Megillah, Daf Bet, Part 2



The opening sugya of Tractate Megillah is an extended midrashic discussion concerning the source for the halakhah allowing the Megillah to be read on the 11th, 12th and 13th of Adar, even though the book of Esther itself seems to say only on the 14th and 15th.


גמרא. מגילה נקראת באחד עשר. מנלן? –

מנלן? כדבעינן למימר לקמן: חכמים הקילו על הכפרים להיות מקדימין ליום הכניסה כדי שיספקו מים ומזון לאחיהם שבכרכים! – אנן הכי קאמרינן: מכדי, כולהו אנשי כנסת הגדולה תקנינהו, דאי סלקא דעתך אנשי כנסת הגדולה ארבעה עשר וחמשה עשר תקון – אתו רבנן ועקרי תקנתא דתקינו אנשי כנסת הגדולה? והתנן: אין בית דין יכול לבטל דברי בית דין חבירו אלא אם כן גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין, אלא פשיטא – כולהו אנשי כנסת הגדולה תקינו, היכא רמיזא?


Gemara. The Megillah is read on the eleventh. From where is this derived?

"From where is this derived"? Surely it is as we teach further on, "The Sages made a leniency on the villages, allowing them to push the reading forward to the day of the gathering, so that they could supply food and water for their brothers in the large towns?" 

This is what we mean [by our question]: Since all these dates were laid down by the Men of the Great Assembly, for if you should [deny this and say] that the Men of the Great Assembly laid down only the fourteenth and fifteenth, [is it possible that] the [later] Rabbis should have come and annulled an enactment made by the Men of the Great Assembly. Haven’t we learned: One court cannot annul the rulings of another court unless it is superior to it in number and in wisdom’?  

Obviously, therefore, all these days must have been laid down by the Men of the Great Assembly. So where is it hinted at?  


The Talmud begins by asking the source for reading the Megillah on the eleventh of the month. This question is very typical for the beginning of a sugya in the Bavli. However, the Talmud reflects upon in its own question, asking why we should even ask such a question. Later the mishnah answers this very question. According to the Talmud the sages of the Great Assembly, a religious/political group that operated during the Second Temple period, instituted a leniency on the people who live in the villages. These people were allowed to read on an earlier day on the month so that they could be free to provide water and food for the people in the larger cities, who would be reading on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the month. We shall deal at greater length with this reasoning later in this chapter.

The Talmud answers that the question really is as follows. Then Men of the Great Assembly must have made this enactment for if they had said that it was to be read only on the fourteenth or fifteenth, as the Megillah itself says, then it could not have been changed to the 11th-15th. So if the Men of the Great Assembly, who also according to the Talmud wrote the Book of Esther, made this enactment, they must have hinted at it in their book. Where, we ask, is such a hint?

As an aside, these types of reflexive questions, questions that ask why the Talmud asks certain questions, are often found in the beginning of Talmudic tractates. They are usually late additions to the Talmudic record. In my opinion, the earlier historical level of the Talmud probably began with the statement we shall examine now.


אמר רב שמן בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן: אמר קרא +אסתר ט’+ לקים את ימי הפרים האלה בזמניהם – זמנים הרבה תקנו להם.


R. Shemen b. Abba said in the name of R. Yohanan: The verse says, "To uphold these days of Purim in their times." They established many "times" for them.


R. Shemen b. Abba uses Esther 9:31 which says "many times" to prove that there are multiple days on which Purim can fall, as the mishnah stated, not just the 14th or the 15th of Adar.


האי מיבעיא ליה לגופיה! –

אם כן לימא קרא זמן, מאי זמניהם – זמנים טובא. –


But this text is required for its literal meaning?

If that were all, Scripture could say simply "at the [appointed] time."

What then is implied by "their times"? A large number of times!


The Talmud clarifies that if the verse had meant to refer only to the two days specifically stated in the Megillah, it could have just said "at the appointed time." The plural form indicates that even more than just the 14th and 15th are possible.


ואכתי מיבעי ליה: זמנו של זה לא כזמנו של זה! –

אם כן לימא קרא זמנם, מאי זמניהם – שמעת מינה כולהו. –


But [the expression ‘their’ times’] is still required to indicate that the time of one is not the same as the time of the other?  

If so, the verse should have just said, "their time". Why does it say "their times"? So that you may infer from this all of them.


