Sunday, March 13, 2011


There are numerous lessons that can be gleaned from a close analysis of Megillas Esther. One of the less discussed aspects of the Megilla is the fact that it is one of the main accounts of the second Galus (exile), that of Paras and Madai. It is extremely important to understand the nature of the four exiles because they represent the basic forms of evil in the world. We see this from the Medrash's explanation of the second verse in Chumash. The Torah states: "And the earth was tohu and bohu , with darkness upon the surface of the deep; and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters." The Medrash reveals to us a deeper allusion of the passuk. "..'The land was tohu', this is the Kingdom of Bavel, as it says, 'I have seen the land and behold it is tohu.' And bohu, this is the kingdom of Madai, as it says, 'And they rushed (vayavheelu) to bring Haman.' ...

The Maharal explains that right at the outset of creation, there were four aspects of evil that permeated the world, and these were exemplified by the four nations who exiled the Jewish people. Accordingly, it is very important to understand the specific aspect of evil of each nation of exile. What is the unique feature of the Persians? The Medrash describes them as representing the word 'bohu' in the verse, which relates to the word in Megillas Esther of 'vayavheelu'. This comes from the root of the word, 'behala'. which has no single translation in English; it relates to rashness, confusion and rushed behavior.

Why does the Medrash characterize the Persians as exemplifying the trait of behala? The Be'er Yosef offers a number of examples of the Persian’s behavior that demonstrate that they possessed this destructive trait. He brings the gemara in Megilla that describes the Persian King, Achashverosh, as one who constantly changed his mind, because of hasty decisions.. We see this when he rapidly has his wife Vashti killed, and then soon after, regrets his decision. Similarly, he swiftly orders the execution of Haman. One Rav explained that had Haman gone through a judicial process it is likely that Achashverosh would have calmed down and refrained from executing him. This rashness was not limited to the King. The gemara further states that when the King sent out the letter ordering the murder of the Jews in several months' time, the people would have killed them immediately if not for their suspicion about such letters. The Be'er Yosef points out that it was this trait of behala that posed such a danger to the Jewish people in this Galus, because when a person acts rashly, there is the risk that he will make drastic and often damaging decisions.

We see the seriousness of the trait of behala most starkly in the rebuke that Yaakov Avinu gave to his son, Reuven. Many years earlier, Reuven had sinned by moving Yaakov's bed. Yaakov criticized him for the rashness of his action. As a result of this character trait, Reuven lost his right to the bechora (first-born), his role as King, and his status as the Kohen (priest). It is evident from the harsh consequences of his momentary rashness, that the trait of behala is considered highly damaging. Rashness causes a person to make impulsive decisions without giving sufficient consideration to the consequences of one's actions. This seems to have been Yaakov's criticism of Reuven's action in moving his father's bed. He acted impulsively without considering the consequences of his actions.

It is evident that rash behavior is clearly the cause of much of the negativity that plagues relationships. Hurtful words are usually said on the spur of the moment, as are outbursts of anger. By refraining from acting or reacting immediately to events, a person can eliminate much of the dangerous rashness that causes so much damage. In this vein, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt"l explains that the antidote to the trait of behala is provided by the Mishna in Avos: "Be deliberate in judgment." This teaches us that one should carefully assess his actions carefully before he performs them.

We learn from the Megilla that the second Galus was characterized by the trait of behala. This remains a trait that plagues our lives. May we all merit to overcome it.

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