Shushan Purim, Why? Who? Where?
One of the unique aspects of Purim relates to the different times and places in which it is celebrated. The Megilla (chapter 9) describes how on the thirteenth of Adar, the Jewish people gathered in their cities throughout the
On the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day of the same, they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews that were in Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore do the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the UNWALLED towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another. And Mordekhai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Achashverosh, both near and far, to enjoin them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.
While throughout the Empire the Jews designated the fourteenth of Adar as a day of celebration, in Shushan, they celebrated on the fifteenth of Adar, commemorating the day on which they rested. Accordingly, the Mishna (Megilla 2a) teaches:
Walled cities from the days of Yehoshua ben Nun read on the fifteenth, and villages and large cities read on the fourteenth.
According to the Mishna, the Rabbis instituted that not only residents of Shushan read on the fifteenth of Adar, but residents of other walled cities should also read on the fifteenth. The Talmud (Megilla 2b) derives this from the verses, "Therefore do the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the unwalled towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another..." The Megilla emphasizes that the Jews in unwalled cities observe Purim on the fourteenth, suggesting that Jews of walled cities observe the holiday on the fifteenth.
R. Yehoshua b. Korcha (Megilla 2b) asserts that only cities that were surrounded by walls during the days of Achashverosh read the Megilla on the fifteenth. The Mishna, however, rules that the observance on the fifteenth is restricted to cities that were walled already during the time of Yehoshua ben Nun, when Benei Yisrael first conquered the
Notwithstanding the historical basis for celebrating the victory over Haman on different days, some Rishonim note the seeming peculiarity in the institution of a holiday which different locations celebrate on different days. Furthermore, they questioned why the distinction is drawn between walled and unwalled cities, and why a city’s status is determined based upon its condition at the time of Yehoshua ben Nun.
The Ramban (Megilla 2a) writes that the different celebrations during the year of the miracle do not suffice to explain why two different days were established. Even in Shushan, he notes, the holiday should be observed on the fourteenth of Adar, the day when the nation as a whole was spared the fate of Haman’s decree. In order to explain this unique halakhic phenomenon of two different days of celebration, the Ramban resorts to historical and exegetical conjecture. He explains that in response to the miracle of Purim, the Jews who resided in villages and cities independently began to celebrate annually on the fourteenth of Adar, as they felt most vulnerable to the threat of Achashverosh. However, the residents of the walled cities did not celebrate, as they had felt secure in their fortified cities during the events of Purim, and therefore did not see their survival as a miraculous salvation. For this reason, the Megilla speaks only of the celebrations instituted in the unwalled cities (Esther 9:19), and makes no mention of celebration in walled cites. Even in Shushan, the Ramban contends, the Jews only celebrated during the first year, as the Megilla relates.
Later, Mordekhai and the Sages followed the lead of the inhabitants of the villages and cities, and (basing themselves upon a Biblical precedent – Megilla 7a, Yerushalmi Megilla 1:5) they instituted a holiday to commemorate the salvation of Purim. Since these Jews had already grown accustomed to celebrating on the fourteenth, the Rabbis established their day of celebration on the fourteenth. In addition, they established that even the Jews in walled cities, who felt less vulnerable to Haman’s threat, should celebrate Purim, as the Purim miracle in reality saved them, as well. These communities, however, should celebrate on the fifteenth, the day upon which the inhabitants of Shushan initially rested and celebrated their victory.
The Ramban continues to explain that at the time of the Purim story, the majority of the Jewish people had already returned to
The Ran (Megilla 1a) challenges the Ramban’s theory. First, he claims that the majority of the Jewish people still lived in
The Ran therefore attributes the two days of celebration to the original events, during which the residents of the villages and cities celebrated on the fourteenth, while the residents of Shushan celebrated on the fifteenth. As for the days of Yehoshua ben Nun determining the status of a city, he agrees with the Ramban and the Talmud Yerushalmi, that this provision was enacted to avoid “embarrassing” the land of Israel, which lay in ruins during the time of Achashverosh.
In the following shiur, we will attempt to define more precisely a “walled city” for the purpose of this halakha, and discuss the situation of those who travel from a walled city to an unwalled city, and vice versa.
