Purim Meshulash (part 1 of 3)

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

I. Megilla Reading

The Gemara (Megilla 6b) states that if Purim falls out on Shabbat, the megilla is not read on that day. In the Gemara, this law is applied even to the resident of a non-walled city (who celebrates Purim on the fourteenth of Adar), when the fourteenth of Adar falls out on Shabbat. Today, however, owing to our fixed calendar, the fourteenth of Adar can never fall out on Shabbat. Thus, the law found in the Gemara is relevant only to Jerusalemites[1] (who celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar), when the fifteenth of Adar falls out on Shabbat. The Gemara (ibid.) explains why the megilla is not read on Shabbat:

But at any rate all agree that the megilla is not read on Shabbat. What is the reason? Rabba said: All are under obligation to read the megilla, but not all are competent to read it, and there is therefore a danger that one may take the scroll in his hand and go to an expert to be instructed and [in doing so] convey it four cubits in a public domain. This is also the reason for [not blowing] the shofar on Shabbat and [for not taking] the lulav. Rav Yosef said: It is because the eyes of the poor are anxiously awaiting the reading of the megilla.

Rabba's rationale applies to a number of mitzvot: megilla, shofar, and lulav. In all these cases, the Rabbis were concerned that a person may go out to learn the pertinent laws, and come thereby to violate the prohibitions of carrying from a private to a public domain and carrying four cubits in the public domain. Rav Yosef offers a reason that is unique to megilla reading: The poor longingly wait for the megilla reading when people hand out matanot le-evyonim (presents for the poor); were the megilla reading to take place on Shabbat, the poor would suffer a loss.

 

II. Megilla reading on Friday: the original enactment or only later legislation?

The Turei Even (Megilla 5a, s.v., a"sh zemanam) raises the following question: The Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola (the men of the Great Assembly) enacted that Megillat Esther should be read on the fourteenth of Adar in the unwalled cities and on the fifteenth in the walled cities. How then could the later Sages have nullified the enactment of the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola when the fourteenth or the fifteenth falls out on Shabbat? Surely the rule (which the Gemara cites in Megilla 2a) is that "one court may not overrule the statements of another unless it exceeds the other in wisdom and number"!

The Turei Even answers:

According to Rabba who explains that the reason that we do not read the megilla on Shabbat is because a person may [come to] carry, one can say that the later Sages enacted that when [Purim] falls out on Shabbat [the megilla reading] should be advanced to Friday. And even though one court cannot overrule the statements of another... this applies to something that is not a precautionary measure instituted because of the eventual violation of a prohibition. But regarding a precautionary measure, even the passive uprooting of a biblical law is permitted... For surely shofar and lulav which are Torah laws were nullified on Shabbat because of this very decree of Rabba, and megilla is no better than they are...

In other words, owing to the concern that people might come to violate the biblical prohibition against carrying, the Sages were authorized to uproot even the enactment of a greater court. This is because whenever there is concern about the possible violation of a prohibition, a court can nullify the enactments of another court, and it can even uproot a positive biblical precept in a passive manner (as we see with respect to shofar and lulav).

According to this, however, Rav Yosef's rationale requires explanation, for according to him, the Sages were not concerned about the violation of a prohibition! The Turei Even continues:

But according to Rav Yosef, who said... that we do not read the megilla on Shabbat because the eyes of the poor wait for the reading of the megilla, we are forced to say that it was the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola themselves who enacted that [the megilla reading] should be advanced for that very reason. For if not, the later Rabbis could not have uprooted their enactment, since [their action] would not have involved a precautionary measure because of an eventual violation of a prohibition. For why is the mitzva of matanot aniyim greater than the mitzva of megilla reading, that we should cancel that reading in its proper time on account of the eyes of the poor that wait for the megilla reading? ... Surely, then, according to Rav Yosef, it was the Kenesset ha-Gedola that enacted that [the megilla reading] should be advanced.

We must say then, according to Rav Yosef, that the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola themselves enacted that when Purim falls out on Shabbat, the megilla should be read on Friday. For the later Sages could not possibly have uprooted the mitzva of reading the megilla in its proper time for the reason stated by Rav Yosef.

