Megillah, Daf Vav, Part 1



This whole sugya returns to identifying the places listed in Joshua 19:35. These were mentioned in the previous daf because Rakat was identified earlier as Tiberias.


אמר רבי יוחנן: כי הוינא טליא אמינא מלתא דשאילנא לסבייא, ואישתכח כוותי: חמת זו טבריא, ולמה נקרא שמה חמתעל שום חמי טבריא. רקתזו ציפורי. ולמה נקרא שמה רקתמשום דמידלייא כרקתא דנהרא. כינרתזו גינוסר, ולמה נקרא שמה כינרתדמתיקי פירא כקלא דכינרי.


R. Yohanan said: When I was a boy, I said something which I afterwards questioned the old men about, and it was found that I was right: [I said:] Hamat is Tiberias. And why was it called Hamat? On account of the hot springs [hammei] of Tiberias. Rakat is Tzippori. And why was it called Rakat? Because it slopes down like the bank [rakta] of a river. Kinnereth is Ginosar. And why was it called Kinneret? Because its fruits are sweet like the music of a harp [kinnor].


R. Yohanan identifies the three places in Joshua 19:35 and then provides a "folk etymology" for their original names.


אמר רבא: מי איכא למאן דאמר רקת לאו טבריא היא? והא כי שכיב איניש הכא, התם ספדי ליה הכי: גדול הוא בששך, ושם לו ברקת. וכי מסקי ארונא להתם ספדי ליה הכי: אוהבי שרידים יושבי רקת, צאו וקבלו הרוגי עומק.

כי נח נפשיה דרבי זירא פתח עליה ההוא ספדנא: ארץ שנער הרה וילדה ארץ צבי גידלה שעשועיה, אוי נא לה, אמרה רקת, כי אבדה כלי חמדתה.


Rava said: Is there anyone who can maintain that Rakat is not Tiberias. But when a person dies here [in Babylonia] they mourn for him there [in Tiberias] as follows: "Great was he in Sheshach and he has a name in Rakat", and when the coffin is taken there they mourn for him thus: "You lovers of the remnants, dwellers in Rakat, go forth and receive the slaughtered of the depths."

When R. Zera died, a certain eulogizer opened his eulogy thus: "The land of Shinar conceived and bore him, the beauteous land brought up her delight. Woe to me, says Rakat, for her precious instrument is lost."


Rava, the Babylonian amora, says that Rakat is not Tzippori, as R. Yohanan said. Rakat is Tiberias. As proof he cites several traditions concerning mourning in Tiberias for great Torah scholars who died in Babylonia. When eulogizing the people of Tiberias refer to their city as "Rakat." This eloquent and retro way of referring to Tiberias proves that Rakat is not Tzippori.


אלא אמר רבא חמתזו חמי גרר, רקת זו טבריא, כינרתזו גינוסר, ולמה נקרא שמה רקתשאפילו ריקנין שבה מלאין מצות כרמון.


Rather Rava said: Hamat is the hot springs of Gerar; Rakat is Tiberias; and Kinnereth is Ginosar. Why is it called Rakat? Because even the least worthy of its inhabitants (rekanim) are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate.


Rava says that Rakat is Tiberias. It is called Rakat because of the great worth of its inhabitants. Even the least worthy of them, the "rekanim" perform many mitzvoth.


רבי ירמיה אמר: רקת שמה, ולמה נקרא שמה טבריאשיושבת בטבורה של ארץ ישראל.

(רבא) +[מסורת הש"ס: רבה]+ אמר: רקת שמה, ולמה נקרא שמה טבריאשטובה ראייתה.


R. Jeremiah said: Rakat is its proper name. And why is it called Tiberias? Because it is situated in the very center (tabor) of the land of Israel.

Rabbah said: Rakat is its name. And why is it called Tiberias? Because its appearance is good (tovah).


Interestingly, these amoram find "folk etymologies" for Tiberias, not for Rakat, as was the trend above. Rakat is the real name.

Obviously, Tiberias was named after the Roman emperor Tiberius. It was established in 20 C.E. during Tiberius’s rule. I don’t know whether Babylonian amoraim knew this. Even if they did, they may be trying to "Judaicize" the name of the city. After all, the city was one of the great centers of Judaism, and even at times considered holy. They could not have been happy that such a Jewish city was actually named after a Roman Emperor, Indeed, this may explain why they attempted to identify Tiberias with the biblical cities named in Joshua.


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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.