• Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Megilla: 13: 23a

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We are on 23a, starting from the 2 dots in the middle of the first line. The gemara refers back to the mishna, as it will now analyze the mishna's final clause.

The mishna has already discussed the instances in which there are three or four olim to the Torah, and now moves on to discuss days on which we have even more.

On Yom Tov five, on Yom Kippur six, etc.

ביום טוב חמשה ביום הכפורים ששה וכו'

The gemara has quoted a phrase from the mishna and added an "etc." at the end. This indicates that the topic of our discussion will include the following, unquoted, section of the mishna. Indeed, our discussion for now will focus not on the number of aliyot on Yom Tov and Yom Kippur, but the number of aliyot on Yom Kippur and Shabbat.

Whose (opinion) is the mishna? Not R' Yishmael and not R' Akiva, as we learned (in a b'raita):

On Yom Tov five, on Yom Kippur six, and on Shabbat seven, we don't detract from them and we don't add to them; these are the words of R' Yishmael.

R' Akiva says: on Yom Tov five, on Yom Kippur seven and on Shabbat six, we don't detract from them but we do add to them.

Whose (opinion is expressed in our mishnah); if R' Yishmael, question (his consistency regarding) adding (aliyot); if R' Akiva, question six and seven!

Rava said: It is a tanna of the school of R' Yishmael, for a tanna of the school of R' Yishmael (taught): On Yom Tov five, on Yom Kippur six, on Shabbat seven; we don't detract from them but we do add to them - these are the words of R' Yishmael.

Question R' Yishmael on R' Yishmael! Two tanna'im according to R' Yishmael.

מתניתין מני? לא רבי ישמעאל ולא רבי עקיבא, דתניא:

ביום טוב - חמשה וביום הכפורים - ששה, ובשבת - שבעה, אין פוחתין מהן ואין מוסיפין עליהן, דברי רבי ישמעאל.

רבי עקיבא אומר: ביום טוב - חמשה, וביום הכפורים - שבעה, ובשבת - ששה, אין פוחתין מהן אבל מוסיפין עליהן.

מני? אי רבי ישמעאל, קשיא תוספת - אי רבי עקיבא, קשיא ששה ושבעה!

אמר רבא: תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל היא, דתנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: ביום טוב - חמשה, ביום הכפורים - ששה, בשבת - שבעה, אין פוחתין מהן אבל מוסיפין עליהן, דברי רבי ישמעאל. 

 קשיא דרבי ישמעאל אדרבי ישמעאל! תרי תנאי אליבא דרבי ישמעאל.

The gemara notes that in addition to our anonymous mishna, we have a b'raita that quotes two opinions regarding the procedure of Torah reading on Yom Kippur and Shabbat, neither of which is consistent with the presentation of our mishna. We therefore wonder whose opinion our mishna is based on. The gemara answers that there were in fact differing traditions regarding R' Yishmael's opinion on this issue, and our mishna presents one version of R' Yishmael's opinion.

Incidentally, the gemara has now introduced a new possibility regarding the number of aliyot on various days; according to R' Akiva, Yom Kippur has seven aliyot while Shabbat has only six. The gemara now attempts to show that this view is reflected in an additional b'raita:

Who taught that which we learned (in a b'raita): On Yom Tov we are late in coming (Rashi: to the bet k'nesset) and we hurry to leave, on Yom Kippur we hurry to arrive and are late to leave, and on Shabbat we hurry to arrive and hurry to leave

say that it (the b'raita) is R' Akiva, who has an additional person (called to the Torah on Yom Kippur)?

Even say that it is R' Yishmael, for the 'service of the day' (i.e. the prayers that relate the temple service of Yom Kippur) is extensive.

מאן תנא להא דתניא: ביום טוב מאחרין לבוא וממהרין לצאת, ביום הכפורים ממהרין לבוא ומאחרין לצאת, ובשבת ממהרין לבוא וממהרין לצאת 

לימא רבי עקיבא, דאית ליה גברא יתירא?

אפילו תימא רבי ישמעאל, דנפיש סידורא דיומא.

The gemara has quoted a b'raita that discussed how early we end the prayer service on different days, and notes that Yom Kippur is unique in that we end late. The suggestion is that we end late because there is an extra aliya, as R' Akiva rules. The gemara concludes that there are other factors that extend the Yom Kippur prayer service.

