A Concise Guide to the Laws of Purim Meshulash
THE ENACTMENT OF PURIM MESHULASH
When Purim falls out on Shabbat, the megilla is not read in its proper time. Today, this can happen only in Jerusalem, when the fifteenth of Adar falls out on Shabbat. Rabba explained that the megilla is not read on Shabbat because of a rabbinic decree, lest a person come to carry the megilla four cubits in the public domain. According to Rav Yosef, the megilla is not read on Shabbat, so that the poor should not lose the charity that they ordinarily receive at the time of the megilla reading.
MEGILLA READING IN ITS PROPER TIME, OR ADVANCED READING?
The Gemara says that the megilla is not read on Shabbat but rather on Friday. The question may be raised whether the Friday reading follows from the original enactment of the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola (which is equivalent to divrei kabbala [laws known through tradition]), or is it a later rabbinic enactment. This question leads to the more fundamental question whether the Friday reading is considered megilla reading in its proper time (for this was part of the original enactment) or is it regarded as reading in advance (because this enactment was only enacted at some later point). This question has a number of practical ramifications:
CAN A JERUSALEMITE READ THE MEGILLA FOR A TEL AVIVI?
Can a Jerusalemite read the megilla for a Tel Avivi? If Friday is the proper time for megilla reading, as enacted by the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedola, even for the Jerusalemite, it stands to reason that he can read for the Tel Avivi, because the level of obligation of each of them is the same. (In practice, a Jerusalemite should not read for a Tel Avivi.)
IS A QUORUM OF TEN REQUIRED?
Can the megilla be read with less than ten men present? According to many Rishonim, megilla reading not in its proper time is only possible for a congregation (the Shulchan Arukh rules that this is the way one should act lekhatchila). If the Friday reading for Jerusalemites is considered reading not in its proper time, then ten people are necessary. The Mishna Berura rules that an individual Jerusalemite who reads the megilla should do so without reciting a blessing. But the Chazon Ish and many other authorities are lenient, ruling that when a person is forced to read the megilla as an individual, he may do so with a blessing (they put together additional arguments in favor of leniency).
READING FOR WOMEN ON PURIM MESHULASH
Is a women's megilla reading possible in Jerusalem in a year when there is Purim Meshulash? Women are not regarded as a "congregation," and therefore according to the Mishna Berura they must hear megilla reading in a synagogue (in such a year). Many other authorities, however, have ruled leniently, for it is possible, as stated above, that a quorum of ten is not needed, and it is possible that for the purpose of megilla reading, ten women are regarded as a "congregation," for there is pirsumei nisa. This leniency was accepted by the Chazon Ish, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (the chief rabbi of Jerusalem), and others.
GOING FROM TEL AVIV TO JERUSALEM AND VICE VERSA
If the resident of an unwalled city who already fulfilled his obligation in that unwalled city went to Jerusalem for Shabbat: If the obligation of Purim falls out on Shabbat, and it is only the megilla reading which was advanced to Friday, then since he will be in Jerusalem for Shabbat, he may become obligated a second time (especially if he is a Jerusalemite), at least in the other mitzvot aside from the megilla reading (which he already did on the fourteenth, and also in Jerusalem it is read on the fourteenth). The halakhic authorities disagree. It would seem that according to the basic law there is room for leniency, but in such a case a Jerusalemite should ideally observe (at least in minimal manner) the mitzvot of mishlo'ach manot and the Purim meal on Sunday. If a Jerusalemite was in Jerusalem on Friday, ideally he should not travel to Tel Aviv for Shabbat, because the whole obligation might only come into being on Shabbat, and he will therefore lose out on Purim. And if the obligation comes into being already on Friday, he does indeed become obligated in Purim, but he loses out on some things (for example, the Purim Torah reading). Ideally, then, he should not go away for Shabbat. If he went away, he should recite Al ha-Nisim on Shabbat (according to some, he should say it in "Elokai netzor" or in "Ha-Rachaman"), and on Sunday he should distribute mishlo'ach manot and celebrate the Purim meal, but he loses out on the Purim Torah reading.
AN INDIVIDUAL WHO READS ALONG WITH THE MEGILLA READER - IS THIS CONSIDERED MEGILLA READING IN A CONGREGATION?
If a person has a kosher megilla, and he reads along together with the megilla reader – according to the Chazon Ish, this is considered congregational reading. According to the Griz of Brisk, he is regarded as an individual. According to this, on Purim Meshulash, a person should not read along quietly to himself. It stands to reason, however, that if he reads along quietly and exactly at the same pace as the reader, and he hears the reader's reading – it is considered as congregational reading, and he may do so even on Purim Meshulash (even those who wish to be stringent).
A MINOR WHO REACHES MAJORITY ON PURIM MESHULASH
If a minor reaches majority on this Shabbat – then if the obligation comes into being only on Shabbat, he might have to read the megilla a second time on Shabbat, since on Friday he was still a minor! In practice, we rule that he does not read the megilla on Shabbat.
