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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Purim Song (Part 1: Facts)

The gemara in Megila 14a says that there have been many prophets to the Jewish people, and none of them added or detracted from the Torah, except for the mitzva of reading the מגילה:
ת ארבעים ושמונה נביאים ושבע נביאות נתנבאו להם לישראל ולא פחתו ולא הותירו על מה שכתוב בתורה חוץ ממקרא מגילה
The gemara seeks a source that allowed them to add this one mitzva:
מאי דרוש אמר רבי חייא בר אבין אמר רבי יהושע בן קרחה ומה מעבדות לחירות אמרי' שירה ממיתה לחיים לא כל שכן
The gemara proposes a logical derivation for the source: If when we were taken from a state of slavery to freedom we said שירה (see Rashi who identifies this שירה with אז ישיר that was sung after the Egyptians were drowned in the sea), certainly when we were saved from death to life we should read the מגילה!

The gemara asks that according to this reasoning we should also say הלל on Purim, which has the status of שירה, and everyone agrees is not actually recited on Purim.  There are three answers given.  (One of the answers will not be discussed in the main body of the posts, but we might share our thoughts about it in the comments section for those who are interested.)
אי הכי הלל נמי נימא?...רב נחמן אמר קרייתא זו הלילא רבא אמר בשלמא התם הללו עבדי ה' ולא עבדי פרעה אלא הכא הללו עבדי ה' ולא עבדי אחשורוש אכתי עבדי אחשורוש אנן 
רב נחמן:  There is in fact a genuine obligation to say הלל on Purim.  However, the reading of the מגילה itself is in place of reciting הלל.

רבא: There is no obligation to say הלל on Purim, because the salvation from Egypt is not comparable with that of Purim.  After the Exodus we were  truly free men who were the servants of Hashem and no longer slaves to Pharaoh.  However, even after the miracle of Purim we were still the servants of אחשורוש.

What questions do we need to ask, and what steps do we have to take, in order to understand this sugya?


  1. one Q that bothers me is the following: is this actually adding a mitzvah or not? the answer seems to indicate that it is NOT in fact adding a mitzvah but is derived from an already existing matir of shira, not something new, (i.e., just an application of an existing institution). But the tanu rabanan clearly calls this a one-of-a-kind situation of a NEW mitzvah.

    Despite the above (and perhaps a step toward an answer?), I don't think the tanu rabanan can mean it as literally as it sounds-- that a "mitzvah was added onto the Torah". If the neviim were never allowed to add a mitzvah, it seems preposterous that this mitzvah was actually an "addition"-- saying it is an extension of an existing institution is more reasonable and more intuitive to me. If this is so (that they are not in fact "adding" something new), that changes the Q from "how could they add a mitzvah?" to "why did chazal use this lashon of adding/subtracting to the Torah when that doesn't seem to be an exact description of what is going on?"

    1. Good questions. However, we are not planning to address this part of the gemara (about neviim adding a mitzvah). If you are interested in pursuing it, see the Ran and the Maharsha who may help with answering your questions.

  2. Q's

    1)The jews said hallel during that time period after purim for other occasions even though they were 'slaves' of Achashvarosh?
    2)Why is reading the megilla a hallel?
    3)The jews were slaves of haman?
    4)(possibile question-The jews were also being killed by the Egyptians, they were not only slaves?)
    5) Isn't eiruv tavshilin a din of shlomo which is drabanan who is also a navi?

    1. The steps might be first trying to understand on a basic pshat level q#3 and possibly #4.

    2. 1. We assume you mean that they (and we) said Hallel on Yom Tov, Chanukah,..during that period despite the fact that they were servants of Achashvarosh. Why isn't this a problem according to Rava? If so, good question.

      2. Good question.

      3. We are not sure exactly what you are asking. If you mean that prior to the nes they were slaves of haman and afterwards they were slaves of Achashvarosh (a better situation), then perhaps you can think into Rava's point to understand it in a way that will get around this question. If not, please clarify your question.