The gemara's discussion has focused on what addition there is to the Yom Kippur prayer service that makes it longer than those of Shabbat and yom tov. Left unexplained is the reason for this difference - why it is that the rabbis saw fit to establish a longer prayer service on Yom Kippur than on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Rashi addresses this issue:

Rashi s.v. "umemaharin latzet"(4th line of Rashi)

    (On Yom Tov) we are quick to leave - because of (the mitzva of) rejoicing on the holiday.

Rashi s.v. "umemaharin latzet"(7th line of Rashi)

    (On Shabbat) we are quick to leave - because of (the mitzva of) enjoying the Shabbat.

Rashi has underlined the fact that while davening and learning are important components of our observance of Shabbat and Yom Tov, we fulfill the obligation to rejoice on Yom Tov and to enjoy the Shabbat on a physical plane as well, through the eating of a festive meal and the like. This requires us to finish our prayers and return home. On Yom Kippur, this type of activity is antithetical to proper fulfillment of the day - we are forbidden to eat or to engage in other physical pleasures. It is a day devoted solely to the spiritual aspect of divine service, and hence it is appropriate to have a longer prayer service.

The b'raita quoted in the gemara had mentioned an additional distinction between the prayer services of our holy days, which the gemara does not expound on; on Shabbat and Yom Kippur we arrive early to pray, while on Yom Tov we delay the start of the services. 

What do you think is the reason for this difference? Are they any activities that one can be involved in on Yom Tov that one cannot do on Shabbat and Yom Kippur, and that one may have a reason to perform early on Yom Tov morning?

Rashi helps with this issue as well:

Rashi s.v. "b'Yom Tov" (abbreviated ביו"ט, on the 3rd line of Rashi) and s.v. "uvShabbat" (5th line of Rashi)

    On Yom Tov we are late in arriving - to the bet k'nesset, for one must be busy with the Yom Tov meal - so it is explained in Masechet Sofrim.
    And on Shabbat we hurry to arrive - for they have already prepared everything from erev Shabbat, and it is appropriate to hurry their arrival in order to recite shema k'vatikin.

Rashi is alluding to the main difference between the melacha prohibitions of Yom Tov as opposed to Shabbat and Yom Kippur. On Yom Tov, certain melachot are permitted for the purpose of food preparation. Since the festive meal is an important part of the observance of the day (and at many times it was difficult to prepare food the previous day and keep it fresh), they would prepare their meals on Yom Tov itself. On Shabbat and Yom Kippur this factor does not exist, and they would not delay the prayers, so as to recite the shema k'vatikin (lit. as the ancient ones), meaning right at sunrise. This is the optimal time to pray; since it is the earliest time that one can do so, it shows that prayer is foremost on our minds.

    Rashi quotes his explanation from Masechet Sofrim. Masechet Sofrim is one of the "masechtot k'tanot," which are early, post-talmudic compendia of halachot that rabbinic authorities over the ages have made us of, though they carry less weight than the Talmud. It is interesting to note while Masechet Sofrim does explain the reason that we pray later on Yom Tov than on Shabbat and Yom Kippur, it also argues with the b'raita quoted in our gemara and claims that only on Yom Tov do we hurry home from prayer; on Shabbat, we stay longer in order to study weekly Torah portion.

Back to the gemara

Having discussed the number of aliyot on various days, the gemara questions the significance of these numbers of aliyot.

These three, five and seven correspond to who (=what)?

Disagreed about this R' Yitzchak bar Nachmeni and one who was with him, and who was it - R' Shimon ben Pazi,

and some say it was R' Shimon ben Pazi and one who was with him, and who was it - R' Yitzchak bar Nachmeni, and some say R' Shmuel bar Nachmeni.

One (of them) said: it corresponds to the priestly blessings (Rashi - the first verse of the priestly blessings has 3 words, the second has 5, the third has 7.)

And one said: it corresponds to the three keepers of the gate, five of those who would see the king's face, and the seven who would see the king's face.

Rav Yosef taught: three, five and seven; three keepers of the gate, five of those who would see the king's face, seven who would see the king's face. Abaye said to him: until now why didn't the master explain this to us. He (Rav Yosef) said to him (Abaye): I didn't know you needed it; have you asked me anything and I haven't told you?

הני שלשה חמשה ושבעה כנגד מי?