IF A PERSON DID NOT READ THE MEGILLA BECAUSE OF REASONS BEYOND HIS CONTROL
If, for reasons beyond his control, a person failed to read the megilla on Friday, should he read it on Shabbat? If the obligation comes into being only on Shabbat, perhaps he should read it. Practically speaking, however, he should not read the megilla on Shabbat. (For a frightening story from the Holocaust regarding Sukkot which fell out on Shabbat, and people who wished to fulfill the mitzva of lulav – see Responsa Mima'amakim, IV.)
On Friday, the megilla is read, but Al ha-Nisim is not recited.
In the morning, the megilla is read a second time, and matanot la-evyonim are distributed.
When reciting the "Shehecheyanu" blessing, one should have in mind the rest of the mitzvot of Purim which will be observed over the next few days.
Al ha-Nisim is recited only on Shabbat. This seems to imply that Purim essentially falls out on Shabbat, in accordance with its original time, and that it is only the mitzvot of the day that are advanced or delayed. Some authorities, however, disagree with this conclusion.
THE TORAH READING
The special Torah portion for Purim ("Vayavo Amalek") is read on Shabbat. There is no concern that a person will go to an expert to learn the Torah reading, because there is no such concern regarding obligations falling on the community, and because this is no different than the Torah reading every week, regarding which people remember and do not come to violate the prohibition of carrying.
THE PURIM MEAL
According to the Yerushalmi, the Purim meal should not take place on Shabbat, because Shabbat is a time of joy, and the Purim meal should be eaten on a day that is not otherwise a day of joy (this would be a diminishment of Shabbat or a diminishment of the Purim meal). The Meiri rules that the Purim meal should be eaten on Friday, but many authorities preferred Sunday, because only after the obligation comes into being (i.e., on Shabbat) is it possible to make up the Purim meal. This is the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh, and so it is the customary practice to celebrate the Purim meal on Sunday. (Some add a special dish on Shabbat in honor of Purim, and some also add a special dish in honor of Purim on Friday.)
There are two reasons for mishlo'ach manot:
1) help for the Purim meal;
2) increasing peaceful and friendly relations.
According to the first reason, mishlo'ach manot should be sent on Sunday, the day on which the Purim meal is observed. This is the common practice. (According to the Chazon Ish, mishlo'ach manot precedes matanot la-evyonim, and so it should be observed on Friday. Therefore, there are those who are accustomed to send mishlo'ach manot on Friday as well. There are also those who also send mishlo'ach manot on Shabbat – Rav Sonnenfeld in "Purim Meshulash.")
DOES PURIM FALLING OUT ON SHABBAT EFFECT RESIDENTS OF UNWALLED CITIES?
Owing to the honor of Shabbat, the Purim meal which non-Jerusalemites eat on Friday should take place before noon or before mincha ketana. (There are certain individuals who are accustomed to observe the Purim meal in the afternoon, and when Shabbat arrives, they recite kiddush [in the middle of the meal, without a blessing on the wine], followed by Kabbalat Shabbat, and the rest according to the usual order.)
So, too, it is customary not to recite tachanun on Sunday, even in unwalled cities (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).
BRIEF SUMMARY - THE LAWS OF PURIM MESHULASH
The residents of unwalled cities celebrate Purim as usual on the fourteenth of Adar. The general custom is to celebrate the Purim meal in the morning (there are some who continue the meal into Shabbat – see above).
The residents of walled cities divide up the mitzvot of Purim over three days:
Megilla reading. The megilla should be read in the presence of ten men (in a case of great need, there is room for leniency, e.g., for women, especially when there are ten women).
Al ha-Nisim is not recited. (If by mistake a person recited Al ha-Nisim, he need not repeat the prayer.)
In the morning: Megilla reading, matanot la-evyonim (some practice stringency and send mishlo'ach manot and add a special dish to their meal [to discharge their obligation according to the Meiri]). Work is permitted, though there are some who are stringent in this regard as well.
When reciting the "Shehecheyanu" blessing, one should also have in mind the mitzvot of Purim to be observed in the coming days.
Torah reading – for the maftir, we read "Vayavo Amalek;" for the haftara – the haftara of Parashat Zakhor ("Pakadeti" – as on the previous Shabbat).
Some add a special dish to the Shabbat meal (and some send mishlo'ach manot). On this Shabbat, a discourse is delivered relating to Purim.
Al ha-Nisim is not recited (if a person recited Al ha-Nisim, he is not required to repeat the prayer. According to some, Al ha-Nisim is recited at the Purim meal, but it is preferable not to say it, though it may be added in the Ha-Rachamans). Work is permitted (some maintain that it is customary to refrain from work from noon on – in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).
Even the residents of unwalled cities refrain from reciting tachanun (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).
Translated by David Strauss
To read more about the laws of Purim Meshulash, see: