Is the day of Purim to be celebrated as a holiday in its own right, or is it just the occasion for fulfilling or performing specific commandments, (namely the reading of the Book of Esther, having a festive meal during the day, interchanging gifts of food with friends, and giving special assistance to the poor)? Logically, if Purim is only the occasion for fulfilling specific commandments, then it would lose all meaning and be like any other day for Jews who do not fulfill these commandments. Finally, what would make Purim a holiday is if it were a Yom Tov, i.e. a day on which work is forbidden.
When we look in the Book of Esther, it appears at first glance that Purim was established as a Yom Tov. The Jews agreed to observe the fourteenth (or fifteenth day) of Adar because on these days the Jews rested from battling their respective enemies. The text clearly states, “And it was the month that was turned for them from agony to happiness and from mourning to a Yom Tov.” Esther 9:22. This (that Purim should be a Yom Tov) indeed was one opinion that was stated in the Talmud. Megilla 5b.
In one of my early days studying in Yeshiva, I was introduced to a compelling logical argument that would help me a lot later on when struggling with difficult Talmudic passages; if someone gives you too many answers to one question, that means there probably is no real answer to the question.
So many answers have been given to the question why bad things happen to good people; here too it seems reasonable to believe that The answer, remains elusive. Despite the question being asked, re-asked, and will-be-asked and endless amount of times, a final answer has yet to have emerged. Indeed the Mishna in Pirkey Avot (4:15) teaches:“ Rabbi Yannai would say: We have no comprehension of the tranquility of the wicked, nor of the suffering of the righteous.” Despite various approaches to this question that were known at the time, Rabbi Yannai believes that The ultimate answer, is yet to be known.
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.
From the time that the Torah was given until the destruction of the second Temple (with short periods of interruptions) the observance of Yom Hakippurim was fairly uniform. The religious activities of that day were entrusted to one man: the High Priest. He represented the entire community of Israel. The people themselves, however, did not engage in any of the religious activities. They stood by silently and watched the proceedings.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, two millennia ago, the Temple ritual ceased and there was no longer a high priest to represent the people of Israel and acquire for them the forgiveness of God and absolution for their sins. The process of Kapara or absolution, would now be thrust directly upon them. How did the Rabbinic tradition adjust to this new situation? How did they remain true to the system established by the Torah?