"The moment when Esther was required to go to Ahasuerus, and use every means of seduction and temptation at her disposal in order to lift the sentence of death that had fallen on the Jews, was not just a moment of personal danger.
She was required to pass from a passive state to an active one, to become the temptress.
Previously Esther could claim that, to some extent, she was in a situation in which she was held under duress.
From the moment when she took the initiative in approaching the king to seduce him, she lost her last shreds of innocence.
Where previously she could feel pure, at least in spirit, she was now to some extent sullied.
The step Esther took in approaching Ahasuerus with a view to enthralling him by her personal charm, was a step more drastic than her induction into the king's harem, a matter in which she had no choice.
Consciously, she now decided to endanger not only her life but her soul; and from this moment onward, she becomes the savior of the Jewish people.
Inwardly, however, she could no longer regard herself as belonging to the ethical values of her people, not in body and perhaps also not in soul.
Other generations have maintained that, when a man gives up his life while his soul is pure and unsullied, he has reached one level of sacrifice.
And that there is a further level, where an individual not only gives up his life but also exposes his soul to a danger whose result none can foretell.
This test of sacrifice, the hidden, unexplained test which is not stressed in the Scroll of Esther, changes this woman from a mere historical figure to a national heroine.
The mechanism of the miracle is plainly revealed and visible.
All its elements are clearly spread before us.
Esther is the woman around whom this miracle revolves, the savior whom we later bless in the religious festival of Purim recalling her act of heroism."
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From Biblical Images, p. 221, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz