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Menachot 70
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UNEDITED DRAFT of Megillah Daf 4

Submitted by Andrew M. Greene on 2008-08-05Z03:10:07.890052

Gufah! – a term the Gemara uses to mean “But enough with this digression, let’s get back to the main point.” So first the Gemara will remind us what were talking about.

Back on 2b, we learned: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: not only a walled area, but also all that is near to it, and also all that can be seen along with it, counts as a walled area.

The gemara is intrigued by the possible combinations here. It was taught that “near to,” even if it “cannot be seen”; “can be seen,” even if it is not “near to”. That is, even if only one of those two conditions is met, it is sufficient. It makes sense to say “seen even though not near” — for example, the town is on a mountaintop. But “near but cannot be seen”? How can that be? If the town is in a valley.


And thus starts a sequence of teachings by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: A city that started as a village and then was surrounded by a wall remains a village. What is the reason? As it is written: “If one sells a dwellinghouse in a walled city….” (Lev. 25:29) This Torah passage discusses the laws concerning the right to repurchase a house in which one lived, but the relevant detail for us right now is that this verse implies that the dwellinghouse was built in a city that was already walled. (I don’t see how, but that’s the point.)


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: A city where there are not ten unemployed men is treated like a village. In this context “unemployed” refers to people who are supported by the community for the purpose of ensuring that there is always a minyan in the synagogue. A community that is too small to support this perpetual minyan does not qualify for the status of a city.

The Gemara has a question: What does this come to teach? We have a Mishna on the next page, 5a, that will teach us the same law: What is a large town? All in which there are ten unemployed men. Fewer than that and it’s a village. So if this will be learned in a Mishna, why quote Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi? It was necessary, because Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi used the word city while the Mishna used the word “town”, and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teaches us that even though many outsiders visit a city, such that there are probably ten people without local employment, as they are not supported by the city for the express purpose of creating the minyan, we can’t rely on them.


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: A city that was destroyed and later settled retains the status of a city.

The gemara is unsure how to interpret “destroyed” and “settled” in this context. What is “destroyed”? Perhaps you will say “its walls were razed and then rebuilt” and, if they were not rebuilt, it is not considered a city. But we have a baraita: Rabbi Eliezer bar Yose says, “that lacks a wall” (Lev. 25:30, the verse after the one we just cited above.) That is, although is lacks a wall now, if it had one previously then it retains the status of a walled city. That means that this first attempt at explaining “destroyed” and “settled” cannot be correct.

Instead, what is “destroyed”? It lost its ten unemployed men, and lost its status as a city; once it regains its ten unemployed men, it will once again gain the status of a city.


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: Lod, Ono, and Gei Hecharashim were walled in the time of Joshua bin Nun. But the Gemara objects: Did Joshua build them? Elpaal built them! and a prooftext is cited. But actually Asa built them! and another prooftext is cited. Rabbi Elazar said: These cities were walled in the days of Joshua bin Nun. They were destroyed in the incident of the concubine in Giveah (Judges 19-21, and I am not going into that one now! Let’s just say that cities in the tribal lands of Benjamin were destroyed.) And Elpal came and rebuilt them. They fell again, and Asa came and restored them.


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: Women are obligated in the reading of the megillah, for they were also involved in that miracle.

The reading of the megillah is a prime example of a “positive commandment that time causes.” That is, it’s a “Thou shalt” as opposed to a “thou shalt not”, and there’s a specific time when thou shalt. The general principle is that women are exempt from commandments to do a specific action at a specific time, although there are plenty of other exceptions.

(I am tickled by Artscroll’s footnote here: “The authorities dispute whether or not a woman can read the Megillah on behalf of a man.” I am genuinely shocked that Artscroll is even willing to imply that some authorities would permit a woman to read Megillah on behalf of a man! Had they omitted this footnote, I suspect the possibility would never have occurred to 99% of their readership.)


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: A Purim that falls on Shabbat — we ask about and explain the matters of the day. The “matters” may be the content of the megillah or may be other laws of Purim. Later we’ll get into the reason why the megillah itself is not read on Shabbat.

Why single out Purim? This applies to all festivals, as we learned in a Baraita: “Moses established for Israel that they shold ask and explain the matters of the day: the laws of Passover on Passover, the laws of Shavuot on Shavuot, and the laws of Sukkot on Sukkot.” But Purim required an explicit teaching, for you might say that we should issue a protective law for the Sabbath, based on Rabbah who — well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Wait for tomorrow to find out what Rabbah said. So learn from this — i.e., learn from the teaching of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that even when Purim falls on Shabbat and the ritual reading of the entire megillah is prohibited, the studying of it is required.


