Today’s section continues with other statements made by R. Joshua b. Levi concerning the laws of the Megillah.
Joshua b. Levi cites certain cities that were walled during the time of Joshua and therefore read on the fifteenth.
The problem is that I Chronicles states that there were men from the tribe of Benjamin who built these cities, led by Elpaal, who lived long after the land was conquered by Joshua. This would mean that they were not walled at the time of Joshua and that they should therefore read on the 14th.
The response from R. Joshua b. Levi is that there is yet another verse that seems to claim that Asa built them, not Elpaal or Joshua. King Asa was the third king of Judah. There is some confusion as to where these cities are, for the first tradition implies that they were in the tribe of Benjamin, whereas King Asa built cities in Judah. Rashi answers that by Asa’s time Judah was ruling in Benjamin.
In any case, who built these cities and were they walled at the time of Joshua?
Elazar answers that they were walled at the time of Joshua. They were then laid waste at the time of the brutal murder of the concubine in Gibea, an incident which set off a civil war, and in which the cities of the tribe of Benjamin were destroyed (see Judges 20). They were rebuilt later by Elpaal and his comrades, but then again fell. Finally, the walls and city were rebuilt at the time of Asa.
The fact that these cities were already built before King Asa built them is alluded to in the verse itself, for Asa seems to refer to cities that already exist.
This section contains more statements by R. Joshua b. Levi.
In traditional Jewish law, women are usually exempt from positive time-bound commandments. However, R. Joshua b. Levi says that they are obligated to read the Megillah because they “were part of the same miracle.” There are two potential meanings to this statement. 1) It refers to Esther, a woman, who was instrumental in saving the Jews. “They were part of the miracle” means that through a woman the miracle took place. 2) Women were endangered just as much as men by Haman’s murderous plot. “They were part of the miracle” means that they were miraculously saved, as were the men.
Joshua b. Levi says the same thing—that women are obligated–concerning two other commandments—the four cups of wine on Pesah and the lighting of Hannukah candles. All are mitzvoth in which women are obligated.
Joshua b. Levi says that when Purim falls on Shabbat they should ask questions and offer derashot about Purim on that very day. This probably means that in the synagogue the rabbi or whoever is speaking should talk about Purim.
The Talmud asks why he needs to point this out about Purim. After all, the same is true for all festivals. There is a custom that questions should be asked and derashot offered on the actual day of all of the Festivals.
The answer seems to me obvious. When Purim falls on Shabbat we don’t read the Megillah on Shabbat itself. We will learn this later—Rabbah said we don’t read the Megillah on Shabbat lest one carry it in the public domain. Therefore we might have thought that since we’re not reading the Megillah, we also do not talk about the day, ask questions or offer derashot. In other words, it’s not Purim! Therefore, R. Joshua b. Levi states that we do talk about Purim. We just don’t read the Megillah.
Joshua b. Levi rules that one must read the Megillah in the evening and then repeat it again the next morning. This is supported by a verse which specifically refers to crying out to God both during the day and at night.
The rabbis learning from him thought that what this meant was that at night they should read the Megillah and the next morning they should study the mishnayot of Tractate Megillah (actually sounds like a good plan to me). I should clarify why they thought this. The word that R. Joshua b. Levi uses to mean “repeat” is “ולשנותה” which can also mean to teach, as in the word Mishnah. Indeed, Mishnah is taught by repeating it over and over again. That is why these students thought that R. Joshua b. Levi was referring to repeating Mishnah the next day.
Jeremiah clarifies the meaning of the word “ולשנותה” here. It does not mean to teach Mishnah. It means to repeat the same thing that was recited earlier. This is again restated and supported by another verse which implies that we praise God not only at night, but also during the day.
Today’s section returns to discussing the Mishnah, which had stated that the people who live in the villages can read on the market day, earlier than the fourteenth.
The rabbis were lenient allowing the people of the villages to move up the reading to coincide with the Day of Gathering so that they could come into the city and provide their brethren with food.
The Talmud will discuss who the rabbis were lenient on.