According to this, then, the obligation to read the megilla stems in all years from the enactment of the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola, and it has the status of divrei kabbala (laws known from tradition). Thus, when Purim falls out on Shabbat and we advance the megilla reading to Friday: according to Rav Yosef, here too we are dealing with an enactment of the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola, whereas according to Rabba, this is a later enactment, and the obligation to read the megilla is of lesser authority, it not being divrei kabbala, but rather a rabbinic enactment.[2]

The previous discussion may have practical ramifications: When the fifteenth of Adar falls out on Shabbat, can a Jerusalemite read the megilla on behalf of a person from Tel Aviv? According to Rav Yosef, the obligations of the two are identical (both divrei kabbala), and so the one can read for the other (though there may still be an additional factor; see below, "Resident of an Unwalled City who Went to a Walled City"). According to Rabba, the Tel Avivi is obligated by divrei kabbala, whereas the Jerusalemite is obligated only by rabbinic decree. This being the case, one who is obligated by rabbinic decree cannot read the megilla for one who is bound by a higher level of obligation, divrei kabbala.[3] In actual practice, stringency should be followed (Rav Zvi Pesach Frank, Mikra'ei Kodesh, 51).

 

III. Why were the Sages concerned only about shofar, lulav and megilla that a person might come to carry in the public domain?

The Ritva in tractate Sukka 42a asks: Why is it permissible to perform circumcision on Shabbat? Surely it should have been banned by rabbinic decree, lest a person come to carry the circumcision knife in a public domain? The Ritva offers several answers, including the argument that the circumcision itself is a mitzva, the fulfillment of which requires the violation of Shabbat law. Since the Torah permitted this, the Sages could not have decreed that the mitzva should not be observed because of the concern that a person might come to violate an additional prohibition.

The Minchat Chinukh asks another question (commandment 9; the question was already raised by the Ritva): Why did the Sages ban shofar blowing only when Rosh ha-Shana falls out on Shabbat, and not every Rosh ha-Shana? Surely playing a musical instrument on Shabbat and Yom Tov is forbidden by rabbinic decree, lest a person come to fix the instrument (Beitza 30a). Thus, it should have been decreed that we don't blow the shofar, lest a person come to fix a musical instrument! The Minchat Chinukh answers that Chazal can decree that occasionally a mitzva should not be observed, but they cannot decree that a mitzva should be altogether nullified. Had they banned the blowing of a shofar in all years, the mitzva of shofar blowing would never be observed!

Another explanation (one that I heard from Rav Blumenzweig, shelita) may be proposed that answers both questions: We are not concerned that a person will forget about the sanctity of Shabbat and desecrate it on account of another mitzva; for this reason, the Sages did not ban circumcision on Shabbat. We are also not concerned that a person will forget about the sanctity of Yom Tov and desecrate it on account of another mitzva; for this reason, the Sages did not ban shofar blowing on Rosh ha-Shana. The Sages were only concerned about Yom Tov that falls out on Shabbat and about Purim that falls on Shabbat. Yom Tov is a more active day than Shabbat, and generally when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat, owing to all the special mitzvot of the holiday, and because of the special prayers, Shabbat is liable to be forgotten. For this reason, there is concern that a person might forget that today is also Shabbat, and therefore act in accordance with the laws of Yom Tov. Thus, the concern is limited to the prohibition of carrying in the public domain, which is forbidden on Shabbat, but permitted on Yom Tov. And for this reason, the concern is only on Yom Tov that falls out on Shabbat.

 

Purim is not a Yom Tov, and it may be for this reason that Rav Yosef gave a different rationale, even though with respect to shofar and lulav he appears to agree with Rabba's explanation.[4]

Rabba, on the other hand, maintains that this rationale pertains even to Purim that falls out on Shabbat. Indeed, Purim is not a Yom Tov, but it is certainly a holiday with special features, perhaps even more so than all the other holidays. Thus, there is room for concern that the holiday will overpower Shabbat, and a person will behave on Purim as he always behaves on Purim, and therefore come to carry the megilla.

It was precisely in these cases, therefore, that Chazal decreed that the mitzva should not be observed on Shabbat. The rabbinic decree has an additional dimension in that it preserves the independent value of Shabbat. Dividing up the mitzvot of Purim (before and after Shabbat) leaves Shabbat with its special quality, so that it should not be forgotten even on the very day of Purim (even though we say Al ha-Nissim in the Shemone Esre prayer and in Birkat ha-Mazon).