Definition of a Walled and Unwalled City
The Rishonim disagree in defining the term kerakh – "walled city" – in this context. Later scholars, and, more specifically, the Poskim of the last century, struggled to determine whether there are "walled cities" besides Jerusalem in Israel (such as Akko, Bet El, Tiberias, Lod, Shilo and Tzfat), or even outside Israel (such as Damascus, Istanbul, and Prague), which must read on the fifteenth of Adar. Indeed, there are some cities in
The Talmud establishes that not only do residents of a walled city observe Purim on the fifteenth, but residents of some "satellite" villages and towns also observe the holiday on this date. The Gemara (Megilla 3b) teaches:
A walled city – and that which is near it (samukh lo) or seen with it (nireh imo) is akin to the walled city… Near – even though it is not seen, or seen, even though it is not near. It makes sense that a city can be seen even though it is not near- for example, if it sits atop a hill. However, “near yet not seen” – how is that possible? R. Yirmiya said: if it is situated in the valley.
According to the Gemara, a village which can be seen from, or which is close to, a walled city reads on the fifteenth of Adar, even though it does not have a wall itself.
The Poskim discuss the specific parameters of “nireh” – “being seen” – with respect to this halakha. Rav Yechiel Michel Tukitchinsky, in his Ir Ha-kodesh Ve-ha’mikdash (3:27:11), contends that one must be able to see the ground of the village while standing on the ground of the walled city. However, if a person in the walled city can see only the houses of the village, or can see the ground of the village only while standing on the rooftops of the walled city, then the village is not considered "nireh imo," and its residents observe Purim on the fourteenth. Furthermore, even if there are trees or buildings which obstruct one's view, or if the village can be seen from only certain parts of the city, this suffices to render the village “nireh imo.” These questions, and others, were crucial in determining whether distant neighborhoods of
Regarding villages which are deemed "samukh" (“close”) to a walled city, there has been much discussion during the past one hundred years concerning the precise definition of this term, especially as it applies to
During the years between 1948 and 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule and there was no Jewish presence in the city.
Since the reunification of
The Gemara (Megilla 2b) teaches that a village within one mil of a walled city should read the Megilla on the fifteenth. The Rishonim debate the question of whether a city which can be seen from a walled city must also be within a mil (approximately one kilometer) of that city. The Rambam (Hilkhot Megilla 1:10) and Tur (688), for example, rule that even a city which can be "seen with" a walled city should not read on the fifteenth if it is located beyond 2000 amot from the walled city. By contrast, Rashi, Rabbenu Chananel, the Ritva (in the name of his teachers), the Meiri and others understood that even a distant village which can be seen with the walled city reads on the fifteenth, while a village which cannot be seen with the walled city must be within a mil of the walled city in order to read on the fifteenth. The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 688:1) rules in accordance with the second opinion (see Mishna Berura 6).
Additionally, the Acharonim raise the question as to the status of a village that only part of which is “near” a walled city. Some (including Rav Yechiel Michel Tukitchinsky, in his Ir Ha-kodesh Ve-ha’mikdash 3:27) suggest that "samukh" refers only to houses within a "mil" of the walled city. All the houses situated beyond a mil from the walled city, and which cannot be seen from the walled city, would read on the fourteenth, even though they are connected territorially to the walled city! R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin (1888-1978), in his Mo’adim Ba-halakha (p. 237, note 25), expresses his amazement that R. Tukitchinsky would each year call for residents of the Jerusalem’s "New City" (the neighborhoods beyond a mil from the Old City) to read on the fourteenth, even though common custom did not follow his view. To this day, in R. Tukitchinsky’s yeshiva, Yeshivat Etz Chayim, the Megilla is read on the fourteenth, though by someone who lives outside of
Others maintain that all areas within a contiguous stretch of development from the
Nowadays, all of
One Who Travels To and From a Walled City on Purim
With the return of the Jewish people to
For the purpose of our discussion, a person categorized here as a ben ir (resident of an unwalled city) must read the Megilla and observe Purim on the fourteenth of Adar, while the term ben kerakh (resident of a walled city) refers to somebody who must observe the holiday on the fifteenth of Adar.
The Mishna (Megilla 19a) establishes that a person’s presence in a city, even for a single day, can, under certain circumstances, define a person as either a ben kerakh or ben ir:
A resident of an [unwalled] city who has gone to a walled city, or [a resident] of a walled city who has gone to an [unwalled] city: if he intends to return to his own place, he reads according to the rules of his own place, and otherwise he reads with the rest.
