Rabbi Boaz Genut
Former Rosh Kollel in St. Louis
Former Executive Director of Torah Mitzion
Currently Director of the Department of Marriage and Community Affairs at Tzohar

 

Purim is unique among the festivals in many aspects. One of the unusual aspects of Purim is the fact that we don’t say Hallel. The Gemara (Megila 14:1) gives several reasons:

… because we do not recite Hallel for a miracle that occurred out side of the Land of Israel. Rav Nachman said: Reading the Megilah on Purim is equivalent to reciting Hallel. Rava said: … We were still servants of Achashveros, even after having been saved from death.

The theme of this discussion seems to be, how to value the miracle of Purim. The different opinions refer to two aspects: the first is the location where the miracle occurred and the second is the nature of the result of the miracle.

Let’s take a closer look.

Rav Nachman holds that there was nothing missing in Purim’s miracle and we should say Hallel. Although we don’t use the usual form of Hallel, the public recitation of the Megila is considered to be another type of Hallel. (See Meiri, who claims that if someone has no Megila they can say Hallel instead.)

Rava, on the other hand, claims that miracle of Purim was missing a fundamental aspect. He assumes that reciting Hallel should be connected to a miracle of redemption. Although our lives were saved on Purim, the miracle doesn’t rise to the level of redemption since the majority of the Jewish people still remained outside Israel.

The first opinion also holds that Purim was missing something. This opinion seems to be saying that a miracle which happens abroad does justify giving thanks and praise to Hashem but not through the formalized recitation of Hallel – “we do not recite Hallel for a miracle that occurred out side of the land of Israel.” Why?

Perhaps the answer can be found through an analysis of the following issue:

“… It is only the Jews who live within the boarders of Eretz Yisrael that are referred to as the “congregation” but those Jews who live elsewhere are not referred to as the “congregation”. (Horayot 3:1)

This Gemara refers to Kiddush HaChodesh (sanctifying the month). Its context is the question of who should decide issues of setting the calendar, since it is necessary for the Jewish people to have one calendar. The problem they faced was that the majority of the Jewish people, and the scholars in particular, lived outside of Israel. Despite that fact, the Gemara rules that we follow the people in Eretz Yisrael (see more about it in Chatam Sofer Yore De’ah Kidush Hachodesh 234). The reason is that only the Jewish People in the Land of Israel may be defined as a “congregation” – Tzibur.

According to this understanding, we may now have a better idea of what the discussion of Hallel was highlighting. The history of the Jewish people is only significant enough to recite Hallel, when it takes place in Eretz Yisrael. Although we still recognize and celebrate the miracles, the concept of Tzibur and of Klal Israel is truly only defined in Eretz Yisrael.

 

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Same’ach

Rav Boaz