 

IV. Megilla Reading on Friday: reading in its proper time or not in its proper time?

The Mishna at the beginning of tractate Megilla (2a) states that there are situations in which we read the megilla before its time on the fourteenth of Adar. In the Gemara (Megilla 5a), the Amoraim disagree whether the megilla must be read with a quorum of ten, or perhaps it can be read even by an individual. (According to the Halakha, it is preferable that one read the megilla with a quorum of ten, but even an individual can read the megilla.)[5] All agree, however, that when the megilla is read not in its proper time, ten people are required for the reading.

The reason is as follows: On the day of megilla reading, the obligation to read the megilla falls initially on each individual. Chazal agreed to advance the time of megilla reading, but only if the advanced reading will involve pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle) by way of reading with a quorum of ten (see Rashi and Rashba, ad loc., and see below the view of Ra'avad). It may perhaps be possible to propose another explanation, that on the fundamental level, the allowance to advance the megilla reading was stated only with respect to a congregation, and not to an individual.

The Rishonim disagree about the advanced reading of the megilla, whether a person fulfills his obligation, after the fact, if there was no quorum of ten. According to the Rif and Tosafot (s.v., hava uvda), he has not fulfilled his obligation, even after the fact. On the other hand, according to Rashi (s.v. ve-Rav Asi), Rabbi Zerachya ha-Levi, and the Ritva, he has fulfilled his obligation after the fact.

 

When Purim falls out on Shabbat and the megilla reading is advanced to Friday, is a quorum of ten people required for that reading? The answer to this question depends upon the following analysis: Is the Friday megilla reading regarded as reading in its proper time or is it perhaps considered advanced reading? If this is reading in its proper time, ten people should not be required; if this is advanced reading, ten people should be required (at least, lekhatchila).

This analysis is similar to that of the Turei Even cited above, whether the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola enacted from the outset that when Purim falls out on Shabbat the megilla is read on Friday, or perhaps the enactment of Purim remained on Shabbat, but because of the concerns mentioned above (carrying in the public domain, the eyes of the poor), they enacted that the reading should be advanced to Friday.

The Ritva (Megilla 5a, s.v., umegilla shelo bizemana) deals with megilla reading not in its proper time, and writes:

Not in its time, i.e., when the fourteenth or the fifteenth fall out on Shabbat, and the people of the walled and unwalled cities advance [the megilla reading) to Thursday or Friday. And this is right.

The Ritva implies that when Purim falls out on Shabbat, and the megilla is read on Friday, the reading is regarded as reading not in its proper time (so too the Rashba and the Ran on the Rif).

The Rambam, on the other hand, writes (Hilkhot Megilla 1:7):

All those authorized to read the megilla in advance of the fourteenth of Adar, are not permitted to do so if less than ten persons are present.

The Or Same'ach makes the following inference:

Our master was precise in his formulation, "All those authorized to read the megilla in advance of the fourteenth of Adar." But the residents of walled cities may read on the fourteenth as individuals.

In other words, from the fact that the Rambam writes that only one who reads the megilla before the fourteenth must read it with a quorum of ten (and he did not content himself with "All those who are authorized to read in advance"), the Or Same'ach infers that Jerusalemites who read the megilla on the fourteenth when Purim falls out on Shabbat, may read it even as individuals. This is because in such a case reading the megilla on the fourteenth is part of the basic law, and not like Purim celebrated in advance. (This is also the implication of the Meiri in Megilla 5a, that today the only case of reading the megilla not in its time is the case of one setting out on a journey who will not have a megilla on the fourteenth.)

Relating to a regular year, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayyim 690:18) writes:

For the megilla [reading] on the fourteenth or on the fifteenth [of Adar], one must seek out ten people. If it is impossible [to read it] in the presence of ten, it may be read by individuals.

The Shulchan Arukh writes that in an ordinary year, the megilla should ideally be read in a quorum of ten, but it may also be read by individuals. The Shulchan Arukh does not discuss the law applying to megilla reading on Friday when Purim falls out on Shabbat. But the Mishna Berura (no. 61) says as follows:

On the fourteenth and the fifteenth – that is, on the fourteenth for unwalled cities and on the fifteenth for walled cities. And he wishes to say that even though [the reading takes place] in its proper time, and in any event there is publicizing of the miracle, for everybody reads it at that time, nevertheless one must exert himself and gather ten people to be present at the time of the reading in order to publicize the miracle. And all the more so when [reading the megilla] not in its time, for example... when the fifteenth falls out on Shabbat and the residents of walled cities read the megilla in advance on Friday, as is found there in par. 6, one must certainly gather ten people for its reading. This is even more severe, for if ten people are not present, the residents of the walled cities may not recite a blessing over [the reading].

