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Monday, March 5, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 3: Clarification and Framework)

The verses for the obligation of eating the Purim meal are (Esther 9:21,22):
כא לְקַיֵּם, עֲלֵיהֶם--לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים אֵת יוֹם אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר, וְאֵת יוֹם-חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בּוֹ:  בְּכָל-שָׁנָה, וְשָׁנָה.  כב כַּיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר-נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב; לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם, יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה, וּמִשְׁלֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ, וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים
The verse does not actually state an obligation to eat a meal.  Rather, it says that the 14th of Adar and the 15th, are to be made happy, festive days.

We deduce from here that the Purim feast, as well as sending portions to friends and gifts to the poor, are not isolated actions which are obligatory on the 14th of Adar, but are related to the identity of the day of Purim itself.  Through these actions, the day of Purim gains its character as a happy, festive day for all members of society. (See the first comment below which presents an alternate way of formulating the precise nature of the relationship between the meal and the day itself).

The objective, or kiyum, of eating the purim feast is to characterize the day as a festive day.  It would not be a very festive day if no one had a feast.  Likewise, it would not be a day of friendship if no one sent portions to their friends.  This formulation is borne out by a careful reading of the Rambam cited in the first post. This explains why the Rama holds that it is a kiyum to eat at night as well. If the seudah were a maaseh hamitzvah, then there would be no value in doing an additional meal at night. However, since the day is a festive day, even if you define the day during the daytime, there is value in acting in line with the character of the festive day at night as well. In further support of this argument, the gemara tells a story of Abayai having two Purim feasts during the daytime in one year.

Within this framework, we can now reformulate our question on Rav Ashi.  Since the mitzva of eating the Purim feast is to characterize the day as a festive day, it certainly should have to be done during the daytime, as Rava maintains.  The main part of the day is the daytime, and it would seem that an activity that should define the entire day would have to be done during the daytime. How can we make sense of Rav Ashi's position?


  1. In order to try to keep the posts themselves as simple and clear as possible, we have decided to relegate certain nonessential points to the comments section.

    We believe that the nature of the relationship between the mitzvos and the day is the machlokes rishonim concerning whether or not Purim interrupts a period of mourning. The approach in the post is in line with those rishonim who hold that it does not (Rashi, Rambam).

    According to others (brought down in the Tur), the relationship is different. Mordechai and Esther fixed the calender days as happy and festive days. This character of the days generates the obligation to eat the Purim feast and to send portions. Since Purim has an inherent identity as a happy day, not one merely created through the actions of the gavra, it breaks a period of mourning.

    According to either formulation, there is a direct, meaningful relationship between the character of the day and the activities one is obligated to do during this day. Within either formulation, the position of Rav Ashi seems difficult.

  2. I don't think you should allow people to post as "Anonymous".

    1. if posting as anonymous helps someone ask a question, we're not going to stop that. it is a bit easier to follow a back and forth when we have a specific name, but so long as it's not being abused (by posting inappropriate comments anonymously) we won't change anything, Mr. G

    2. RAZ/REF

      Does the question I asked in the first post about a TC learning at night become relevant with Matt's hesber?

    3. No. the gemara is clearly holding the TC should opt for the night meal/day learning. why that is, while an interesting question, is still a side point that is not pertinent to the main line of thought in the sugya

    4. I don't understand, if the idea of the klal creating the yom simcha is where the TCs eat at night, and the rest of the klal eats during the day, how in retrospect was that not a clue into how to learn the sugya, assuming your taking Matt's idea into consideration when formulating your svara?

    5. The fact that the TC is different from the rest of the klal is a clue, but the fact that he learns at daytime and not at night is a distraction.

  3. Perhaps we can say that the machalokes stems from the nature of the characterization of the day as festive.

    One way of looking at this would be that when the people of B'nei Yisrael encounter this time of the year (these days in specific), they must take their day and render it festive. (By way of analogy, I'm reminded of the idea that there is a bracha when a person encounters a place where a miracle was done for B'nei Yisrael.) When exposed to the time when a miracle happened for us, we must react by making our experiential day a festive one. In terms of people's behavior, the daytime is the main part of a day, since that is when activities take place while nighttime is reserved for sleep. Thus, according to this view, the meal must be during the day. This would be Rava's position.

    Perhaps Rav Ashi maintains instead that the characterization as festive does not inhere in the people's experiential days, but rather in the calendrical date. That is, the mitzvah is in its nature simply a way of marking the anniversary date on the calendar in a specific way. When speaking about the 14th (or 15th) of Adar in a calendrical sense, the daytime has no more significance than the nighttime, so both would be equally viable times to have the meal.

  4. our difficulty with your explanation of RA is that the day itself is not a yom mishte v'simcha. what is the sense in eating a meal at night? The idea of a festival relates to the experiential yom, not merely an anniversary on a calender. Purim is a current festival, and as such, marking the day by eating a meal at night seems like a hollow concept.


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