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Beit Midrash Mishna and Talmud Various Shiurim

Temporary Townsmen and Walled-City Dwellers on Purim

The sages instituted a number of days for the reading of the Scroll of Ester. The Mishnah introduces the novel concept that there are situations in which a walled-city dweller reads on the fourteenth and a townsman reads on the fifteenth.
Rabbi Chaim KatzAdar 2 5768
1233
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1. The Opinions of Rashi and Rosh
2. Reading and Returning Home
3. Defining the "Temporary Townsman" Enactment

4. Defining the Villagers' Advanced Reading Enactment
5. Rashi's Approach


The Opinions of Rashi and Rosh
The sages instituted a number of days for the reading of the Megillah, the Scroll of Ester: A townsman ("ben-ir," one who lives in an unwalled town) reads on the fourteenth of Adar; a city dweller ("ben-krakh," one who lives in a walled city) reads on the fifteenth of Adar; villagers read on the "day of entry" (yom haknisa), one of the days between the eleventh and thirteenth of Adar that coincide with Monday or Thursday.

What is the law regarding a walled-city dweller in an unwalled town on the fourteenth of Adar, and vice versa? The Mishnah (Megillah 2:3) answers, "A townsman who went to a walled city, or a walled-city dweller who went to a town - if he intends to return to his home, he reads [at the same time] as in his home; but if not, he reads with them."

The Mishnah introduces the novel concept that there are situations in which a walled-city dweller reads the Megillah on the fourteenth and a townsman reads on the fifteenth. The Mishnah states that the rule is, "If he intends to return to his home, he reads as in his home; but if not, he reads with them."

The Talmud explains that this law is derived from the verse "Therefore, the Jewish townsmen who live in towns celebrate the fourteenth" (Ester 9:19). The repetition in this verse serves to include a temporary townsman, and to teach that such a person also has the status of a townsman.

By what time must a person return to his home in order to read at the same time they read in his home?

Rava addresses this question. The Mishnah, he says, refers only to a case in which a person will be returning on the evening of the fourteenth, but if he will not be returning on the evening of the fourteenth, he reads where he is staying. So, in order for a person to read at the same time they read in his home, he must return home at the latest by dawn of the fourteenth of Adar.

But early Torah authorities are at odds on this point: Rashi says that Rava is referring to a walled-city dweller who went to a open town. If he will be returning to his home before dawn of the fourteenth, he reads at the same time as in his home, and if he will be returning after dawn, he is considered a "temporary townsman," and he reads on the fourteenth.

Rashi adds that the same principle applies to a townsman who visits a walled city, regarding whom the decisive time is dawn of the fifteenth: If he will reach home before dawn of the fifteenth, he reads on the fourteenth, in keeping with the practice of his home, even though he is presently in a walled city. But if he will not be returning by the said time, he reads on the fifteenth. The decisive time in both cases is dawn of the day on which they read in the place where he is a guest.

Rosh disagrees with Rashi, contending that Rava is talking about both a townsman who went to a walled city and a walled-city dweller who went to an open town; the law in both cases depends upon where he was on the evening of the fourteenth. A townsman who goes to a walled city can read as they read in his home only if he will be returning by dawn of the fourteenth. If at the time they read in his home he is not with them, he is no longer obligated to read as they do; rather, he reads on the fifteenth.

In what follows, we will attempt to clarify the source of the dispute between Rashi and Rosh.

Reading and Returning Home
The Talmud relates another rule stated by Rava:

"By rights [a villager] ought to read at the same time as the townspeople - but the Rabbis made a concession to the villagers so that they might supply food and drink to their brethren in the large cities. Now this applies only so long as they are in their own place, but when they are in the town, they must read like the townspeople."

Rava's ruling is based upon the Mishnah at the beginning of the tractate, which states that the sages instituted a special early reading for villagers on market days, "yom haknisa." In this manner they would be able to provide water and food to their brethren in the towns and would not have to return to hear the Megillah.

Rashi writes that Rava is referring to a villager who read the Megillah early, on the "yom haknisa," in accordance with the law, and then went to a town and stayed there on the fourteenth. Rava says that even if he will be leaving the town on the evening of the fourteenth, he must read on the fourteenth, because he was in the town on the evening of the fourteenth.

The Tosafists remark, "This is difficult to understand. Why should he read again? Nonetheless, it appears that Rashi explains this matter well, for because he was in the town at night, he has become as one of the townspeople..." The enactment applying to the villagers, whereby they are permitted to discharge their obligation on the eleventh, applies only where they will be in the village on the evening of the fourteenth.

Based upon the above, Ritva infers the law regarding a walled-city dweller who heard the reading in town and thereafter returned home: Just as a villager who already heard the Megillah read on the eleventh must hear it again on the fourteenth if he is in town, so a walled-city dweller who heard the Megillah read on the fourteenth must hear it again on the fifteenth if he is then in a walled city.

