Megillah, Daf Heh, Part 6



Today’s section returns to the issue of when the Megillah is read in Tiberias, on the fourteenth or fifteenth. In other words, was Tiberias walled at the time of Joshua?


גופא, חזקיה קרי בטבריא בארביסר ובחמיסר, מספקא ליה אי מוקפת חומה מימות יהושע בן נון היא אי לא.

ומי מספקא ליה מלתא דטבריא? והכתיב +יהושע י"ט+ וערי מבצר הצדים צר וחמת רקת וכנרת, וקיימא לן רקת זו טבריא!

היינו טעמא דמספקא ליה: משום דחד גיסא שורא דימא הות.

The text [above state]: Hezekiah read in Tiberias on the fourteenth and on the fifteenth, being doubtful whether it had been walled in the days of Joshua son of Nun or not.

But could he have been in doubt about Tiberias. Is it not written, "And the fortified cities were Ziddim-zer and Hamath and Rakat and Kinnereth" (Joshua 19:5), and it has been established that Rakat is Tiberias?

The reason why he was doubtful was because one side is bounded by the lake.


How could Hezekiah have been doubtful as to whether Tiberias was a walled city at the time of Joshua? There is a tradition that the city of Rakat mentioned in Joshua 19 is Tiberias. It was certainly walled at the time of Joshua.

The answer is that it was walled on only three sides. The fourth side was the Sea of Galilee.

אי הכי אמאי מספקא ליה? ודאי לאו חומה היא!

דתניא: +ויקרא כ"ה+ אשר לו חמהולא שור איגר, סביב פרט לטבריא שימה חומתה.


If so, why was he in doubt? This is certainly not a wall, as it has been taught : "Which has a wall" (Leviticus 25:30) and not merely a fence of houses. "Round about": this excludes Tiberias, whose sea is its wall.


But there should be no doubt that Tiberias does not count as a walled city for there is a midrash that specifically says that Tiberias’s sea does not count as its wall.

The topic of this midrash is redeeming houses which were sold in a walled city. I suggest you look up Leviticus 25 for more information concerning the topic.


לענין בתי ערי חומה לא מספקא ליה, כי קא מספקא ליהלענין מקרא מגילה: מאי פרזים ומאי מוקפין דכתיבי גבי מקרא מגילה, משום דהני מיגלו והני לא מיגלו, והא נמי מיגליא, או דלמא: משום דהני מיגנו והני לא מיגנו, והא נמי מיגניא. משום הכי מספקא ליה.


With regard to the houses of a walled town he was not in doubt; where he was in doubt was with regard to reading the Megillah.

[He asked]: What constitutes the difference between villages (perazim) and walled towns which are mentioned in connection with the reading of the Megillah? Is it that the former are exposed and the latter are not exposed, [in which case] Tiberias [belongs to the former] being also exposed, or is it that the latter are protected and the former are not protected, [in which case] Tiberias [belongs to the latter], being protected? That was why he was in doubt.


The Talmud now explains that when it comes to redeeming a house in a walled city, an actual wall is required for it to be considered a wall city. Tiberias is not a walled city because it is not surrounded on all four sides by walls. But Megillat Esther does not use the word "walled city." Instead it uses the term "perazi" which I have translated as "villages" but is less explicit. Hezekiah wasn’t sure whether the difference between villages and walled towns is that walled towns are totally enclosed. If so, Tiberias is exposed on one side, because there is no wall. Alternatively, the difference is protection. Tiberias is protected, because the one open side is blocked by the sea.

This is why Hezekiah was in doubt about Tiberias. He knew it was walled on three sides from the time of Joshua. He just didn’t know whether cities walled on three sides were considered walled cities with regard to reading the Megillah.

רב אסי קרי מגילה בהוצל בארביסר ובחמיסר, מספקא ליה אי מוקפת חומה מימות יהושע בן נון היא אי לא. איכא דאמר, אמר רב אסי: האי הוצל דבית בנימין מוקפת חומה מימות יהושע היא.


R. Assi read the Megillah in Huzal on the fourteenth and on the fifteenth, being in doubt whether it had been walled in the days of Joshua son of Nun or not.

There are those who say R. Assi said: Huzal of the house of Benjamin was walled in the days of Joshua son of Nun.


According to the first version of this tradition, R. Assi treated Huzal, a city in Babylonia, as a city whose status was doubtful. Therefore he read on both days.

According to the second version, Huzal was walled at the time of Joshua and therefore reads on the fifteenth.

The big problem is: Where is Huzal? According to a different passage in the Talmud, Huzal is in Babylonia. This would demonstrate that the rule of walled cities reading on the fifteenth applies to Babylonia. However, according the second tradition here, it seems that Huzal is in Israel, for it is called "Huzal of [the tribe of] Benjamin." There are many variants readings of this, both here and in Ketubot. The bottom line is that it is not all that clear where Huzal is. The issue was discussed by many medieval authorities who questioned whether the difference between walled cities and villages is relevant outside of Israel.