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Megillah, Daf Heh, Part 5

 

Introduction

Most of this (rather long) section deals with whether work is prohibited on Purim.

 

אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא: רבי נטע נטיעה בפורים, ורחץ בקרונה של צפורי בשבעה עשר בתמוז, ובקש לעקור תשעה באב, ולא הודו לו.

אמר לפניו רבי אבא בר זבדא: רבי, לא כך היה מעשה. אלא: תשעה באב שחל להיות בשבת הוה, ודחינוהו לאחר השבת, ואמר רבי: הואיל ונדחה – ידחה, ולא הודו חכמים. קרי עליה +קהלת ד’+ טובים השנים מן האחד.

 

R. Elazar said in the name of R. Hanina: Rabbi planted a sapling on Purim, and bathed in the [bathhouse of the] marketplace of Tzippori on the seventeenth of Tammuz and sought to abolish the fast of Tisha B’av, but his colleagues would not consent.

R. Abba b. Zavda said in front of him: Rabbi, this was not the case. What happened was that Tisha B’av [on that year] fell on Shabbat, and they postponed it till after Sabbath, and he said to them, Since it has been postponed, let it be postponed altogether, but the Sages would not agree.

He thereupon applied to himself the verse: Better are two than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

 

Rabbi [Judah Hanasi] does three things here that later sages remember. First, he plants a sapling on Purim, even though planting is considered work. Second, he bathes on the Seventeenth of Tammuz which is a fast day. Third, he seems to try to abolish the fast of Tisha B’av altogether.

This last act seems to surprise R. Abba b. Zavda, who then offers a different version of what happened. The event occurred in a year on which Tisha B’av fell on Shabbat. The other sages wanted to observe it on Sunday (as we now do). But Rabbi wanted to get rid of it that year altogether. For better or for worse (depending on how much you like fasting in the middle of the summer) Rabbi did not win this one.

R. Elazar accepted R. Abba b. Zavda’s correction and remarked that two are better than one. Two rabbis are better at clarifying the tradition than one alone, who is more likely to err.

 

ורבי, היכי נטע נטיעה בפורים? והתני רב יוסף: שמחה ומשתה ויום טוב, שמחה – מלמד שאסורים בהספד, משתה – מלמד שאסור בתענית, ויום טוב – מלמד שאסור בעשיית מלאכה!

אלא: רבי בר ארביסר הוה, וכי נטע – בחמיסר נטע,

 

But how could Rabbi have planted a sapling on Purim. Has not R. Joseph taught: [We read in connection with Purim] rejoicing and feasting and a good day; "Rejoicing": this teaches that it is forbidden on these days to mourn; "Feasting": this teaches that it is forbidden on them to fast; "A good day": this teaches that it is forbidden on them to work?

Rather Rabbi was from a place which kept Purim on the fourteenth, and when he planted, it was on the fifteenth.

 

The Talmud now has a problem with the fact that Rabbi planted a sapling on Purim. R. Joseph offers a midrash based on the verse in the Megillah that says Purim is to be a day of "rejoicing, feasting and a good day." From this verse he learns that one may not eulogize, fast or perform work on Purim. So how could Rabbi have planted a sapling?

The answer is that Rabbi lived in a place that celebrated Purim on the 14th. He planted the sapling on the 15th.

 

איני? והא רבי בטבריא הוה, וטבריא מוקפת חומה מימות יהושע בן נון הואי!

אלא, רבי בר חמיסר הוה, וכי נטע – בארביסר הוה.

 

Is this so? But Rabbi was in Tiberias, and Tiberias was walled in the days of Joshua son of Nun?

Rather Rabbi was in a place which kept on the fifteenth, and when he planted it was the fourteenth.

 

The problem is that Rabbi lived (at least most of his life) in Tiberias, which should celebrate Purim on the fifteenth, because it was (supposedly) walled during the times of Joshua.

The Talmud revises the previous statement Rabbi planted on the fourteenth, and kept Purim the next day.

 

ומי פשיטא ליה דטבריא מוקפת חומה מימות יהושע בן נון? והא חזקיה קרי בטבריא בארביסר ובחמיסר, מספקא ליה אי מוקפת חומה מימות יהושע בן נון היא אי לא!

לחזקיה – מספקא ליה, לרבי – פשיטא ליה.

 

But was he certain that Tiberias was walled in the days of Joshua son of Nun. But didn’t Hezekiah read the Megillah in Tiberias both on the fourteenth and on the fifteenth, being uncertain whether it had been walled in the days of Joshua son of Nun or not?

Hezekiah was in doubt, but Rabbi was certain.

 

The problem is that Tiberias seems to have been of unknown status. Hezekiah, an amora, didn’t know whether Tiberias was walled at the time of Joshua. Therefore, he read the Megillah on both days.

The answer is that while Hezekiah wasn’t certain, Rabbi was. Somehow he knew that Tiberias was walled at the time of Joshua.

 

וכי פשיטא ליה מי שרי? והכתיב במגילת תענית: את יום ארבעה עשר ואת יום חמשה עשר יומי פוריא אינון, דלא למספד בהון.

ואמר רבא: לא נצרכא אלא לאסור את של זה בזה ואת של זה בזה!