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also said: It is obligatory on a person to read the megillah at night and to repeat it during the day and a prooftext is cited. Some thought this meant to read the megillah at night and learn the Mishnas of this very tractate during the day. Rabbi Yirmiyah said to them: Rabbi Chiya bar Abba explained to me directly that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi meant to repeat the actual reading of the megillah during the day.

The same teaching was taught in the name of a different rabbi with a different prooftext. I like the prooftext and it’s a great place to stop for the night:

Rabbi Chelbo said that Ula from Biri said: It is obligatory on a person to read the megillah at night and to repeat it during the day, as it is said: “So that I might sing your glory and not be silent, LORD my God, forever I will thank You.” Artscroll explains that this verse, Psalms 30:13, is linked in the Pesikta to the mircale of Purim, and that “I might sing your glory” describes the reading at night, and “and not be silent” describes the reading of the daytime.


I would like to dedicate the learning of 4b to honor the memory of my second cousin twice removed, Arnold Erlanger, whose biography, “Choose Life” [Review], is a moving description of how he survived the Shoah and rebuilt his life afterwards. Arnold passed away peacefully in his sleep last week at age 90. Yehi zichrono levaruch.

We return to the next section of our Mishna. “… But villages may read on the preceding market day.” Why?

Rabbi Chanina said: the sages ruled leniently for villages so that they can bring water and food to their brethren who are in the towns. Rabbi Chanina’s explanation is that by advancing the reading, we free up the farmers who will be needed to bring supplies from the farms into the towns on Purim itself.

The Gemara doesn’t like that answer: Are you saying that this enactment is for the towns? Are we causing the villagers to compromise their Purim experience for the convenience of towndwellers? But our Mishna continued: “If the 14th fell on a Monday, then both villages and large towns read on that very day.” So: if it is so, as Rabbi Chanina taught, let them advance to the preceding market day even in the case when the 14th itself is a market day. If the motivation behind this law is to free up the farmers to deliver foodstuffs to the town on Purim, then why not have it apply in all years?

That would be the 10th, and the 10th was not established by the rabbis as a valid date for reading the Megillah. The earliest date listed in the mishna was the 11th. (If the 14th is a Monday, the preceding Thursday works out to be the 10th.)

(I will elide two more attempts to make Rabbi Chanina’s argument work.)

Come and hear: Our next Mishna will teach the following: Rabbi Yehudah said: When is this? Under what circumstances do villages move the date of reading to the preceding market day? In a place where they assemble on the second day and the fifth day of the week (Mondays and Thursdays). But in a places where they do not enter on the second and the fifth, they do not read it (the megillah) except in its time. So we only adjust the date in a village where people are congregating on the earlier date anyway.

If it occured to you to think that this enactment is for the towns, why should it be that if the villagers don’t congregate on Mondays and Thursdays, it is to the detriment of the towns? If the motivation is for the benefit of the towns, why should the villages’ practice matter?

The Gemara concludes that Rabbi Chanina was mistaken. Don’t say that it is so they can provide water and food; instead, say that it is because they provide water and food to their brethren in the towns. That is, since the farmers will be busy on Purim providing supplies, we can ease their lives by letting them hear the megillah on the preceding market day, when they’ll be in the village anyway. So if this is a village where they would not be coming in on market day regularly, there is no extra convenience for them by letting them combine the trip to market with the trip to hear megillah read.


The Mishna continues: “How so? If the 14th fell on a Monday, etc.” Why is there a difference? The first part corresponds to the order of the month, and the end corresponds to the order of the days? That is, if you go back to the mishna, it started by enumerating the days as 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th; but when it started enumerating the cases, it goes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. which results in working out the dates as 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th. The gemara concludes that it is easier to remember if we follow the days of the week.


This section will deal with what happens when Purim and Shabbat coincide. There will be a few principles that keep resurfacing, and it will be helpful to enumerate them up front:


Our mishna had enumerated the various cases, including that if the 14th falls on erev Shabbat (Friday) then towns move their reading to Thursday, villages remain on Friday, and walled cities move their reading to Friday. (Note that under our current computed calendar, this situation can never arise.) For purposes of this discussion, towns are smaller than villages which are smaller than cities.

Our Mishna is like which teacher? Perhaps Rebbi, perhaps Rabbi Yose.