The Gemara, commenting on this Mishna, states::
Rava said: This rule applies only if he intends to return on the night of the fourteenth, but if he does not intend to return on the night of the fourteenth, he reads with the rest.
Rava said: From where do I derive this ruling? For it is written: "Therefore do the Jews of the unwalled cities that dwell in the unwalled cities" (Esther 9:19). Since it is written, "the Jews of the unwalled cities," why then should it be further written, "that dwell in the unwalled cities"? THIS TEACHES THAT ONE WHO IS A RESIDENT OF AN UNWALLED CITY FOR ONE DAY IS CALLED A RESIDENT OF AN UNWALLED CITY. We have proved this for the resident of an unwalled city. How do we know that it applies also to residents of a walled city? It is reasonable to suppose that since a resident of an unwalled city for one day is called a resident of an unwalled city, A RESIDENT OF A WALLED CITY FOR ONE DAY IS CALLED A RESIDENT OF A WALLED CITY.
Rava’s comments address only the situation of a resident of a walled city who travels to an unwalled city, whose status is determined by his location on "the night of the fourteenth” – meaning, when the night ends, in the morning of the fourteenth. Rava does not, however, address the opposite case, of one who travels from an unwalled city to a walled city. Does the morning of the fourteenth determine his status, as well, or is his status determined by his location on the morning of the fifteenth?
Another question raised by the commentators relates to the condition that one "INTENDS to return to his own place." The Talmud does not clarify the role of "intention," and whether one's intention determines his status even if he ultimately acts differently.
Additionally, the Gemara does not discuss the fascinating question of whether one could theoretically be obligated to observe Purim on both days, or not at all, by traveling from one kind of city to the other.
Regarding the situation of one who travels from a walled city to an unwalled city, Rashi (s.v. shanu) writes:
They only taught that the resident of a walled city ((ben kerakh) who went to an unwalled city and intends to return to his place (i.e. the walled city) reads on the fifteenth and not on the fourteenth. The same applies regarding the resident of an unwalled city (ben ir
Rashi explains that the while the one’s location at sunrise on the morning of the fourteenth determines whether he reads in the unwalled city or not, one’s location at sunrise of the morning of the fifteenth determines whether he must read on the fifteenth, on Shushan Purim.
The Rosh (2:3), explaining Rashi, writes:
He did not wish to interpret Rava’s words as referring also to a resident of an unwalled city who went to a walled city, because it does not stand to reason that if he is in a walled city on the fourteenth, he is governed by the obligation of [[Megilla] reading of a walled city, and so he must remain there on the fifteenth and read with them… Inasmuch as the time of reading of walled cities has not yet arrived, why should their obligation of [Megilla] reading apply to him?
The Rif (6a, as understood by the Ran), Ramban (Rif; 6a), Ritva (Megilla 19a), Riaz (
The Rosh himself, however, and the Tur (688), disagree, and maintain that the morning of the fourteenth determines everyone’s status, regardless of the situation. If one wakes up outside a walled city on the morning of the fourteenth, then he must read the Megilla on that day. However, if one rises in
However, the wording of the Gemara implies that Rava refers to the entire Mishna, and this is indeed proven in the Yerushalmi. Rava’s words can be applied to the entire Mishna: Just as the resident of a walled city is regarded as a resident of an unwalled city if he is there on the night and part of the day of the fourteenth, which is the time when residents of the unwalled city read [the Megilla], and he becomes bound by their obligation, similarly, a resident of an unwalled city who went to a walled city and is there for part of the day of the fourteenth – since at the time when residents of his city are obligated to read [the Megilla] he is not there with them, he is no longer bound by the obligation to read [the Megilla] as it applies to the residents of his city…
The Ra'avad (
To summarize, while Rashi maintains that one’s status is determined by his location at dawn on the fourteenth and the fifteenth, the Rosh maintains that the morning of the fourteenth determines where should read, either on the fourteenth or fifteenth.