      4. It seems that this gemara holds that the mitzrim did not want to kill us but to enslave us again. In Shmos 14:5, they said "What did we do, for we sent out the Jews from serving us".

      5. Good question. See our response to JL above.

    3. Typo- I meant that " what does it mean they were slaves of achashverosh?" after the miracle. Where does it say that? (not haman)

    4. Can an eved ivri say hallel- it seems from this Gemara that he can't?

    5. The rambam says there is NO takans of hallel on Purim, u seem to be saying there is and that the Megillah is a replacement.

    6. We are learning the sugya according to Rashi, who says that reading the megilla is in the place of hallel. You are correct though, the Rambam seems to learn this position slightly differently than Rashi.

    7. It sounds funny that the rambam and Rashi would be arguing over such a fundamental point as to whether or not hallel was niskan; if yes, then megillah is in its place(rashi?), or hallel was not niskan, and megilla is the hallel of purim(rambam). When Rashi says " that the reading of the megilla is in the place of hallel" he could be saying the same thing as the rambam- hallel was not niskan, and megilla is THE hallel of purim. I don't know, I just find it funny that they are arguing over whether or not it was niskan, wouldn't that be something amorim or taanim would argue over?

    8. If you agree to the question as to 'how are we slaves of Achashverosh'?(rashi says because we were only redeemed from death, and not freedom like in eygpt), and answering that basic pshat question is the first step in the machlokes, then perhaps we can make a chiluk between physical, work-oriented slavery, versus a different type of slavery(maybe something psychologically oriented.)

    9. Mio
      1. Servants of Acheshverosh presumably means that we weren't sovereign, but were subject to the kingdom (and whims) of Acheshverosh.
      2. We dont think there's a halcha that an eved cannot say hallel. Good question why not. See our response to q1 above- it's a similar point.
      3. The Meeri says that of for some reason you cannot read the megilla than you say hallel instead. It seems clear that he holds (as we are saying Rashi holds as well) that there is a chiyuv of hallel, but that megilla can qualify. It does not seem that the Rambam would hold by such a halacha. Thus, it does seem that there is a machlokes. (As an aside, according to Rashi/Me'eri this is a machlokes amoraim in this very gemara.)
      4. It is hard to have a good intuition about what the Tannaim and Amoraim should argue about and what should be "left" for the Rishonim. I wouldn't trust my intuition on this matter, as major machlokesim seem to appear in the Rishonim all the time.

    10. I'm not sure how to understand the idea that hallel replaces megilla. You said in a different post that krias hamegilla is a maaseh pirsum, is hallel a maaseh pirsum? If it is then the same halacha should apply by chanukah(no hallel unless you can't light neiros, or pesach-if there is no four cups then we say hallel.)

    11. The opposite...not that hallel replaces megilla, but rather that megilla replaces hallel.

    12. Still how can that be...if megilla is a maaseh pirsum, is hallel a maaseh pirsum?

    13. What's also interesting is the fact that the amora brings a proof that the Jews had a right to say shira because the pasuk by hallel says "praise servants of God", though that is not a pasuk in the actual shira itself.

      It would be appropriate to use that pasuk as a proof that only 'servants of God' can sing hallel, because that is part of the hallel prayer. But why is the gemara using that pasuk to justify the fact that the Jews had the right to say shira when they left eygpt.

    14. A follow up from the previous comment: if the gemara is using the pasuk of 'servants of God' to justify the shira by mitzraim, and the gemara through the kal vchomer assumes megilla is also a shira, then...according to the second amora how can there even be a chiyuv of megilla if only 'servants of God' and not 'servants of achashverosh' can sing shira...

    15. Additionally: What does it mean that the megilla is a shira(assuming the kal vochomer is identifying megilla as shira), and if it is why do we need krias hallel(a shira) in addition to it?


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