Shiur #10: Purim Seuda When Purim Falls on Shabba

  • Rav Moshe Taragin
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Talmudic Methodology
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Lecture #10: Purim Seuda When Purim Falls on Shabbat


By Rav Moshe Taragin


            Unique among Yamim Tovim, Purim is not fastened to one particular date. The first mishna in Megilla lists various dates for megilla reading, and the very basic menu of Purim mitzvot is often sprinkled across different days. As the gemara itself notes, the Megilla's description of Purim observance as "be-zmaneihem" (during their times) implies multiple options for the Purim experience.


            One unique scenario concerns Purim which occurs on Shabbat, specifically the Purim of mukafin, the walled cities (15 Adar), known as Shushan Purim. Our current calendar does not allow the 14th of Adar to occur on Shabbat, but the 15th regularly does. This event yields a splintering into three, known as Purim meshulash. Megilla is read and charity delivered on Friday, Adar 14, while prayers and keriyat ha-Torah are adjusted for Purim on Shabbat, 15 Adar, and the seuda (festive meal) and mishloach manot are reserved for Sunday, 16 Adar. This lecture will inspect the motives behind the scheduling of the seuda on the 16th - literally after Purim has passed!


            The inquiry must be conducted on two fronts. First, why isn't a seuda conducted on Shabbat proper - the actual day of mukaf Purim? If we argue that Shabbat is incompatible with a Purim seuda, we may question the delay to Sunday rather than pre-scheduling on Friday, along with megilla and matanot le-evyonim.


            The primary source highlighting the inability to schedule the seuda on Shabbat is a Yerushalmi in Megilla 1:4, which cites a verse in the 9th chapter of Megillat Esther exhorting the transformation of Purim into a day of joy and festivities (la-asot otam yemei mishteh ve-simcha). The Yerushalmi comments: "we should convert Purim into a festive experience; Shabbat is automatically festive as a Divine decree." Presumably, the Yerushalmi views Shabbat as pre-defined as joyful and incapable of being flavored with Purim spirit.


This is a novel and unfamiliar concept. Most mitzvot demand "performance," and nothing about Shabbat blocks performance of the actual seuda! The Yerushalmi discerns some larger "purpose" to the seuda experience - converting the day into a joyful and festive process. As the day is already thus infused, a Purim seuda on Shabbat will not have this desired impact.


            The Ritva cites the Yerushalmi but offers a different and more familiar understanding. Precedent exists for segregating different festivities. For example, a marriage cannot be conducted during a holiday to avoid the merging (and obscuring) of the distinct experiences. The Ritva suggests that the Yerushalmi actually demands the isolation of the two experiences; it is particularly concerned that the Purim experience will become submerged within Shabbat.


            Some Rishonim were unconvinced that the Yerushalmi - understood either way - was the ultimate basis for rescheduling the Purim seuda on a day other than Shabbat. Since the Bavli doesn't cite this issue and in as much as the reasoning is unusual, many asserted alternate reasoning. The Meiri – referring a well known Rambam - lists a seemingly technical reason for the rescheduling. In Hilkhot Megilla 2:15, the Rambam classifies mishloach manot as an element of the seuda. One element of the mitzva of seuda is sharing it – at least symbolically – with others. Based upon the Rambam's logic, the manot must be delivered on the actual day of the seuda. Despite the various permutations and combinations of Purim, the manot and the meal must occur on the same day.


            Given this "tethering" of manot to the meal, since Shabbat presents complications for delivering manot, the meal is rescheduled for a day other than Shabbat. There is no "structural" incompatibility between Shabbat and the meal itself, but the meal has to be rescheduled to facilitate the related mitzva of manot.


            In addition to the Meiri, who rejected the logic of the Yerushalmi and offered alternative reasons to remove the meal from Shabbat, several Rishonim flatly reject the Yerushalmi and conclude that the meal should be scheduled on Shabbat - the actual day of Purim for mukafin. The Ritva (Megilla 5a) cites opinions which claim disagreement between the Yerushalmi and the Bavli in Megilla (5a); The latter asserts that "simcha (joy) can only be conducted on the precise date of Purim" (simcha eina noheget ela be-zemana). Though many understand this statement to discourage pre-scheduling the element of joy of Purim, the position which the Ritva cites infers that simcha will always occur only on Purim proper – even if it is Shabbat. The Ritva actually concludes that the Shabbat meals may comprise a miniature seudat purim (his language in his comments to Megilla 4a is "seuda ketzat"). Others who disagreed with the Yerushalmi and assigned the actual seuda of Purim to Shabbat include the Ra'ah, Meiri and Ri'az.


            As an interesting footnote, the Magen Avraham cites the Maharal Chaviv, who disagreed with the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh and actually conducted a seudat Purim on Shabbat in Yerushalayim. Having adopted a dissenting opinion and scheduling the meal on Shabbat, the Maharal Chaviv also delivered mishloach manot on Shabbat to maintain the linkage between the two mitzvot. This association between meals and manot led the Meiri to reschedule the meal to Sunday, while it encouraged manot delivery on Shabbat proper according to some dissenting opinions.