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UNEDITED DRAFT of Megillah Daf 5

Submitted by Andrew M. Greene on 2008-08-05Z03:10:10.299384

We’re almost done with the gemara for the first mishna.

Rav said: The megillah, in its time – that is, when the megillah is read on the 14th of Adar, it is read, even if by oneself, but when not in its time, with ten. The mitzvah of reading the megillah can be fulfilled privately (i.e., with less than a minyan) on Purim itself, but when the date of reading is advanced, a minyan is required. Rav Assi said: Whether in its time or whether not in its time, it is read with ten.

Once it happened, and Rav was careful to do as Rav Assi said. Although he did not hold that finding a minyan was required, he followed the more stringent ruling.

But did Rav say that? Did not Rav Yehudah the son of Rav Shnuel bar Shelat say in the name of Rav, that when Purim falls on Shabbat, then erev Shabbat is their time – that is, the time for reading megillah and distributing money for the poor?

To understand this statement in Rav’s name, we must understand what is meant by “erev Shabbat is their time.” What does this mean? Look! Shabbat is their time but we had to reschedule. Rather, this is what he said: When it is not in their time, it is like it is in their time. How so? Perhaps (but it turns out this will be refuted), if the proper time for everyone has been shifted, then the shifted day counts as though it were the proper time with respect to the requirement for a minyan. This would exclude the case when farmers choose to anticipate the reading by shifting it to the preceding market day. But when it is the entire nation who is rescheduling, then perhaps just as at their time the the obligation to read the megillah may be fulfilled even in private, so too when it is not at their proper time (as long as it’s a global rescheduling) the obligation to read the megillah may be fulfilled even in private.

No, that’s not a correct reading, because it would contradict the more explicit teaching of Rav’s that in the case of reading the megilla when it has been pushed back to Friday, it requires ten. So what does “erev Shabbat is their time” come to teach? How do we interpret the second teaching in the name of Rav?

It is to disagree with Rebbi, who said that as long as the unwalled towns are pushed from their place and are not reading on the 14th because it fell on Shabbat, push them to the market day of Thursday (which we’ve already dismissed). This is what he (Rav) comes to teach us: that erev Shabbat is their time. While it is true that Friday the 13th is not their natural time, it is the time arrived at by a simple application of the law, and we have no right to push it an extra day earlier.

That’s it for the first Mishna.


The next Mishna: What makes it a large town? All where there are ten unemployed men. As we have already discussed, this is to ensure that there is always a minyan at the synagogue. Fewer than that, this is a village.

In the case of these things (the reading of megillah) they said we move it earlier but we do not delay it, but the time for the wood-offering of the priests, and the ninth of Av, the festival sacrifice, and the congregation, they may be delayed but not anticipated.

Let’s explain each of those: the wood-offering was that when a family would donate wood for use on the altar, they would accompany it with a sacrifice. Since this was a voluntary offering, if it were on Shabbat, it would have to be deferred.

The ninth of Av, of course, is the fast commemorating the destruction of the Temple. Since fasting is prohibited on Shabbat, except for Yom Kippur and in theory the Tenth of Tevet, if the ninth is Shabbat we fast on Sunday.

The festival sacrifice should ideally be offered on the first day of each of the three pilgrimage festivals, but since it may be brought during the entire following week, it does not override Shabbat.

The “congregation” referred to here is when the king would read the entire book of Deuteronomy in the presence of the entire nation on the second night of Sukkot during a Shmittah (Sabbatical) year. If that night were Shabbat, however, the act of congregation was postponed to the following night.

Returning to the Mishna: Even though they said that we may move the megillah reading earlier and we may not delay it, it is permitted to eulogize, fast, and distribute money to the poor on the earlier day when the megillah is read. That day is not actually Purim, so we may eulogize and fast, which are not permitted on Purim. And even though that day is not actually Purim, we may fulfill our obligation to distribute money to the poor, as was discussed previously.

Rabbi Yehuda said: Under what circumstances may the reading of the megillah be moved earlier? A place where they assemble on Monday and Thursday. But a place where they do not assemble, not on Mondays and not on Thursdays, they may not read it (the megillah) except in its time on the 14th. (This portion of our Mishna was used in the gemara on the preceding Mishna, as you no doubt recall.)


The Gemara begins its analysis of the Mishna with a simple explanatory note. A baraita expains: the “ten unemployed men” stated in the mishna are in the synagogue as we noted above.


The Gemara continues with the next item of note in the Mishna: “We move the reading earlier but we do not delay it” – What is the reason? Rabbi Abba said that Rabbi Shmuel said that the biblical verse says “and it shall not go over.” (Again, we saw this previously.)

While we’re quoting Rabbi Abba quoting Rabbi Shmuel, here’s another teaching: Rabbi Abba also said that Rabbi Shmuel said: From where do we derive that we do not count days to determine years? That is, a year is determined by 12 lunar months, which may be 353, 354, or 355 days. For it is said: “to the months of the year” (Ex. 12:2) — you count months to determine years, but you do not count days to determine years.

