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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Purim Meal at Night (Part 5: Philosophy)

According to Rava and the conclusion of the gemara, Purim was set up as a festival for the tzibbur which emerges through each individual defining his personal day as a festive day.  Had RA been correct, it would've been a festival created by the collective action of the group and would allow for different individuals to celebrate Purim differently - some (talmidai chachamim) having their meal at night and some (most other people) by day.

We argue that Rava's formulation, as opposed to RA's is in line with a major theme in the day of Purim, that of rayus (friendship). The existential threat to the entire nation, followed by a salvation which emerged from a combination of Divine Providence and carefully planned actions of the Jewish leaders had a major impact on the Jewish people. It led to a reaffirmation to the Torah values and to the sense of  rayus  which existed between fellow Jews involved in a common, true ideology and mission. The miracle of Purim led to an immediate outpouring of simcha and mishte, together with an expression of  rayus  through sending gifts (mishloach manos). A partial comparison can be made to the sense of  friendship which New Yorkers (and all Americans) felt after the tragic events of 9/11.

In setting up the holiday of Purim, Mordechai and Esther sought to commemorate and preserve this attitude for future generations. They incorporated mishloach manos into the day and added the institution of matanos le'evyonim (gifts to the poor), an institution which furthers the rayus in the nation by minimizing the significance of class distinctions on Purim, in addition to providing happiness for both the rich and the poor.  The gemara tells us that Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah sent mishloach manos to his student Rav Oshaya.  Although this is seemingly a gift in the opposite direction from what we'd expect, perhaps it was done to minimize the emotional distance between rebbe and talmid, and thereby enhance the feeling of rayus. We also find in the gemara (according to Rashi's interpretation) that Abayai bar Avin and R' Chanina bar Avin (brothers) would switch off years hosting their joint Purim Seudah, the model of simchas merayus (see Moed Kattan 22b).

Perhaps Rava's formualtion is in line with this theme of rayus as well.  If the halacha were like RA, then Purim could've been celebrated differently by two different groups of Jews (as is the case by Tisha B'av - see Rambam), a feature which would minimize the rayus in Purim.  According to Rava, however, all Jews must equally and in an identical manner, define their day as a festive day through a daytime feast.  Perhaps this was a factor in Mordechai and Esther's decision to formulate the mitzvah of seudas Purim as Rava maintains.


  1. I hear that Rava's formulation is in line with the idea of rayus. But if rayus is such an essential idea in the formulation of Purim, why would they split the days between walled and unwalled cities? Or allow the small towns to be makdim? Is that in effect making it a split celebration. Maybe this is even where RA finds a philosophical "support" for his position.

  2. Rayus is one factor which is increased by Rava's formulation, and would've presumably been increased if all cities did the same day. However, there are other factors in setting up the days - i.e. pirsum about the different facets of the miracle (shushan and other cities, as in the ran and ramban at beginning of masechta).

    Also, rayus is primarily between people who live in one city and interact. Splitting people within one city isn't the same as splitting up different cities.


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