Ritva brings proof of this law from the Jerusalem Talmud as well, where it is written that a townsman who moved his residence to a walled city on the evening of the fifteenth becomes obligated in both locations. This is all the more so, he reasons, regarding a walled-city dweller who only went to town on the fourteenth temporarily.

Ritva adds that his opinion differs from that of the Tosafists. It would appear that he is not referring to the version of Tosafot printed in our copies of the Talmud, which, while not addressing the specific case Ritva addresses, interprets the Talmud's text exactly as he does. Apparently he is referring to a different version of Tosafot, which holds that once a person fulfills his obligation to hear the Megillah reading, he need not hear it again.

It would appear that we could bring support for Ritva's version of Tosafot from the fact that the text bases the law that a villager must read a second time upon the fact that the sages made a concession for the villagers, and that their inherent obligation is to hear the Megillah on the fourteenth, and this rationale applies to townsmen as well!

Defining the "Temporary Townsman" Enactment
Ritva appears to understand that the "temporary townsman" ("proz ben yomo") enactment does not annul the inherent obligation of a walled-city dweller; rather, it binds him with a new obligation to hear the Megillah read on the fourteenth.

Hence, the "temporary townsman" enactment is akin to the advanced reading enactment of the villagers: Just as the sages allowed villagers to read early on the assumption that they might not be able to hear the Megilla at home, so did they allow temporary townsmen to read early, on the fourteenth, because they might not reach the walled city by the fifteenth. It follows that if a temporary townsman does reach home by the fifteenth, he must hear the Megillah again.

As noted, this is Ritva's view. The version of Tosafot brought by Ritva, though, holds that the "temporary townsman" enactment removes one's obligation as a walled-city dweller.

According to this version of Tosafot, the reason for allowing a walled-city dweller visiting an open town to read on the fourteenth is not the fear that he will not be in the walled city on the fifteenth; rather, the date of Purim itself depends upon a person's location on the fourteenth. One who is in town at this time is bound by the laws applying to a town.

Defining the Villagers' Advanced Reading Enactment
It is possible to explain Ritva's position in a different manner. This is because the same inquiry we carried out on the "temporary townsman" enactment can be applied to the villagers' advanced reading enactment.

The Tosafists, who drew a distinction between these two enactments, clearly held that the "temporary townsman" enactment releases a person of his obligations as a walled-city dweller, and the villagers' enactment does not essentially free one of his obligation to hear the Megillah on the fourteenth.

However, it is possible that Ritva holds that just as the "temporary townsman" enactment releases one of his obligations as a walled-city dweller, so the villagers' advanced reading enactment is more than just a special leniency for those unable to hear the Megillah on the fourteenth. Because the sages understood that villagers are busy people, they instituted an outright enactment for them to read on the day of entrance, so their time for reading would no longer be the fourteenth.

True, Rava explicitly states that the villagers' enactment is a unique leniency and does not release them from the obligations of townsmen. Yet it is possible to say that Ritva does not accept Rava's position, for he sees this question as hinging upon an Amoraic dispute at the beginning of the tractate.

There, the Talmud discusses the verse in the Megillah that hints at the villagers' enactment: "Where are [these days] hinted [in the Scripture]? R' Shaman ben Abba replied in the name of R' Yohanan: Scripture says, To confirm these days of Purim in their times. [This indicates that] they laid down many ‘times’ for them."

The Talmud proceeds to clarify the method behind this interpretation of the verse: "But this text is required for its literal meaning? - If that were all, Scripture could say simply ‘at the [appointed] time’. What then is implied by ‘their times’? A large number of ‘times’! But still I may say that [the expression ‘their times’] is required to indicate that the time of one is not the same as the time of the other? - In that case, Scripture should say [simply], ‘their time’. Why does it say ‘their times’? So that you may infer from this all of them. But cannot I say that ‘their times’ means ‘numerous times’? - The expression ‘their times’ is to be interpreted in the same way as we should interpret ‘their time’: just as ‘their time’ would indicate two [days], so ‘their times’ indicates two [in addition]."

A second approach to reaching the source of the "temporary townsman" enactment is that of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani: "R Shmuel bar Nachmani, however, explained thus: Scripture says, As the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies. [The expression] ‘the days’ [would have sufficed] and we have ‘as the days’, to include the eleventh and the twelfth."

The Talmud proceeds to discuss the reason each Amora did not hold as his colleague: "Why did R' Samuel bar Nachmani not derive the rule from the expression ‘in their times’? - He does not accept the distinction [made above between] ‘time’, ‘their time’ and ‘their times’. And why did R' Shaman ben Abba not derive the rule from the expression ‘as the days’? - He can say to you: This is meant to make the rule apply to future generations."

Why is the source of this enactment so important that the Talmud sees the need to ask why each sage learns from the verse he does and not from that of his colleague?

