Thursday, March 20, 2008

Laining the Megillah By Day And Night

Warning: Not halacha lemaaseh, especially because the following is the result of my creative juices. I think there may well be something to it, but I am sharing it just to put the idea out there. And so I am also not referring to how various commentators might have interpreted these sources. Much of the following may be nonsense.

Present Purim practice is to hear the megillah betzibbur by night, and again by day. The basis of this is a gemara in Megillah 4a:

ואריב"ל חייב אדם לקרות את המגילה בלילה ולשנותה ביום שנאמר (תהילים כב) אלהי אקרא יומם ולא תענה ולילה ולא דומיה לי סבור מינה למקרייה בליליא ולמיתנא מתניתין דידה ביממא אמר להו רבי ירמיה לדידי מיפרשא לי מיניה דרבי חייא בר אבא כגון דאמרי אינשי אעבור פרשתא דא ואתנייה איתמר נמי אמר רבי חלבו אמר עולא ביראה חייב אדם לקרות את המגילה בלילה ולשנותה ביום שנאמר (תהילים ל) למען יזמרך כבוד ולא ידום ה' אלהי לעולם אודך

The implication is that in terms of megillah laining, as a Purim obligation, one already fulfilled at night -- or alternatively, by day (since that is presumably when people come to the big cities, and also perhaps follows from the derasha) -- whatever time one fulfills the primary obligation. But that does not mean that one is done learning Purim stuff. After all, the pasuk -- from Tehillim, mind you, not Megillat Esther, is {Tehillim 22:3}:
ג אֱלֹהַי--אֶקְרָא יוֹמָם, וְלֹא תַעֲנֶה; וְלַיְלָה, וְלֹא-דֻמִיָּה לִי. 3 O my God, I call by day, but Thou answerest not; and at night, and there is no surcease for me.
Thus, though he read it (ekra) by day, still at night he is not silent. The simple derasha from the pasuk would imply two periods of kriah. So forget the whole confusion of whether leshanotah means to learn Mishnayot or to read it again. The simple meaning of the prooftext of the derasha would seem to support the gemara's conclusion. Of course, perhaps we were not meant to derive so much from the particular pasuk as prooftext.

The alternative prooftext certainly does not give us so much, at least at first glance. From Tehillim 30:
יג לְמַעַן, יְזַמֶּרְךָ כָבוֹד-- וְלֹא יִדֹּם:
יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי, לְעוֹלָם אוֹדֶךָּ.
13 So that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent; {N}
O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever. {P}
Elsewhere, the gemara in megillah sets up the reading of the Megillah in place of Hallel, so here, he is not remaining silent (lo yidom), but saying the megillah again (leOlam odeka).

However, this is not derived from a pasuk in the megillah. The different days of reading is perhaps hinted to from Esther 9:31. But these derashot seem to be for the sake of extending an existing law of reading, to another day as well.

But is this an obligation on the community at large? The statement says חייב אדם לקרות את המגילה בלילה ולשנותה ביום, that is chayav adam, directed at the individual man. Which makes sense, for this is not a communal obligation. Rather, once that obligation is dispensed with, he still should engage in study of the megillah, even by day. Perhaps the comparison to shnayim mikra is not only on an idiomatic level, but rather thematic, in terms of the direction of the obligation.

And I'll attempt to prove it, by referring to the Yerushalmi. They have the same statement, the same confusion, and the same resolution:

In Yerushalmi Megillah 20a-b:
אמר ר' תנחומא
מפני ההדיוטות
עולה בירייה ר' לעזר בשם ר' חנינה רגיל צריך לקרותה בלילה ולשנותה ביום הוינן סברין מימר לשנות משנתה
אמר רבי אבא מרי בבלייה לשנות קרייתה

After making a statement about uneducated people as a cause for not reading from a chumash (a non-complete megillah (or perhaps a non-complete Torah, but only one of the five books).

Then, the next statement is that ragil -- I will explain in a minute what this means -- one is required to read it at night and repeat it by day. They thought it meant to learn the Mishnayot of it. But Rabbi Abba Mari the Babylonian said that this meant to repeat its reading.

Indeed, in our Bavli, this is said over from Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba, who was a Babylonian who traveled early on to Eretz Yisrael. In the gemara, he was cited, and his teaching on this matter is important, for he studied under Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, the author of the original statement. Here in Yerushalmi, rather than a citation of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, it is a citation of Rabbi Chanina. Both Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi and Rabbi Chanina were teachers of Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba. So his statement in this matter carries weight. (Though here in Yerushalmi it is Rabbi Abba who makes the clarification. Or rather, it depends on how you parse it. I would parse it as "the Babylonian Amora, Rabbi Abba Mari," who was a disciple of Rav.)