The Mishna Berura rules that the Friday megilla reading in Jerusalem when the fifteenth falls out on Shabbat is regarded as reading not in its time and therefore requires ten people. In such a case, an individual who reads the megilla should not recite a blessing.

It may perhaps be suggested that the Friday megilla reading in Jerusalem when the fifteenth falls out on Shabbat is indeed considered reading in advance, but nevertheless an individual may read it. Why? The Ra'avad (cited by Orchot Chayyim, Megilla, no. 24, and by the Beit Yosef, 690) maintains that in a place where there is a congregation reading the megilla, individuals may also read it, because the congregation is already publicizing the miracle. According to the Ra'avad, the fact that somewhere in the city there is a quorum of ten publicizing the miracle suffices to allow megilla reading by individuals. The Beit Yosef says as follows:

And the Orchot Chayyim (ibid., no. 24) writes: The Ra'avad ruled that ten people are always needed. However, in a place where the congregation reads it with ten, if there is an individual or individuals who did not read it with them, they can read it as individuals, since there was [already] publicizing [of the miracle] in the city by way of the reading of the congregation.

The Rema (690:18) issued a similar ruling. This being the case, since there is in Jerusalem a megilla reading with ten people, individuals may also read it. The Mishna Berura (no. 64), however, writes that this law is not accepted by all, and therefore, even in such a case, a person should try to read the megilla in the presence of ten people.

Even though the aforementioned Mishna Berura implies that one should be stringent (and this is the way a person should conduct himself lekhatchila), there is room for leniency in a place of need. Many Acharonim accepted such leniency, including: the Chazon Ish (155, 2, where he discusses a case of ten women, but he implies that he is lenient even with a single person); Responsa Yabi'a Omer (vol. VI, Orach Chayyim, 46; and in Torat ha-Mo'adim, pp. 353-355); Rav Tykocinski (Ir ha-Kodesh ve-ha-Mikdash, I, chap. 26, no. 2); Responsa Salmat Chayyim (by Rav Chayyim Sonnenfeld, Orach Chayyim 102-103); and Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurebach (Ve'alehu Lo Yibol, p. 245).

This also has ramifications regarding megilla reading for women. According to the Mishna Berura, women must go to synagogue in order to hear the megilla with ten people, and it does not suffice that someone should read for them. In a place of need, however, they can certainly practice leniency and even recite the blessing (according to the Mishna Berura they recite "... to hear the megilla," whereas according to the Peri Chadash, they recite "... on the reading of the megilla"), and especially when there are ten women.[6] This is also the position of the Chazon Ish (155, 2) and Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (see note), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halikhot Shelomo, p. 276).

This question has another ramification regarding reading along quietly with the megilla reader. If a person has a kosher megilla, he is permitted to read along quietly with the megilla reader. The Acharonim, however, disagree about the nature of such a reading: According to the Chazon Ish (155, 2), it has the law of congregational reading, whereas according to the Griz of Brisk (cited by Mo'adim u-Zemanim, II, 173; Teshuvot ve-Hanhagot, II, 349), it is considered the reading of an individual. The Griz would therefore announce on Purim Meshulash that individuals should not read along quietly with the megilla reader. It stands to reason, however, that if a person reads at precisely the same pace as the megilla reader, and he reads quietly in such a way that he can also hear the megilla reader – all would agree that this is regarded as congregational reading.

Another possible ramification – a minor who becomes bar mitzva on that Shabbat. If the Friday obligation is at a lower level, it may be that since he was not bar mitzva at that time, he first became obligated only on Shabbat, and he will have to read the megilla again on Shabbat. (Regarding an obligation cast on a specific person, there was no decree lest he carry the megilla in the public domain). This is the position of Rav Chayyim Sonnenfeld (in Responsa Tzitz ha-Kodesh, no. 55). Rav Frank (Har Tzvi, II, 127), Rav Vasner (Shevet ha-Levi, V, 83), Rav Tykocinski (Ir ha-Kodesh ve-ha-Mikdash, III, 26, 9, and others[7] disagree and say that the bar mitzva boy is not required to read the megilla a second time.

