God vs The Multiverse

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 4: Svara)

In order to explain RA, we suggest that the mitzvah of defining the day of Purim is performed by the tzibbur, not by the individual. An individual alone cannot create a national festive day.  Since the tzibbur is made up of individuals, it falls upon each individual to participate in the group's definition of the day. Since the halachik day has two components, night and day, as long as an individual has his meal in either of these components, he is participating in the group's characterization of the day. Although a meal at night cannot characterize the whole day, since when you have a large number of people in a group, some will naturally do it by night and some will prefer to do it by daytime, ultimately the entire day will be characterized.  In fact, RA maintained that a good division of responsibility would involve the talmidai chachamim doing it at night (while maintaining the Beis Midrash in the day), while leaving the rest of the people to do it during the day. What was Rava's problem with this idea?

In order to pursue this machlokes further, we notice that there are two types of group activities:
(a) a group activity which gains its character and meaning through the totality of all of the members of the group. Consider the example of the Olympic Torch Relay from Greece to the site of the current Olympic Games. No individual's action in isolation is defined as passing the Olympic torch - he is just running with fire. It is only through the aggregation of the actions of all of the members that the activity gains its character.
(b) a group activity where each individual's action has the desired character, but the significance of these activities comes through the entirety of the group. Consider the example of a moment of silence. Each individual does the "action" of a moment of silence. However, if only one person did it, it would have no significance. While the act would be intelligible as a moment of silence, the significance and objective (kiyum) of the individual action is realized through the group.

Was the group activity of defining the day as a festival day formulated as in type (a) or (b)?

RA held (a). Defining Purim as a festival takes place through the totality of the nation. No individual's action needs to define the day in isolation - it can simply be a meal on Purim.  Therefore, it can be by night or day. Many individuals doing this action on the same day generates the group action of defining the day as a festival day through a nation wide feast.

Rava held (b). Each individual's action must be defined in isolation as defining his day as a festival day. This can only be accomplished by a feast in the daytime. However, the kiyum of these actions comes through the group. Rava supports his position from the megilla saying "days of mishte and simcha" - Purim is a day which emerges from the days of many individuals together.

This idea of Rava is not merely a particular halacha regarding the timing of the feast, but is a novel idea regarding the definition of Purim as a festival day through many individuals' days. In order for RA to fully internalize this idea and to explore its various applications, he reviewed it forty times. He then "carried it in his pocket", ready to apply it and approach different areas with this idea in mind.

In the next post we will discuss a philosophical benefit which emerges from Rava's formulation and ties into the nature of the day of Purim.

25 comments:

  1. You write: "Rava held (b). Each individual's action must be defined in isolation as defining his day as a festival day. This can only be accomplished by a feast in the daytime."

    Why must an individual feast in the daytime in order to define the day as a festive day?

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  2. This question might be similar to Jeremy G's but I was wondering why when it comes to the tzibbur characterizing the day we say it has to take place both at night and during the daytime so as to characterize the whole halachic yom but when it comes to the individual we say that he only has to have a seudah during the daytime? What happened to characterizing the whole halachic yom by the individual?

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  3. A point of clarification. We are not saying that the tzibbur MUST do it both night and day, but that the tzibbur CAN do it night and day. If all did it at day, that would be OK for defining the festival, but RA didnt like that because it prevents Beis Midrash. Even RA would agree, however, that the entire tzibbur cannot do it at night.

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    1. Hmm, I'm still a little confused. Suppose one asked, why does one have to have a seudah at all if it's a din in the tzibbur - surely enough people will have a seudah and thereby render the yom as one of mishteh v'simcha. Presumably the answer to the question is that that would be problematic since if everybody did that there would be no characterization of the yom. Why not similarly say that one shouldn't be able to have a seudah at night because if everyone did that there would be no characterization of the yom?

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    2. the short answer to your question is that when you eat at night, your action is defined as eating when you subjectively prefer to. if everyone followed their subjective preference, the day would attain its characteristic as a festival.

      The longer answer is to treat day (D) and night (N) as two variables with equal probabilities. allowing a random distribution over large number (hundreds of thousands of people), will with near certainty produce a fairly equal distribution over the entire time period. If one variable is preferred, the resultant distribution would favor that side. however, if there is a preference between day and night to have the feast, certainly the preference is to eat by day as evidenced by RA's hava amina where he thought that even though every am ha'aretz was eating by day, a torah scholar should try to eat by night. we see from there, that people as a whole have a preference for feasting by daytime, which intuitively makes sense.

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    3. I'm not sure if I'm repeating any questions, but why is it that if it is a chovas tzibur, everyone has to do it. Why can't some people eat by day and some by night to characterize the day as a yom of simcha and mishta. Also do we find a precedent for this in halacha where a chovas tzibur has to be mikuyam through everyone in the tzibur? By tzedeka the chiyuv is on the tzibur, but not everyone in the tzibur has to fulfill it. Someone mentioned RE's opinion in beitza 15b where that might be a chovas tzibur which is fulfilled through everyone in klal yisroel since it says "lechem" in plural referring to the whole klal.

