In yesterday’s section we learned a mishnah in which R. Judah said that in his time, since people reckon the calendar from the day on which the Megillah is read, it is only read in the proper time, on the 14th or 15th. In our sugya, R. Ashi cites a baraita which seems to have a different opinion, also attributed to R. Judah.
In the first source, a mishnah from later in the Tractate, the one we learned yesterday, R. Judah stated that in his day, everyone reads the Megillah on the day on which it is supposed to be read, the 14th or the 15th. But in a baraita, R. Judah draws a distinction between places in which villagers go to town on Mondays and Thursdays and places where they do not. Where they do go to town on market days, they can read on an earlier day so that they have time to go to the towns and provide food and water for the townspeople. But if they are not going to town, then they should read it on its proper day.
This baraita implies that even in these days, there still are places that move up the reading to the earlier day. This contradicts his earlier opinion.
R. Ashi, a late Babylonian amora, resolves this difficulty by changing the ascription in the baraita. These weren’t the words of R. Judah. They were those of his son.
The Talmud is surprised that R. Ashi can just change the ascription in a baraita. What gives him the right! Just because two sources contradict each other does not mean we change the name of the statement’s author? The Talmud answers that R. Ashi had heard that some people ascribe the baraita to R. Judah and some to R. Yose his son. In order to prevent them from contradicting each other, he accepted only the attribution to R. Yose son of R. Judah.
According to the Mishnah unwalled cities celebrate Purim and read the Megillah on the fourteenth of Adar and walled cities on the fifteenth. Our sugya asks where this tradition comes from.
Esther says that the Jews in unwalled towns celebrate on the fourteenth. From here, Rava deduces that those in walled towns celebrate on the fifteenth.
The Megillah only says that the Jews in unwalled towns celebrate on the fourteenth. Why not conclude, the Talmud asks rhetorically, that Jews in walled towns don’t read the Megillah at all?
The answer is that all Israelites must celebrate Purim, and all Israelites were under Achashverosh’s rule, as we can see from the very opening of the Megillah.
Verse 21 says that the Jews should keep the fourteenth and fifteenth. This could lead us to conclude that those in unwalled cities celebrate Purim on the fourteenth, and those in walled cities celebrate on both the fourteenth and fifteenth, in line with what is written in verse 21.
The answer is that the word “et” which doesn’t really have any translation into English, separates the fourteenth from the fifteenth. Those in unwalled cities celebrate on the fourteenth and those in walled cities on the fifteenth.
Still, the Talmud asks, how do we know that those in walled cities don’t have a choice as to when to celebrate.
The answer comes from yet another verse—”their times”, which implies that there is more than one time, and that each type of city must celebrate Purim at a distinct time.
Still, the Talmud presses on, why not celebrate on the thirteenth, a different date but not the fourteenth. The answer is that walled cities pattern themselves after Shushan, the capital, which did not finish defending itself till a day later than the rest of the Jews, on the fourteenth. They celebrated on the fourteenth, therefore so do all walled cities.
So far we have only learned about celebrating Purim; but how do we know that the Megillah is to be read on that same day.
The answer is derived from Esther 9:28. “Keeping” is understood as a reference to the feast to celebrate the day. “Remembering” is the reading of the Megillah, which recalls the events. Since the verse compares the two, we learn that they are observed on the same days.
According to the Mishnah the status of a city as “walled” or “unwalled” is based on whether it was walled when Joshua initially conquered Canaan. Our sugya notes that other tannaim hold that the status is determined according to the city’s status at the time of Ahashverosh, when the Purim events actually occurred.
R. Joshua b. Korha holds that the city’s status should be based on Shushan. Shushan was walled when the Purim events occurred and rested from the fighting on the fifteenth, so too all cities walled at the time of the Purim events read on the fifteenth of Adar.
The tanna who authored our mishnah understood Esther 9 which refers to walled cities (also translated as villages) in light of Deuteronomy 3 which uses the exact same word. Deuteronomy refers to the conquering of the land right before the Israelites entered Canaan, so too Esther refers to cities walled at the time of Joshua.
The Talmud here seems to accept that the more reasonable position is that of R. Joshua b. Korha. There is no reason why he should accept the comparison drawn by our tanna between the two appearances of the word.
However, it does not make sense why our Tanna would not accept the view of R. Joshua b. Korha.
The Talmud rephrases the question of why the Tanna of our mishnah held that the status follows the time of Joshua. The question really is what they did in Shushan, according to the view of the Mishnah. Shushan was walled at the time of the events, but not at the time of Joshua. So if they read on the fifteenth, our tanna would seem to say they read on the wrong date.
The answer is that Shushan is an exception to the rule because the miracle actually occurred there. They read on the fifteenth, but the status of all other cities follows their whether they were walled or unwalled at the time of Joshua.
The Tanna of our Mishnah makes two distinctions: 1) Walled cites and unwalled cities at the time of Joshua; 2) Shushan (unwalled at time of Joshua) and all other cities unwalled at time of Joshua. This accords with a midrash on Esther 9:28.
But R. Joshua b. Korha does not make two distinctions, just one, between cities walled at time of the events and those not walled. So what does he do with the verse?
Rather than answer the question, R. Joshua b. Korha throws it back at the author of the Mishnah. The Mishnah derived the distinction between walled and unwalled cities at the time of Joshua from the use of the word “perazi” in Esther and Deuteronomy. So this tanna should not even need the distinction between “city and city” made in Esther 9. Therefore, this midrash does not accord with him either.
The real meaning of that verse is not as we thought above. Rather, it is used by R. Joshua b. Levi to teach that the environs of a city count as part of that city. If the city was walled at the time of Joshua, then the area around it also reads on the 15th.
Any area within a mil of a walled city reads on the fifteenth, as is the distance from Hamtan to Tiberias. A mil is about 1 km.
This week’s daf begins with another statement attributed to R. Jeremiah, or you may also say R. Hiyya b. Abba, the same authors of the last statement on the previous daf. Topically, this has nothing to do with the reading of the Megilla
According to R. Jeremiah the alternative form of writing a mem, nun, zadi, peh and kuf was initiated by the “Watchmen” which Rashi interprets as prophets. Today we use these alternate forms for the appearance of the letter when it is at the end of the word the “sofiot.” But R. Jeremiah seems to be suggesting that these forms should always be used.
The Talmud raises two difficulties on this. First of all, how can a prophet introduce something so radically new as how a letter is supposed to be written? After all, there are many laws that are connected to how a letter is written, most importantly the writing of Torah scrolls, mezuzot and tefillin. So how could the Prophets change this.
Second, R. Hisda said that the mem and samekh in the Tablets given to Moses were standing miraculously—they are circles and have nowhere to be attached to the sides! The assumption is that they were carved all the way through the stone, a notion seen elsewhere as well. This refers obviously to the end form of the letter mem, not the form we use elsewhere in words. If the Tablets were given with this form, then this form of the letter must have existed already at the time of the revelation on Sinai.