Which teaching of Rebbi is it? Is it like this Baraita: When it (the 14th) falls on erev Shabbat (Friday), villages and large cities read on the preceding market day which would be the Thursday immediately before, and walled cities read on that very day (Friday). That would satisfy all three of the principles listed at the head of this posting. But Rebbi says: I say the towns do not get pushed from their place and can continue to read on Friday, even though this is the same day as the walled cities: Rather, both these and these read on that very day.

What is the reason that the first teacher ruled that the unwalled towns should push back to Thursday? Because it is written: “In all years,” and just as in all years towns precede cities, here too towns precede cities. That’s the justification for the thrd principle above. But there’s another way to read it. But you can say “in all years” teaches that Just as in all years towns are not pushed from their place and read on the 14th, here, too towns are not pushed from their place. Both readings seem equally valid; how will the first teacher? This case is different, because it is impossible for towns to hold their place and read on the 14th without violating the principle that walled cities read a day later.

(Andrew here: that sounds like a classic case of begging the question. We have two readings, one that says “in all years” means that towns always precede cities, and one that says “in all years” means that towns don’t get pushed off the 14th; and how do we decide which one is right? Well the first one must be right because the second would violate the principle of, well, the first one. Ritva explains that what the gemara is trying to teach us that the two readings are not actually equal in priority, and the way to read the gemara’s conclusion is that given those two choices, the first teacher finds the first reading carries more weight.)

And now the gemara will explain Rebbi’s position by inverting the exact text we just saw:

What is the reason that Rebbi ruled that the unwalled towns should stay on Friday? Because it is written: “In all years,” and just as in all years towns are not pushed from their place, here too towns are not pushed from their place. But there’s another way to read it. But you can say “in all years” teaches that Just as in all years towns precede cities, here, too towns precede cities. Both readings seem equally valid; how will Rebbi decide? This case is different, because it is impossible for towns to precede cities by reading on the 13th without violating the principle that towns are never pushed from their place.

(Andrew here: Again, Ritva explains that this is not begging the question, it is merely Rebbi explaining that to him the principle that towns are never pushed from their place is more important than the principle that towns precede cities.)


So that’s the analysis of whether the Mishna was like Rebbi. Which teaching of Rav Yose corresponds to our mishna? This Baraita: When it (the 14th) falls on erev Shabbat (Friday), walled cities and villages read on the preceding market day (Thursday), and large towns read on that very day (Friday). Rav Yose says: we do not advance walled city before towns. Instead, these and these both read on that very day (Friday).

AS long as we need to move the reading in walled cities back to avoid Shabbat, the first teacher applies the only rule we have for moving readings back: moving it to the preceding market day. Rav Yose objects that this would reverse the usual order, and resolves it by allowing both to read on Friday. That position accords with the Mishna.

A similar argument is followed to the one over Rebbi’s position, in which “in all years” is used to support each position, with full reflection. If I have time, I’ll come back and redact this entry to include all those details.


The next passage, which I’m also eliding, contains yet more discussion about alternate ways of solving the “14th on Shabbat” problem. Since they are all refuted, and since this is getting long, I’m going to skip them for now.


Finally, we get to the essence of the matter:

The whole world agrees that the megillah is not read on Shabbat. Why?

Rabbah said: All are obligated in the reading of the megilla, as in shofar blowing, but not all are experts in the reading of the megillah. The prohibition is a “fence” lest one carry it in one’s hands, and walk to an expert to learn how to read, and carry it four cubits in an unenclosed domain on Shabbat, which would be a violation of a Torah law.

And this is the reason for shofar, and this is the reason for lulav These re two other mitzvot that are suspended on Shabbat for fear that one will carry the object in an unenclosed domain.

Another explanation: Rav Yosef said: because the eyes of the poor are watching for the time of the reading of the megillah, since they know that that is the day when there is also a commandment to distribute extra money to the poor so that they can buy food for a Purim feast. Since money cannot be handled on Shabbat, if the megillah were read on Shabbat but the money were distributed another day, it would be cruel to the poor.

This was taught in a Baraita: Even though villages may move the megillah reading to the preceding market day, they collect the gifts to the poor on that day and distribute them on that day (that is, the market day).

The Gemara objects: This makes no sense. “Even though?” Surely this is the reason! Instead, read it this way:

Since villages may move the megillah reading to the preceding market day, they collect the gifts to the poor on that day and distribute them on that day, since the eyes of the poor are watching for the time of the reading of the megillah.

So we’ve moved megillah reading to avoid Shabbat, and we’ve moved the gifts to the poor out of consideration for their feelings. One might mistakenly assume that the rest of Purim would also travel along with these two, so the gemara explicitly states: However, rejoicing by feasting and sending gifts of food to one’s friends is not done except at its time on the 14th.


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