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    4. sometimes a chovas hatzibur demands every individual of the group do it...three examples we can think of are kiddush on friday night and yom tov, as well as the torah mitzva of the karban chaggiga which is called a karbun tzibur even though every individual is obligated, as well as the obligation of aliya l'regel

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    5. we're saying that the meal is kovea the day as a yom simcha and mishta, and that without the meal, it would not have that character. the pasuk says "a day of mishta and simcha, gifts to friends, and gifts to poor people". The halacha in the rambam is that one can give both matanos on the day of the gathering,before purim. It seems from the pasuk that giving the matanos too only on purim(just like the meal on purim) would characterize the day as a day of matanos. Why then does the rambam say that one need give it only on the day of gathering and does not need to give it on purim itself?

      Also the "days" of the pasuk is referring to the 14th and 15th days mentioned earlier in the pasuk,and does not seem to indicate each person's personal purim day which he is kovea through the meal.

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    6. If it doesn't require going through a whole sugya,how do we know chagiga is a chovas tzibur as well as aliya lregel.

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    7. we know when you post somewhere else mio.

      the gemara calls the chaggiga a karbun tzibur

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    8. hey did you get a chance to review the first questions?

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    9. the gemara on the bottom of 4b takes up the issue of gifts to the poor...

      it terms of the limud of 'days' we're not saying that is pshat, rather it is alimud of torah sh'bal peh

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    10. I'm sorry I'm not sure if I understand how the gemara on 4b answers the question as to why we assume that MM MLV and simcha and mishta are kovea the day, if MM and MLV can be given on an earlier day.

      Also what do you mean by "a limud of torah sh'bal peh", is this a new drasha?

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    11. the gemara says תניא נמי הכי אע"פ שאמרו כפרים מקדימין ליום הכניסה גובין בו ביום ומחלקין בו ביום אע"פ שאמרו אדרבה משום דאמרו הוא אלא הואיל ואמרו שכפרים מקדימין ליום הכניסה גובין בו ביום ומחלקין בו ביום מפני שעיניהם של עניים נשואות במקרא מגילה. Its a separate sugya if your interested, but we cant take up every issue.

      also, its just another word for drasha

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  4. Very nice idea.

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  5. Sorry I am late. I think I must be missing something.

    Factually, why are your learning that R Ashi holds that there is a halacha b'yom? Rava brings this pasuk as a proof to his svarah, and it would seem that it is part of the reason that R Ashi acquiesced to Rava's svara.
    In terms of the svarah, I do not understand where you are getting this idea that the whole nation must perform the seudah together. What does my seudah have to do with yours? Where does there exist any concept of a communal performance of seudah or simcha? If I am by myself in the middle of nowhere and have a seudah, am I not yotzei because I do not have friends with me? Furthermore, in so far as part of the nation is doing it at night and the other part is doing it during the day, then they are not doing it together. So, where is the tziruf between the night performance and day?

    I was also looking at the Rambam you quoted, and his sequence seems a little unstructured, which is strange for the Rambam. He first starts off speaking about the day being a day of simchah u'mishteh, but then switches to describing how one can go to work during the day. This puts him on the tangent of discussing that a person should not go to work despite it being permitted. He then returns to saying how the meal can only be done during the day of purim and not before (if he read earlier) nor at night. The Rambam should have just written the halachos of the meal and then come back to discuss the halachos of going to work. Moreover, what kind of halacha is it that it is mutar to go to work, but you should not or else you will never see a siman brahca? Either it is mutar or assur.

    Perhaps, there is another way to look at the machlokes. The obligation of the seudah can be construed in two ways. One is that when a person hears krias hamegillah and experiences the pirsum hanes, he is moved by the happiness of the relationship between God and Klal Yisroel to celebrate. It then makes sense that the seudah can be done day or night, as these are the two times that he experiences the nes. The other theory is that the seudah is a fulfillment in the yom purim as a yom mishteh v'simchah. It can then only be performed during the day. Rava proves this approach from the pasuk of "yimei mishteh v'simchah".

    With this we can understand the Rambam. The Rambam holds that both svaras are true. He begins with discussing the yom purim being defined by simchah and mishteh. Nevertheless, the yom does not demand a person to take off work. At this point, the Rambam introduces the idea of the gavrah's appreciation of the nes and simchah, and he explains that someone who truly appreciates the nes will naturally not attend work. Now that the Rambam explains that there is a halcha in the gavra, he must dispel the idea that the gavrah can perform the simcha whenever he experiences the kriah and returns to saying that the yom demands a seudah.

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    1. according to RA, if the villagers read the megilla in advance, they should be able to eat the meal in advance. but they are not allowed to!

      we are saying that the day itself, as a festival, is what everyone is relating to. the day is just as real in the middle of nowhere, at night, or by day

      the essential idea is not one big meal (an essential communal activity like tfillas hatzibur), rather it is through the aggregation of many individual actions that characterize the national festival of purim

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    2. How do you know that R Ashi held that when they were doing yom hakinesa that the villagers could not eat the meal before?

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    3. Now that I think about it, you still need the yom in order to have the gavra. It is just not a halacha in the yom. That halacha about the Yom Hakinesa is a different halacha

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    4. Your theory is that "when a person hears krias hamegillah and experiences the pirsum hanes, he is moved by the happiness of the relationship between God and Klal Yisroel to celebrate". Why does this need the yom? It should only go with krias megilla?

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    5. yea, but you can't have the gavrah without the yom. If you read megillah on pesach you can't just make a seudah and be yotzei for next purim.

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    6. are you saying that when the villagers read it early, they aren't the gavra of persumei nisa?

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    7. How that works is a different sugya. It is a good question, but I do not need to answer all of shas in one sitting

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