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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 2: Questions and Methodology)

The biggest difficulty we had in defining the gemara was in trying to understand the position of Rav Ashi which allows a choice of a Purim Seudah at night or at day.

Commandments tied to specific days would seem to be of two types, neither of which seems in line with RA:
(a) where the day has a character and generates an obligation to act in line with it (or define it), i.e. Shabbos and Yom Tov demand that one have meals as an expression of the various themes of these days.  In such days, since the day has two components, night and day, an obligation is generated in each. In theory, it's possible such a structure can only obligate an expression in the essence of the yom, the daytime  (perhaps this is the case with meat and wine on  yom tov), but to allow for an expression at night (the minor component) and not at day (as RA maintains here) seems difficult.

(b) where the day obligates a specific maaseh hamitzvah to be performed on it (lulav, for instance).  In such a case, the obligation is only once a day.  However, it would seem that the timing of such obligations are specific - they are either only during the daytime (i.e. shofar, lulav, etc), or only at night because of specific reasons (lighting candles, matza, etc).  It doesn't seem like there are examples where such an obligation applies to the zman of the 24 hour period as a whole (as RA holds here). While it's not impossible that the purim meal is a unique structure, the fact that we saw no precedence for something like that disturbed us.

An additional problem with (b) is that then mishte and simcha are not characteristics of the day (as would seem from the megilla), but are mere actions. What is the sense and meaning of eating the meal at night, and then waking up the next morning, going to the beis medrash like RA, and having a regular day?  What kind of a festival would the day be, because the night before you had a big meal?  A feast is eaten during the day of a festival.

Additionally, it puts such a far gap between RA and the conclusion.  What RA had in mind is a completely different concept of the festival of purim than what was going on in the world around him.  (For a further development of approach (b) to our gemara, see harirai kedem - siman 204 in old edition).

The above issue, over how to understand the implications in completely fulfilling one's obligation by only eating a meal at night, is the core issue in the sugya.  How you resolve this point determines your next step.  We believe it to be a deep point, that demands careful thought in appreciating the different possibilities available to move forward.  (Some of the comments from the previous post might be helpful in further elucidating the issue).


  1. I'm going to go with saying that RA is learning that the chiyuv to have a Purim seudah is of type (a) but will explain why he does not hold that one must have a seudah both at night and during the day.

    Perhaps RA is learning that "y'mei mishteh v'simcha" is a din in klal yisroel. Namely, klal yisroel must be involved in rendering the yom ha'puim a day of mishteh v'simcha. If this is the case, given that the yom has two components (night and day), shouldn't each person have to have a seudah both at night and during the day as is the case by simchas yom tov? Maybe RA is holding that since "y'mei mishteh v'simcha" is a din in klal yisroel, part of the klal, the talmidei chachamim who learn in the beis medrash during the day, will have their seudos at night thereby lending that component of the day the characteristics of mishteh v'simcha, while the rest of klal yisroel have their seudos during the daytime rounding out the characterization of the yom as one of mishteh v'simcha. In other words, since it is the klal that must render the whole yom (both night and day) as one of mishteh v'simcha this characterization can happen through two distinct groups in klal. It is not necessary that each individual have a seudah both at night and during the day. The talmidei chachamim can have a seudah only at night and rely on the rest of the klal to give the day the characteristic of mishteh v'simcha and vice versa.

    This reminds me of an idea I heard in REF's shiur last year. There is a gemara on daf 15b of Beitza that deals with the sugya of chatzi/chatzi on yom tov. Rabbi Eliezer's (RE) position is that each person may pick if he wants to do culo l'hashem or culo l'chem. In what sense is the chatzi/chatzi? The sevara we gave was that RE is holding that chatzi/chatzi is a din in the klal and by giving people the option some of the klal (probably the talmidei chachamim) will choose to spend the day learning while the rest of the klal will spend the day eating and drinking. However, in the end, the yom tov will both have the quality of l'chem and l'hashem via these two distinct groups in klal yisroel, even if any one individual does not partake of both of these aspects.

    1. Good svara Matt. How would you learn Rava and define the machlokes?

    2. I'm still thinking about that. I have an idea but I think I may need to review it 39 more times.

  2. It's interesting because the pasuk says "That is why JEWISH VILLAGERS who live in unwalled towns celebrate..." (9:19) also in pasuk 22,which is like what you saying that it is a din in the klal that they make it into a day of mishta and simcha. This would answer the question I asked earlier why a TC should eat at night and learn during the day.

    Maybe this part of the reason why we give each other stam gifts and gifts to the poor because it is a celebration of the klal. When we give, we participate together in creating the simchas hayom.


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