Still, the Talmud asks, the plural form might indicate that there are two dates for reading the Megillah—the 14th and the 15th. Had it stated "at the appointed time" we might have thought that people read either on the 14th or the 15th, but not that people outside of walled cities must read on the 14th and in walled cities on the 15th. So the plural form does not necessarily indicate that it can be read on other dates as well.

The answer is that the verse doesn’t just say "their time"; it says "their times." This indicates both halakhot, including the halakhah that the Megillah can be read earlier than the 14th.


אימא: זמנים טובא! – זמניהם דומיא דזמנם, מה זמנם תרי – אף זמניהם תרי. –


But says "numerous times"?  

"Their times" is similar to "their time." Just as "their time" would indicate two [days], so "their times" indicates two [additional days].


So why not say that there are many other days on which one could read the Megillah, not just the 11th, 12th and 13th.

The answer is that just as there are two days the Megillah specifically cites as the days of Purim, so too there are two additional days. The Talmud will below ask the obvious question—aren’t there three!


ואימא תריסר ותליסר! –

כדאמר רב שמואל בר יצחק: שלשה עשר זמן קהילה לכל היא, ולא צריך לרבויי. הכא נמי שלשה עשר זמן קהילה לכל היא ולא צריך לרבויי.


But why not make these the twelfth and thirteenth?

For the reason given [elsewhere] by R. Shmuel b. Yitzchak, that the thirteenth was the time of assembly for all, and no special indication is required for it in the text; so we may say here that the thirteenth day is a time of assembly and no special indication is required for it in the text.


Two extra days would seem to imply the 12th and 13th. So where do we get the 11th? The answer is that the 13th of Adar was the day on which the Jews assembled to fight Haman’s forces. Therefore, no verse is really needed to teach us that we can read on that day. The two extra days are left over for the 11th and 12th.


ואימא שיתסר ושיבסר! – +אסתר ט’+ ולא יעבור כתיב.


But why not say that the sixteenth and seventeenth are meant?

It is written, "And it shall not pass" (Esther 9:27).


If two days must be added, how do we know that those two days are not the 16th and 17th?

The answer is that the Megillah states that "these days should not pass." Here, this is interpreted to mean that we cannot add on after the 15th has passed.


ורבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר: אמר קרא +אסתר ט’+ כימים אשר נחו בהם היהודים, ימים כימים – לרבות אחד עשר ושנים עשר.


R. Shmuel b. Nahmani said: The verse says, "As the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies" (Esther 9:22).  

"The days" [would have been enough.] "As the days" comes to include the eleventh and the twelfth.


R. Shmuel b. Nahmani offers a different midrash for why the Megillah can be read on the 11th or 12th. The Megillah could have said "The days on which…" The extra letter kaf indicates that it can be read even on the 11th or 12th.


ואימא תריסר ותליסר!

אמר רב שמואל בר יצחק: שלשה עשר זמן קהילה לכל היא, ולא צריך לרבויי.


But say the twelfth and thirteenth?

R. Shmuel b. Yitzchak said: The thirteenth was a time of assembly for all, and does not require special indication.


See explanation above.


ואימא שיתסר ושיבסר! – ולא יעבור כתיב.


But say the sixteenth and the seventeenth?

It is written, "And it shall not pass."


See explanation above.


רבי שמואל בר נחמני מאי טעמא לא אמר מבזמניהם? – זמן זמנם זמניהם לא משמע ליה.


Why did R. Shmuel b. Nahmani not derive the rule from the phrase "in their times’? He does not accept the distinction [made above between] "time," "their time" and "their times."


As it frequently does, the Talmud asks why each amora didn’t use the other amora’s midrash. R. Shmuel b. Nahmani simply did not like R. Shemen b. Abba’s midrash. I find it a bit difficult as well, but no one asked me.


ורב שמן בר אבא, מאי טעמא לא אמר מכימים? – אמר לך: ההוא לדורות הוא דכתיב.


And why did R. Shemen b. Abba not derive the rule from the expression "as the days"?

He can say to you: This is meant to make the rule apply to future generations.


R. Shemen b. Abba does not use the other midrash because he holds that the "kaf" in the phrase "as the days" is not superfluous, for it points to the future. In the future people will observe Purim "as the days" when the Jews rested from fighting their enemies in Shushan.