פליגי בה רבי יצחק בר נחמני וחד דעמיה, ומנו - רבי שמעון בן פזי,

ואמרי לה: רבי שמעון בן פזי וחד דעמיה, ומנו - רבי יצחק בר נחמני, ואמרי לה רבי שמואל בר נחמני.

חד אמר: כנגד ברכת כהנים,

וחד אמר: כנגד שלשה שומרי הסף, חמשה מרואי פני המלך, שבעה רואי פני המלך.

תני רב יוסף: שלשה חמשה ושבעה: שלשה שומרי הסף, חמשה מרואי פני המלך, שבעה רואי פני המלך. אמר ליה אביי: עד האידנא מאי טעמא לא פריש לן מר? - אמר ליה: לא הוה ידענא דצריכתו ליה, ומי בעיתו מינאי מילתא ולא אמרי לכו?

Rashi - The gemara here refers to three types of royal attendants. There were three keepers of the gate (Melachim II 25:18), seven advisors who 'saw the king's face' (Esther 1:14), of whom five were more important (based on Melachim II 25:19). The number of aliyot was established in correspondence with the practices of royally.

Said Rav Yaakov Mina'a to Rav Yehuda: these six (aliyot) of Yom Kippur correspond to what?

He said to him: they correspond to the six that stood to the right of Ezra and the six to the left, as it says (Nechemia 8:4): and Ezra the Scribe stood on a wood platform that they made for the occasion, and stood next to him Matitya and Shema and Anaya and Uria and Chelkia and Ma'aseya on his right, and to his left P'daya and Misha'el and Malkia and Chashum and Chashbadana, Zecharia, Meshulam.

These (to his left) were seven! Zecharia and Meshulam were the same (person), and why was he called Meshulam? Because his actions were perfect. ("Perfect" in Hebrew is shalem. Thus meshulam means "perfected.")

אמר ליה יעקב מינאה לרב יהודה: הני ששה דיום הכפורים כנגד מי?

אמר ליה: כנגד ששה שעמדו מימינו של עזרא וששה משמאלו, שנאמר: ויעמד עזרא הספר על מגדל עץ אשר עשו לדבר ויעמד אצלו מתתיה ושמע ועניה ואוריה וחלקיה ומעשיה על ימינו, ומשמאלו פדיה ומישאל ומלכיה וחשם וחשבדנה זכריה משלם.

הני שבעה הוו! - היינו זכריה היינו משלם, ואמאי קראו משלם - דמישלם בעובדיה.

There are two obvious questions with the gemara's explanation of the significance of the numbers of aliyot that we have on various days:

1) The gemara does not explain why we have four aliyot on Rosh Chodesh.

2) The gemara (22b) has already explained why we have different numbers of aliyot for different days: On Rosh Chodesh we have one extra aliya because of the musaf sacrifice, on Yom Tov we have yet another because of the prohibition of melacha, etc.

The commentators differ regarding the answers to these questions. Tosafot (s.v. hanei) explain that the reason presented above for the extra aliya on Rosh Chodesh is a sufficient reason, but the reasons presented for the additional aliyot on Yom Tov, Yom Kippur and Shabbat are weak, and the gemara was compelled to find an additional hint to these numbers.

Why is the musaf sacrifice a good reason to add an aliya, while the other factors mentioned in the gemara above - the melacha prohibition on Yom Tov and its added levels of stringency on Yom Kippur and Shabbat - are not?

It could be that Tosafot considered the musaf sacrifice to be a good reason to add an aliya because it is an addition to the service in the bet hamikdash; since it is something additional that we do in an active sense as a result of the day, it is a good precedent that we ought to add an extra aliya to our Torah reading. Melacha prohibitions, while potentially reflecting the holiness of the day, do not provide a precedent that we ought to add to our regular observance.

Ritva offers a different explanation than that of Tosafot. In his view, the real reasons for the numbers of aliyot on various days are the ones enumerated previously in the gemara. Nevertheless, if we can find additional parallels to these numbers from Tanach, we do so.

In contrast to Tosafot's approach, which viewed the reasons mentioned in the gemara on 22b (other than the musaf sacrifice) as insufficient, and the reasons mentioned here in our gemara as more worthy, Ritva seems to understand that all of the reasons mentioned on 22b were perfectly sufficient. The gemara here merely brings additional allusions to the numbers five, six and seven as icing on the cake.

The gemara continues with a discussion of who can receive an aliya, and the laws of maftir - and we will continue with them next week. Shabbat shalom.