What conceptual issue underlies this debate between Rashi and the Rosh? Seemingly, Rashi believes, very simply, that one’s location on the morning of his Purim, on the fourteenth or the fifteenth, determines his status. The Rosh likely believes that even for the residents of walled cities, the fourteenth is still considered Purim, even if practically they observe the holiday on the next day. Said differently, a ben kerakh, according to the Rosh, would omit tachanun on the fourteenth of Adar not merely as a sign of identification with his brethren in unwalled cities who observe Purim that day, but rather because for the ben kerakh, too, that day is, fundamentally, Purim day.
The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 688:5) follows Rashi’s view that the status of a ben kerakh is determined by his location on the morning of the fifteenth, and the Mishna Berura (12) and most other Acharonim concur.
A second question concerns the role played by one’s intention with regard to this halakha. The Rishonim address the situation of a resident of a walled city who visits an unwalled city on the fourteenth intending to return to his walled city before morning, but was delayed and remained in the unwalled city. Must he celebrate Purim on the fourteenth, in accordance with his location on the morning of the fourteenth, or on the fifteenth, as he had intended to be in a walled city on the morning of the fifteenth?
Rashi and the Ba'al Ha-Ma’or (
Among those who recognize the importance of intention, we find a debate as to whether the determining factor is one’s intention upon leaving home (
The Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 688:5) rules:
A resident of an unwalled city who travels to a walled city, or a resident of a walled city who travels to an unwalled city – if his intention was to return to his place by the time of the reading [of the Megilla], and he was delayed and didn’t return, then he reads in his place. [Similarly,] if he did not have in mind to return until after the time of the [Megilla] reading, he should read with the people of the place in which he is found.
The Mishna Berura (12) explains that the Shulchan Arukh accepts Rashi’s view, that the critical moment which determines one's obligation is the morning of the fourteenth for a ben ir, and the morning of the fifteenth for a ben kerakh. Furthermore, the Mishna Berura adds, the Shulchan Arukh follows the view of the
[For the sake of being comprehensive, we should mention that the Chazon Ish adds one important condition to this halakha, namely, that one’s intention is significant only if he is already in that new location at nightfall (tzeit ha-kokhavim) of the fourteenth or fifteenth. If, however, a resident of a walled city is in his walled city for the beginning of the evening, and then, at some point that evening, he travels to an unwalled city and stays there into the morning, he still reads the Megilla on the fifteenth, since he began the day in his walled city! Most authorities, however, disagree, and rule in accordance with the Mishna Berura, who implies that the location where one intends to be the morning of the fourteenth or fifteenth determines his status, regardless of where he began the night. ]
Summary of the Laws of a Traveler
As I hope we demonstrated with great clarity, the halakhot of a traveler on Purim are extremely complex and confusing! Indeed, a cursory perusal of the responsa literature and contemporary halakhic compendiums reveals numerous approaches and conclusions which can leave the reader perplexed.
However, based upon what we have seen, we can succinctly summarize the basic guidelines:
If a resident of
If the traveler intends to return to
In the converse case, if an Alon Shevut resident travels to
Is it possible for one to become obligated in BOTH days of Purim? In other words, if one leaves Alon Shevut after dawn on the fourteenth of Adar and plans to stay in Jerusalem until after dawn the following day, should he observe two days of Purim? Seemingly, according to the Rosh (cited above), one can only incur one obligation, depending on his location on the morning of the fourteenth. According to Rashi, however, could such a person be obligated on both days?
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Megilla 2:3) teaches that one who "uproots his residency" (akar dirato) can be obligated to observe two days of Purim, or be exempt from Purim altogether, depending on whether he moves to or from a walled city. On the basis of this passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shelomo 1:23:4) contends that a traveler can indeed be obligated to celebrate Purim twice. However, some authorities recommend in such a case that one hears the berakhot on the Megilla from somebody else on the second day, rather than reciting them himself.
By contrast, R. Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi, O.C. 2:118-9) understands the Yerushalmi’s comment as referring only to those who move residences permanently, and not to travelers, and thus it would not apply to the case described above. Moreover, R. Frank claims that the Talmudic dictum, "a resident of a walled city for one day is called a resident of a walled city," is limited in scope and application, and it only applies to one who has yet to hear the Megilla is his own home town. However, one who visits a village on the fourteenth, and returns to his home in a wall city for the fifteenth, would indeed read again on the fifteenth, as that is where he really lives.
Finally, can one be completely exempt from both days of Purim? For example, if a
It should be noted that in any situation where one’s obligation is in doubt, one should not read the Megilla