הני מילי – בהספד ובתענית, אבל מלאכה – יום אחד ותו לא.

 

But was he so certain that this was permitted, seeing that it is written in Megillat Ta’anit: "The fourteenth day and the fifteenth day are the days of Purim on which there is to be no mourning" and Rava said, The only purpose of mentioning these days [in Megillath Ta’anith] was to make whatever is forbidden on the one forbidden on the other also?

This applies only to mourning and fasting, but for work one day and no more.

 

The problem with planting on the fourteenth of Adar is that there is a tradition in Megillat Ta’anit (the Scroll of Fasting lists of days on which one is not to fast or mourn) that says there is no mourning on either the fourteenth or fifteenth. Rava points out that this is obvious these dates are written in the Book of Esther itself. He therefore says that they are included in Megillat Ta’anit to teach that anything prohibited on one is also prohibited on the other. This would mean that if Rabbi couldn’t work on the fifteenth, he also couldn’t work on the fourteenth.

The Talmud resolves the difficulty by positing that Rava’s statement applies only to mourning and fasting both are prohibited on the fourteenth and fifteenth. But the prohibition of work is for only one day.

 

איני? והא רב חזייה לההוא גברא דהוה קא שדי כיתנא בפוריא, ולטייה ולא צמח כיתניה! – התם בר יומא הוה.

 

Is that so? Did not Rav see a man planting flax on Purim, and curse him, so that the flax did not grow?

There he [the man] was doing it on the day which he ought to have kept.

 

The Talmud now cites a tradition of Rav, the amora, who cursed a man for planting flax on Purim. But this happened on the day that the man was supposed to be celebrating Purim. Rabbi, in contrast, planted the sapling the day before Purim.

 

רבה בריה דרבא אמר: אפילו תימא ביומיה, הספד ותענית – קבילו עלייהו, מלאכה לא קבילו עלייהו.

דמעיקרא כתיב שמחה ומשתה ויום טוב, ולבסוף כתיב לעשות אותם ימי משתה ושמחה, ואילו יום טוב לא כתיב.

 

Rabbah the son of Rava said. You may even say [that Rabbi planted] on the day [which he ought to have kept]: [The Jews] accepted upon themselves [in the days of Esther] to abstain from mourning and fasting, but not from work. Since first it is written, "Rejoicing and feasting and a good day" (Esther 8:17) but afterwards it is written, "That they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing" (Esther 9:22), whereas "a good day" is not written.

 

Rabbah the son of Rava says that work may even be performed on Purim itself. He derives this from a discrepancy between Esther 8:17 and 9:22. The earlier verse refers to Purim as a "good day (Yom Tov)" implying that work is prohibited. However, the latter verse does not mention "Yom Tov." Thus the Jews accepted that they are not allowed to mourn or fast on Purim, but the work prohibition they did not accept.

 

ואלא רב, מאי טעמא לטייה לההוא גברא?

דברים המותרין ואחרים נהגו בהן איסור הוה, ובאתריה דרבי לא נהוג.

Why then did Rav curse that man?

"Things which are permitted but others make a practice of abstaining from them": but in Rabbi’s place this was not the practice.

 

Rav cursed the man for planting because in Rav’s place the custom was not to work on Purim. If there is something that is actually permitted, but most people treat it as forbidden, one should not perform that act. In contrast, in Rabbi’s place they had no such custom to refrain from work on Purim. Therefore, for him it was permitted.

 

ואיבעית אימא: לעולם נהוג, ורבי נטיעה של שמחה נטע. כדתנן: עברו אלו ולא נענו – ממעטין במשא ומתן, בבנין ובנטיעה, באירוסין ובנישואין.

ותנא עלה: בנין – בנין של שמחה, נטיעה – נטיעה של שמחה. איזהו בנין של שמחה – זה הבונה בית חתנות לבנו. איזו היא נטיעה של שמחה – זה הנוטע אבורנקי של מלכים.

 

Or if you want I can say that they did in fact make a practice of this, and Rabbi planted a festive sapling, as we have learned: If these days pass and they are still not answered, they lessen their business, building and planting, betrothing and marrying.

And a Tanna taught about this: "Building" here means festive building; "planting" means festive planting.

What is festive building? This is one who builds a wedding residence for his son [on the occasion of his marriage].

What is a festive planting? This is one who plants an abarnaki such as is used by kings.

 

The Talmud offers another interpretation of Rabbi’s planting. Generally work was not performed in Rabbi’s place on Purim, even if it was not strictly prohibited. Rabbi was not planting a regular sapling he was planting a "festive sapling."

To understand what this sapling is the Talmud cites a mishnah from Ta’anit which says that if the Jews have fasted and rain still did not come, they lessen most of their activities. A baraita explains that they do not build "festive building" or plant "festive planting." The former refers to building a house for one’s son on the occasion of the son’s wedding. The latter refers to planting an abarnaki. Rashi explains that this is a tree trained over a lattice structure whose sole intent is to provide shade. It is not meant for fruit or wood, just the luxury of shade. Such a tree may not be planted if it has not rained for a long time, because people should be mourning, and probably not planting luxury trees. But Rabbi is allowed to plant such a tree on Purim, because it’s less of an act of work and more an act of rejoicing.