And the rabbis of Caesaria said in the name of Rabbi Abba: From where do we derive that we do not add up hours to determine months? That is, even though a lunar month is slightly longer than 29 days and 12 hours, a calendrical month is always rounded to either 29 or 30 complete days. For it says: “until a month of days” (Num. 11:20) — you add up days to determine months, but you do not add up hours to determine months.


Our mishna next spoke about but the time for the wood-offering of the priests, and the ninth of Av, the festival sacrifice, and the congregation, they may be delayed but not anticipated. Why?

The 9th of Av, because we do not hasten the onset of disaster. The festival sacrifice and the congregation, because the time at which they become obligatory has not yet arrived and one cannot fulfil an obligation that has not yet become incumbent upon one.


A baraita: The festival offering — the whole time of the festival offering, it may be delayed. The simple meaning is that as long as the offering is made any time during the seven days when it is legal, there is no reason to prefer an earlier time to a later time.

But the Gemara examines other ways to interpret the phrase “the whole time of the festival offering.” In the interest of time, I will summarize rather than translate directly:

Rav Oshaya says that this means that the additional sacrifice of “appearing” at the Temple in honor of the pilgrimage is postponed from Shabbat and also from Yom Tov; this follows the view of the academy of Shammai. The academy of Hillel, however, rules that the “appearing” sacrifice may be brought on Yom Tov.

Rava says that it delimits the last time that the festival offering may be brought — for the entire seven day period (exclusive of Shabbat), but not after.

Rav Ashi says that it not only teaches what Rava said, but that even in the case of Shavuot, which is a one-day holiday, the festival offering may be brought for the entire seven day period (exclusive of Shabbat).


Rabbi Elazar said that Rabbi Chanina said: Rebbi once planted a seedling on Purim, and washed himself in the springs of Tzipori on the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, and he tried to erase the extra stringencies of the 9th of Av; but they (the other rabbis) do not acknowlege his position on this last point.

Rebbi was trying to deomnstrate, through his actions, that he disagreed with certain stringencies that people were taking upon themselves. As the gemara will explain in a moment, there was disagreement as to whether Purim had the status of a holiday vis-a-vis the 39 categories of prohibited action. There was disagreement as to whether the 17th of Tammuz, which begins the three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, and the 9th of Av, which ends that period and marks the actual date when the Temple walls were breached, were minor fasts on which only eating and drinking are prohibited or whether they are major fasts on which bathing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and conjugal relations are also forbidden.

Rabbi Abba bar Zavdah said before him (i.e., before Rabbi Elazar): Rabbi, that wasn’t how it happened. Rather: the 9th of Av fell on a Shabbat that time, and it was pushed off to after Shabbat, and Rebbi said, since it has been pushed off by one day, push it off completely and (depending on which commentator you follow) either omit the fast completely or treat it as a minor fast. But they (the other rabbis) do not acknowlege his position. Rabbi Elazar was pleased to have the story corrected, and replied by quoting Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 4:9 — He quoted to him: “Two are better than one.”

Getting back to the beginning of this narrative, And Rebbi – how could he plant a seedling on Purim? For Rav Yosef taught this baraita: In Esther 9:19, Purim is described as a day of “Happiness, and feasting, and holiday” Each of these words signifies a law of Purim: “Happiness” to teach that we are forbidden to eulogize. “Feasting” to teach that it is forbidden to fast. “Holiday” to teach that it is forbidden to perform any of the 39 categories of melacha. Planting a seedling is not only in one of the 39 forbidden categories, but is an exemplar of one of the 39 (or, as I call them with my young children, the “39 big no-nos”)! How could Rebbi do such a thing?

Instead, let us understand the narrative differently: Rebbi was a “son” of the 14th – i.e., he observed Purim on the 14th of Adar – and he planted the seedling on the 15th which it was not Purim for him. Yeah? But Rebbi was in Tiberias, and Tiberias was walled from the days of Joshua bin Nun and therefore Rebbi should have held Purim on the 15th.

Instead, let’s try again. Rebbi was a “son” of the 15th, and he planted the seedling on the 14th. Even this doesn’t satisfy the Gemara: How could he be sure that Tiberias was walled in the days of Joshua bin Nun? Isn’t it true that Chizkiyah read the megillah in Tiberias both on the 14th and on the 15th, because he had doubt whether or not it was walled in the days of Joshua bin Nun?

The Gemara’s answer: Chizkiyah had his doubts, but to Rebbi it was obvious.