In light of what has been said above, most Acharonim seem to maintain that Friday is the proper time to read the megilla in Jerusalem – by way of the essential requirements of the law (me'ikar ha-din), and not as sort of a make-up (tashlumin). For this reason, they rule leniently that an individual can read the megilla, and the like. On the other hand, the Mishna Berura seems to have been concerned that Friday is merely a make-up, and therefore he is stringent about the reading of an individual.

Next week we will deal with the remaining laws of Purim Meshulash.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I.e., to all the residents of the cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua bin Nun.

[2] This argument can be refuted, for even according to Rabba it is possible that the original enactment was to read the megilla on Friday, and it is not necessary to say that the reading was uprooted from Shabbat and advanced to Friday. See Rav Zvi Pesach Frank, Mikra'ei Kodesh, Purim, no. 51, who brings those who disagree with the Turei Even.

[3] In practice, however, in a place of need there is room for leniency, because we can add in the position of the Yerushalmi (Megilla 1:1,3) that everybody fulfills his obligation on the fourteenth (even in an ordinary year), and all the more so when the fifteenth of Adar falls out on Shabbat (and so, this is a case of a double doubt in favor of leniency).

[4] According to Tosafot (s.v., ve-Rav Yosef), Rav Yosef agrees with Rabba's reason, for Rav Yosef's reason only explains the law relating to megilla, but not the laws relating to shofar and lulav. Rav Yosef adds a second reason, in order to explain why the megilla was not read on Shabbat even in the Temple (whereas the lulav was taken and the shofar was blown in the Temple). According to the Turei Even cited below, however, we must say that Rav Yosef disagrees with Rabba.

[5] According to Rav, the megilla may be read by an individual, whereas according to Rav Asi, it can only be read in the presence of ten. The Gemara may be understood in several ways: 1) Rav Asi may have been speaking about the ideal situation (lekhatchila), but after the fact even an individual fulfills his obligation (Rashi, ad loc., s.v., ve-Rav Asi, Ba'al ha-Ma'or, Rosh, Ritva). 2) The entire disagreement may be after the fact (Rif; Tosafot, s.v., hava uvda), and so, according to Rav Asi, a person has not fulfilled his obligation, even after the fact. According to this approach, there are two ways to understand Rav's position: He may be of the opinion that there is no need whatsoever for a quorum of ten, or else he may agree that lekhatchila, ten people are required, but this is not indispensible.

The Meiri (5a) maintains that a quorum of ten is not indispensable for megilla reading. He brings proof from the Mishna in Megilla (23b) which lists the things which require ten, but does not include megilla reading not in its proper time. (The Or Zaru'a, II, no. 370, brings Rabbenu Shemarya, who learned from here that the megilla may be read by an individual lekhatchila, even not in its proper time. The Or Zaru'a, however, disagrees.)

[6] The Rema (690:18) writes that regarding megilla reading in the presence of ten, there is a question whether women are counted. See, however, Rav Frank, Mikra'ei Kodesh, Purim, no. 50, notes on p. 171, who writes: "But it seems to me that ten women are certainly regarded like ten men, for there is publicizing of the miracle. And that which the Rema writes... that is only where they don't have their own quorum of ten, and they wish to join together with men, in which case it is possible that they do not join, as in the case of zimmun, where they do not join [with men]... ." The Chazon Ish also rules that ten women may recite the blessing (and perhaps even one woman – see what he says in sec. 155, 2). See also Torat ha-Mo'adim, Purim, pp. 154-155, who writes that ten women may recite the blessing of "Harav et rivenu," based on the opinions of those who maintain that ten women suffice for publicizing the miracle. He brings there a disagreement among the Rishonim, whether women are counted toward a quorum of ten with respect to megilla reading. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach maintains, however, that ten women do not recite the "Harav et rivenu" blessing (Halikhot Shelomo, p. 276, and see also the appendix below.

[7] Another similar ramification – a person who failed to read the megilla because of circumstances beyond his control, should he read the megilla on Shabbat.

 

Translated by David Strauss.