Sunday, September 04, 2005

Be my Yoko Ono

Megillah 3b-4a, continued.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi emerges as the star of this amud, as we look at eight of his statements about walled cities and Purim and related topics, starting with a repeat of what he said on the previous daf: 1) the walled city and everything connected to it and everything seen with it are considered part of the walled city. Seen even if not connected, e.g. on a hill, and connected even if not seen, e.g. in a valley. (No one has answered my questions about today's Jerusalem! When I lived in Jerusalem, my office was in Malcha/Manhat, far away from anything that has ever been walled, and we were off on 15 Adar. 14 Adar was a regular business day, or as "regular" as it can be when you're going to the funeral of a colleague who was killed in a drive-by shooting.)

2) A city that was populated and then later surrounded by a wall is treated as an unwalled village.

Here we're not talking about the status of walled vs. unwalled for the purpose of when the city observes Purim, since as we all know by now, that is determined solely by a single snapshot in time (Joshua's time) without regard to any prior or subsequent municipal history. We're talking about the reversion of land to its original owners during the jubilee year, a provision from which walled cities are exempt (Leviticus 25:29-30), possibly due to their influential lobbyists. Because verse 25:29 specifies "beit moshav 'ir chomah" (a dwelling house in a walled city), RYbL interprets this to mean that it only counts if the city was walled at the time it was settled.

3) A walled city that doesn't have 10 unemployed people (the definition of a "large city" in the next mishnah) is treated as an unwalled village.

Yeah, we're all uncomfortable with using unemployment as the official measure of urbanization, so Rashi tries to spin it positively: these batlanim are people whose job it is to hang out in the synagogue and be on call to make a minyan whenever needed.

But anyway, duh! We knew that from the Mishnah, so what is RYbL coming to tell us? You might have thought that walled cities (the metropolises of their time) were exempt from the requirement of 10 batlanim, since all roads lead there, and people are coming in from all over, but no.

4) A walled city that is destroyed and then rebuilt is treated as a walled city.

Meaning that the walls were destroyed and rebuilt? But Rabbi Eliezer bar Yosei says in a baraita that if there were once walls and they were destroyed (regardless of whether they were rebuilt), it maintains the status of a walled city. He gets this by playing with "asher lo chomah" in Leviticus 25:30 -- lo is spelled with an aleph in the ketiv and a vav in the k'ri, with opposite meanings of "doesn't have a wall" and "has a wall".

Ok, so what's RYbL talking about? The case where the population of batlanim went below 10 ("destroyed" of 10 batlanim) and then went back above 10.

5) The cities of Lod, Ono, and Gei Haharashim were walled from the time of Joshua.

So if you're stuck at Ben-Gurion Airport on Purim, you should be observing Purim on 15 Adar.

But wait, we have to solve a mystery: Joshua didn't built those cities, Elpa'al did! (See I Chronicles 8:12) Also, Asa was the one who built fortified cities in Judah (see II Chronicles 14:5). R. Elazar has the answer: the cities were originally walled at the time of Joshua, then destroyed during the catastrophic episode of the concubine at Giv'ah, then rebuilt by Elpa'al, then destroyed again, then rebuilt by Asa. After all, Asa says "Let's build these cities" -- how could there be a "these cities" to talk about if they hadn't already existed in the past?

6) Women are obligated in the reading of the megillah, because they, too, were present in the miracle.

Even though megillah is positive and timebound, which would make it only incumbent on men in the rabbis' mind, here it applies to women too. And the Talmud has no comment on this, it just moves right on. But Tosafot doesn't want to stop there; it states explicitly that women may motzi others' obligations in megillah. Since I'm using MR's copy of the Gemara, I am utterly shocked that this line wasn't underlined.

7) When Purim falls on Shabbat, the topic of the day should be expounded.

Why specifically Purim? According to a baraita, Moses enacted that the specifics of a holiday (any holiday, including the ones that existed at Moses's time) should be expounded on that holiday. But Purim is different, because megillah isn't read on Shabbat (due to Rabbah's decree so that you don't carry it 4 amot in the public domain, just like for shofar and lulav), and the megillah reading is moved to another day, so you might think that the Shabbat of 14 Adar wasn't Purim at all, so there is a particular need to recognize that day as Purim even if all the Purim practices are moved to other days.

With our present calendar, 14 Adar can never fall in Shabbat. However, 15 Adar can (and did this year), so this affects cities like Jerusalem and Ono. Even though megillah is not read on Shabbat, and other things like matanot la'evyonim and mishloach manot are also moved to weekdays, Al hanisim is said in the Amidah on Shabbat 15 Adar. The Torah reading for Purim is read as the maftir on that Shabbat, and the haftarah for Zachor is read for the second week in a row. (Ari Brodsky says "There is one other situation where the same haftara can be read on two consecutive Shabbatot. Figure out what it is." I'm stumped. Anyone?)

8) A person is required to read the megillah at night and repeat it during the day.

This is the practice to this day, but the prooftexts are particularly weak. It's based either on Psalm 22:3 (so megillah is supposed to be about God not answering us?), or Psalm 30:13 (so "not be silent" means "say it twice"?). I'm sure they could have come up with something better. Any takers?

There was an amusing episode when people misunderstood the word lishnot ("to repeat") in RYbL's statement, and thought it meant "to learn Mishnah", so they would read the megillah at night, and then learn the mishnayot of Masechet Megillah during the day. Rabbi Yirmiyah set them straight.

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