It is possible to say that, indeed, this question has no legal bearing; however, it is also possible to posit that this is a question of principle: If we derive the villagers' enactment from the word "their times," it follows that all of the times for the Megillah reading are embodied in this single word, as explained in the Talmud.

By this logic, just as it is clear that the readings on the fourteenth and fifteenth are fundamental obligations, and that walled-city dwellers are entirely unaffected by the townsmen enactment, and vice versa, so the villagers' reading is a fundamental obligation.

However, if we derive the villagers' enactment from the word "as the days," only the eleventh and twelfth are included, and it follows that there is room to assert that these days are different in nature from the fourteenth and fifteenth.

By this logic, the villagers' obligation is a legal innovation, which says that if a villager will not be in the village on the fourteenth, he may read prior to this. But if he reaches the village by the fourteenth, he must read on the fourteenth.

It is possible to find support for this explanation in the words of Rambam. As we have seen, Rava (regarding a villager who goes to a town) states explicitly that the villagers' enactment is a special leniency, not a fundamental law. This is how we explained the Tosafists' approach. Rambam, however, omits this ruling. In light of what we have explained above this makes perfect sense, for Rambam cites (1:4) the Talmudic passage that derives the enacted days from "their times," and it follows that he is not bound by Rava's position.

Rashi's Approach
We have thus far seen that it is possible to say that there is an Amoraic dispute over the nature of the villagers' enactment. We have likewise seen that a "temporary townsman" can be viewed in two manners - as if he is no longer a walled-city dweller, or as if he still is. Ritva treats both enactments as if they were of the same nature - a villager is not released of his obligation to read on the fourteenth, and a walled-city dweller is not released of his obligation to read on the fifteenth.

It is possible to discern in the words of Rashi that he follows the approach of Ritva. The Mishnah (Megillah 1:2) states: "Even though [the Sages] say to advance [the reading] rather than postpone, eulogies and fasts are permitted." Rashi explains that "walled-city dwellers who read the Megillah before its time are permitted to eulogize and fast on the days on which they read it."

The Talmud asks what this refers to. If a walled-city dweller reads on the fourteenth, it is obviously forbidden for him to fast and eulogize on that day, as explicitly stated in Megillat Taanit: "The fourteenth [of Adar] and the fifteenth [of Adar] are days of Purim, on which eulogizing is forbidden, and Rava says: It is needed in order to prohibit each of them [from eulogizing] on the others' day," and the Talmud deduces that this is referring to a townsman who read the Megillah on the twelfth.

Regarding the suggestion rejected by the Talmud, that this refers to a walled-city dweller who read on the fourteenth, Rashi comments, "[The reference here is to] a walled-city dweller . . . who went to a town and read with them, for a 'temporary townsman' has the status of a townsman . . ."

If we assume, then, that a "temporary townsman" loses his status as a walled-city dweller, and that the day for reading is determined according to a person's location, it is inconceivable that such a person would be permitted to eulogize and fast. Just as it is unconceivable that a townsman be permitted to eulogize and fast on the fourteenth, so too a temporary townsman!

Only if we assume that a temporary townsman's Purim is inherently the fifteenth, and that he reads on the fourteenth out of fear that he will not be in the walled city on the fifteenth (like a villager who is obligated to advance his reading), is it possible to understand the unique ruling laid down by Megillat Taanit.

Having clarified Rashi's position, let us return to his dispute with Rosh that we brought at the outset. As we have seen, according to Rashi, a townsman who goes to a walled city reads on the fifteenth only if he intends to be in the walled city on the fifteenth; according to Rosh, the decisive time is the fourteenth, and if on this day he is in the walled city, he becomes bound by the obligations that apply to the walled city.

It appears that Rashi is consistent in his position that a townsman who goes to a walled city remains forever a townsman. It is therefore more difficult to release him from his obligation to read as a townsman. Even if he remains in the walled city on the fourteenth, he must read on the fourteenth; only if he remains in the walled city until the fifteenth does he read in the walled city.

However, according to Rosh, the temporary townsman and walled-city dweller enactment is absolute; it changes the visitor's original status so that everything depends upon his location on the fourteenth. It is easy to nullify one's status as walled-city dweller or townsman, because everything depends upon where a person is.

To summarize the various approaches: According to Rashi and Rambam, the nature of the villagers' enactment and "temporary townsman" enactment is the same - according to Rashi, neither release a person of his original obligation; according to Rambam, both release a person of his original obligation.

Ritva too sees a similarity between villagers and temporary townsmen, and he can accept either Rashi or Rambam's view.

According to the version of Tosafot brought by Ritva, there is a difference between villagers, who are not fundamentally released of their obligation to read on the fourteenth, and temporary townsmen, who are released of their obligation to read on the fifteenth. Rosh holds that a temporary townsman is released of his walled city obligation, but he does not address the villagers' enactment.
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Some of the translations of the Talmud in the above article were taken from the Soncino Judaic Classics Library on CD-Rom.
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