The Gemara1 records a beraissa that teaches: “Kohanim engaged in their avodah, Leviim engaged in their musical accompaniment to the avodah, and Yisraelim attending the avodah, all must abandon their service to go hear the reading of the Megillah.”
The Gemara further records that the Yeshiva of Rebi relied upon this beraissa to interrupt their study of Torah in order to hear the Megillah. They reasoned, if the avodah, which is stringent, must be abandoned for Megillah reading, then it is certainly true that Torah study, which is not as stringent, should be abandoned as well2. The Shulchan Aruch3 codifies the ruling that we interrupt Torah study to go hear the Megillah and adds that all the more so one must disrupt any mitzvah one is engaged in in order to hear the Megillah.
At first glance this halacha is difficult to understand. Why does the Gemara refer to interrupting the study of Torah in order to hear the Megillah as “bitul Torah” In what manner is the study of Torah being interrupted if listening to Megilah is inherently Talmud Torah, as it is part of Tanach?
The halachic parameter of mishloach manos ish l’rey’eihu (the minimum gift we must give to fulfill our basic obligation) is set at “two gifts to one person.”1 These two gifts must be two different minim and must both be given to the same person.
The poskim raise the following question about mishloach manos: If someone gives a gift that otherwise fulfills the Halachic parameters (two different minim given at the same time to one person) but he puts the two items in the same kli, does he fulfill his obligation to give mishloach manos?
The Ben Ish Chai2 rules that in such a case you have not fulfilled your obligation, because the fact that they are in one container means that they are considered to be only one gift.
Because this year is a leap year, daylight savings time began a week and a half before Purim, bringing with it consequent issues regarding “early Shabbos” and the appropriate time for Maariv. The question of defining halachic day and night thus becomes very important.
My grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Zev Bomzer z”l, passed away three years ago right before Rosh Chodesh Adar. As a talmid in Yeshiva in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he learned under Rabbi Moshe Aharon Poleyeff z”l and was quite close to him. I found a discussion of this issue in my grandfather’s writings and the explanations and elucidations he himself heard from Rabbi Poleyeff. I would like to present them here, paraphrased by me for publication in this venue:
We find that there are several areas in Halacha that are contradictory when it comes to what is defined as day and what is defined as night. For example, there are opposing positions quoted by the Rema in Hilchos Niddah (Yoreh Deah 196:1). He writes that some say that once the community davens Maariv, even if this is before nightfall, a woman must wait to check for hefsek tahara until the next night, because now it’s already considered nighttime. But he says that others hold that she can continue to check until the actual night, even if the community started Shabbos earlier. The minhag, he says, is to be machmir l’chatchila like the first opinion.
Megilas Esther is famous for being the only sefer in Tanach with no mention of Hashem’s name. The Gemara in Chullin sees Hashem’s subtlety as central to the story of Esther. The Gemara (139a) asks, “Where does the Torah make mention of Esther?” and answers by citing the pasuk (Devarim 31:18) “v’anochi hastir astir pani bayom hahu” — and I will hide my face on that day. What is the significance of Hashem’s subtlety in story of Purim and how can we use this knowledge to be better ovdei Hashem?
Perhaps the idea of subtlety can be better understood in relation to another theme of Purim, namely, kabalas hatorah. The Gemara in Shabbos (88a) says that there was a second kabalas hatorah on Purim. The first kabalas hatorah was lacking because Hashem coerced klal yisrael to accept the Torah, while the second kabalas hatorah was performed willingly and out of love (as explained by Rashi there). The Meshech Chochma (Shemos 19:17) suggests that the coercion of the first kabbalas hatorah was not physical coercion. Rather, klal Yisrael was so overwhelmed by Hashem’s revelation that they couldn’t act out of their own free will; they could not help but accept the Torah.