But even if it was obvious to Rebbi that Tiberias was walled, who permits the residents to plant on the 14th? Isn’t it written in “Megillah Taanit” (a tractate that didn’t make it into the Mishna, that details the laws of the calendar) “The 14th of Adar and the 15th of Adar are the days of Purim; we do not eulogize then.” And Rava said: “It was not necessary to include this statement in ‘Megillah Taanit’ except to prohibit those people who follow this day from eulogizing as well on that day.” That is, Rava asserts that the only reason “Megillah Taanit” includes this law is to teach us that regardless of which day your locale holds as Purim, not only eulogizing but the other forbidden actions are prohibited equally on the 14th and the 15th.

These words are for eulogies and fasting, but melacha is forbidden on one day, not more. The Gemara rejects the broad application of Rava’s reading of “Megillah Taanit” and holds by a narrower application of the expansive reading.

So the Gemara’s first conclusion is that Rebbi was actually planting on the 14th but held Purim on the 15th.


Another approach: Rabba the son of Rava said, You could even say that Rebbi planted on the specific day on which he celebrated Purim, because when the rabbis originally established three prohibitions on Purim, the people accepted upon themselves the prohibitions on eulogizing and fasting, but the prohibition against melacha they did not accept. When a rabbinic decree is made, if the people do not accept it, it does not take on the force of law. A kind of popular pocket veto.

Proof is brought from two descriptions of Purim in the book of Esther (9:19 and 9:22). First, it is written: “happiness, and feasting, and holiday.” But finally, it is written “to make for them days of feasting and happiness” — but “holiday” is not written.

So by this reasoning, Rebbi could very well have planted on Purim, because there is not a prohibition. This is a case where a thing is permitted, yet other people have the custom of prohibiting it. In Rebbi’s community, they did not have the custom of prohibiting melacha on Purim. To demonstrate to those who had the custom of prohibitng melacha that their custom was just that — custom and not universally binding law — Rebbi planted his seedling.


Yet another reason why Rebbi could plant on Purim: And if you lake, you could say that it was a universal custom not to plant on Purim, but Rebbi planted a seedling of happiness, as we have learned in a Mishna on Taanit 12b: If there has been a drought and the people have fasted three times to pray for rain, and after these fasts they have not yet been answered, they should diminsh business dealings, construction, planting, betrothals, marriages. Diminshing these activities is indicative of a state of mourning and distress.

And a baraita was taught: “construction” in this context, means “construction of happiness”; “planting” means “planting of happiness”. What is “construction of happiness”? That is building a house for his newly-married son. What is “planting of happiness?” That is planting an arbor for kings.

So if, in times of national sorrow, one is prohibited from “plantings of happiness” even when other plantings are permitted, the reasoning goes, then in times of national celebration, one is not prohibited from “plantings of happiness” even when other plantings are prohibited.


Gufa! Where were we before Rebbi’s planting distracted us? Oh, yeah: Chizkiyah read megillah both on the 14th and on the 15th, because he had doubts on whether or not it was walled in the days of Joshua bin Nun.

Did he really have doubts about the status of Tiberias? For it is written in Joshua 19:35 “And the city-forts are Tzidim, Tzer, Chamat, Rakat, and Kineret.” And it is established that Rakat is another name for Tiberias. If the book of Joshua describes Tiberias as a city-fort, is it not obvious that in Joshua’s day it was walled?

Here is the reason for his doubt: because one side was a “wall” of the sea. Tiberias is on the shore of Lake Kineret (a/k/a the Sea of Gallilee) and while it was walled on its other sides, the side facing the water did not need fortification.

If that’s the case, where was his doubt? That’s certainly not a wall! A baraita says, in regards to redeeming houses (which we mentioned on 3b), Lev. 25:30 says “which has a wall” This teaches that a walled city requires a bona fide wall, and not a wall of roofs i.e., the wall of the city must not be formed by the houses abutting one another on one side. The Torah continues surrounding it which teaches that the wall must be on all sides. This excludes Tiberias, for the sea is its wall. Given this explicit baraita, how could Chizkiyah even think that Tiberias could qualify as a walled city?

Vis-a-vis the houses of a walled city and the laws regarding their redemption, he had no doubt — of course Tiberias didn’t qualify. But where did he have doubt? Vis-a-vis the reading of the megillah. That’s a different context, and perhaps the definition of “walled” vs. “unwalled” is not the same. What does “unwalled” mean and what does “walled” mean when they are written about the reading of the megillah? Unlike the laws about redeeming houses in walled cities, where the passage in Leviticus explicitly refers to the wall, the practice of deferring the megillah reading to the 15th in walled cities is derived from implicit references in the book of Esther. Perhaps that changes the qualifications.

If it is because these are open and these are not open, well, Tiberias is open! Or, maybe, if it is because these are protected and these are not protected, well, Tiberias is protected! If “walled” is to be taken literally, Tiberias does not qualify; if “walled” is to be taken as meaning “fortified,” then since Tiberias cannot be attacked from the sea, it does qualify.

And that’s why Chizkiyah had doubts.


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