Was Esther A Vegetarian Or A Vegan?

Was Ester a vegan or a vegetarian? What was Ester eating in the king's palace? Sharona Halickman wonders.

A few sentences after we are introduced to Ester in the Megila (Ester 2:8-10) we read:

So it came to pass when the King’s bidding and decree were published and when many young girls were being brought together to Shushan the Capital under the charge of Hegai that Ester was taken into the palace, under the charge of Hegai, guardian of the women. The girl pleased him and she obtained his kindness; he hurriedly prepared her cosmetics and her allowance of delicacies to present her, along with the seven special maids from the palace and he transferred her and her maidens to the best quarters in the harem. Ester had not told of her people or her kindred, for Mordechai had instructed her not to tell.

The Gemara in Masechet Megila 13a discusses what special things Hegai did for Ester.

Rav said that he fed her Jewish (Kosher) food.

The problem with Rav’s answer is that nobody knew that she was Jewish so why would they get her Kosher food?

Ben Yehoyada answers that since Ester grew up in Mordechai’s home they assumed that she would want the food that she was accustomed to eating.

Another explanation could be that since they knew that Kosher food was healthier, they honored her request and brought it to her.

The Gemara continues:

Shmuel said that he fed her “kadlei dichazirei” fatty hog bacon (a delicacy at the time).

Tosafot say that although she was served the bacon, she did not eat it.

Aruch says that they gave her the tops of the lettuce (chazirei being like the chazeret (horsereadish) that we eat on Pesach).

The Gemara continues:

Rabbi Yochanan says: He fed her “zeronim” seeds (such as peas, beans, legumes) as Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael and Azarya ate in the book of Daniel.

Today, if someone declares that they are a vegetarian or a vegan and ask for legumes and vegetables they are respected for their beliefs even if others don’t necessarily agree with them.

In some circles when a person declares that they keep Kosher it has become more respected since it is now politically correct for people to be diverse. In other circles people who keep Kosher may be looked down upon while those who are vegetarian may be respected.

Living in Israel today, we do not have to hide that we are Jewish the way that Ester did. We can be proud to keep Kosher and we have a wide range of Kosher restaurants including vegetarian and vegan to choose from.