the palace, Ester had no interest in such gifts. Rav Amiel suggests that the Megilla emphasized this point to show that the Jews’ salvation resulted from this quality. The verse concludes by telling us of how Ester found favor in everyone’s eyes because this occurred specifically as a result of her refined character. Her noble spirit impressed the people in the palace and ultimately led to her being chosen queen, which in turn led to her rescuing the Jewish Nation.
Ester’s example teaches us the importance of proper prioritization and avoiding preoccupation with vanity. She shows us that just because we are able to have something does not mean that we should take it, and just because everybody else around us has something does not mean that we need it. If we keep our priorities in order and maintain a keen sense of what is important and what isn’t, we will be able to draw the vital distinction between needs and wants, and to live contently without constantly pursuing additional comforts and luxuries or fussing over trivialities that are not really worth our time or attention.