But what is this word ragil, which I skipped over before? I have not looked to see if any standard source tries to emend it, or has a various girsa which would support emending it -- I lent my Yerushalmi out, so cannot look up Pnei Moshe, Korban heEdah, etc.. Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer in an audio file at does what seems an off-the-cuff emendation from ragil to megillah, and indeed they share some letters, but absent better evidence, I would still with ragil, the lectio difficilior which actually makes sense when you dwell on it for a while.

What this calls to mind are the following sources:
Brachot 4b:
אבל אדם בא מן השדה בערב נכנס לבית הכנסת אם רגיל לקרות קורא ואם רגיל לשנות שונה וקורא ק"ש ומתפלל
and Taanit 30a:
ר' יהודה אומר אף אינו קורא במקום שאינו רגיל לקרות ואינו שונה במקום שאינו רגיל לשנות אבל קורא הוא באיוב ובקינות ובדברים הרעים שבירמיהו
and Yoma 18b:
חכמים דורשים לפניו ואם רגיל לקרות קורא ואם לאו קורין לפניו
Thus, ragil appears to be someone who is personally capable of it. The typical hedyotot who have to come to the city to hear the reading are not included here. It is someone who is ragil in this and thus is capable of doing it.

And this is particularly in terms of learning. The first two even make somewhat reconsider the interpretation of leshanotah as to learn the Mishnayot of it.

On the other hand, there is Taanit 15a:
תנו רבנן עמדו בתפלה אע"פ שיש שם זקן וחכם אין מורידין לפני התיבה אלא אדם הרגיל
which still denotes knowledge of the material. But until now I could argue that this meant only for himself. Perhaps the idea is that the one reading and repeating is doing it for the tzibbur.

But I would say no. The statement is that רגיל צריך לקרותה בלילה ולשנותה ביום, which strongly suggests to me that the obligation is upon the ragil as an individual.

And such an individual is able to perform this repetition, so as not to fall silent in the praise of Hashem. But the typical person does not know how to lain the megillah, and is not a ragil, and so does not have this extra obligation, over and above the standard obligation of mikra megillah that everyone has.

(Now make an argument that since Bavli does not specify ragil in the statement from the Eretz Yisrael Amora, it applies to everyone. And the only way the non-ragil can fulfill is by listening in shul to the ragil. I don't necessarily agree to this argument, but I can see it being offered.)

If this is only a private reading or learning of Megillat Esther by someone who is ragil, I will turn around and ask the question of the gemara again, but -- I must stress -- in modified form. Does leshanotah mean to read or to study the megillah? This is not the question of the gemara in Bavli and Yerushalmi. Their mistaken, and rejected assumption was that leshanotah meant to study the Mishnayot of it, so their assumption was about the meaning of both the verb and its implied object. This is because of a general parallelism and juxtaposition in sources in Chazal of keria of Scriptures and mishneh of Mishnayot. As in ואסור לקרות בתורה בנביאים ובכתובים ולשנות במשנה בתלמוד ובמדרש ובהלכות ובאגדות.

But in Bavli, the response was that no, it means כגון דאמרי אינשי אעבור פרשתא דא ואתנייה. Are we so sure that ואתנייה means "and I will repeat it?" If it is "as people say," then we are dealing with an idiom which Chazal understood but which we do not necessarily understand, because idiomatic meaning is often difficult to intuit. We thought that it would mean "repeat," perhaps because of the idea of shnayim mikra veEchad targum. Though I should stress that what we lain every week, and study in shnayim mikra veEchad targum, is the sidra. On the other hand, in Eretz Yisrael, they read only a third as much, and it was called the parsha. The statement comes from a Babylonian who moved to Eretz Yisrael, so it still would make sense to refer to shnayaim mikra of the parsha.

But perhaps the point was not that it meant "to repeat." Rather, perhaps the point of the idiom is that שנה can refer to an object of mikra rather than Mishna. And perhaps the idiom was "I will review this parsha and study it." In which case, the ragil was supposed to do the surface studying at night and the in-depth study of it by day, assuming he was capable of this.

And perhaps this is what the Yerushalmi is saying as well. The Yerushalmi stated רגיל צריך לקרותה בלילה ולשנותה ביום הוינן סברין מימר לשנות משנתה אמר רבי אבא מרי בבלייה לשנות קרייתה. The difference is not made clear by means of a different inflection of the verb -- the verb remains exactly the same -- but rather a change in the direct object of "its Mishna" to "its reading." So again, who says the verb means anything different. Perhaps the point is that leshanot is something can apply to Mikra as well, and this refers to surface vs. in-depth study.

An additional point -- if this was not a din in the standard leining procedure of megillah, but rather direction to one who is ragil and thus capable of independent reading, twice, or of independent in-depth study, then it is more understandable to me how this basic din was not stated in a Mishnah, but rather derived from a pasuk by first-generation Amoraim. It is also understandable how it could be misinterpreted as studying its Mishnayot -- for if it were standard, public leining practice to read the megillah by day and repeat it night, how did the Amoraim err to think that this statement referred to study of Mishnayot? What did they do in shul last year, and the year before that?

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