Rabbi Yossi Slotnick
Former Rosh Kollel in Cape Town (1997-1998)
Currently Ra”m in Yeshivat Ma’ale Gilboa
As we all know, when Purim falls on Shabbat, we advance kriat hamegillah (the Megillah reading) to Friday. In our fixed calendar, Purim D’Prazot (i.e. 14 Adar – Purim in non-walled cities) never falls on Shabbat, and therefore, our discussion pertains only to Shushan Purim (i.e. 15 Adar – Purim in walled cities such as Yerushalayim). Rather than presenting all the laws of Purim Mishulash (i.e. a “threeday” Purim, which occurs when Shushan Purim falls on Shabbat), this article will concentrate on the seudah (the festive Purim meal). Specifically, we will determine when the seudah should be held.
Logically, we would assume, a priori, that there are two possibilities:
1. Since kriat hamegillah is advanced, the other Purim obligations are advanced as well.
Although kriat hamegillah – and hence also matanot l’evyonim – is advanced, the other mitzvot – namely, laining, al hanissim, mishloach manot, and seudat Purim – are performed on Shabbat Purim itself.
Yet, surprisingly, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 688:6) rules otherwise:
“When the 15th falls on Shabbat, the Megillah is not read on Shabbat. Instead, its reading is advanced to Erev Shabbat. And coins are collected for matanot l’evyonim, and they are distributed on that same day. And on Shabbat, two Torah scrolls are taken out [to be read], and from the second one, the reading is, ‘vayavo Amalek’, and al hanissim is recited. But the seudat Purim does not take place until Sunday.”
The Shulchan Aruch is based on the Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:4):
“On which did they say to advance and not to delay? Kriat hamegillah and trumat shekalim – are advanced and not delayed. Seudat Rosh Chodesh and seudat Purim – are delayed and not advanced. R’ Zeurah asked R’ Abahu, ‘Let them observe them on Shabbat?’ He said to him, ‘“To make them days of feasting and joy” (Esther 9:22) – [refers to] that which its joy is dependent on beit din (the courts) [and] excludes that which its joy is dependent on Shamayim.’”
The Rif ruled in accordance with this Yerushalmi, and subsequently, the Beit Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch took this approach as well. Although several of the Beit Yosef’s contemporaries disagreed, space considerations prevent a lengthier discussion of this topic.
Instead, I prefer to address this halachah’s religious significance.
R’ Abahu is teaching R’ Zeurah – and us – about the essence of Shabbat and also about the essence of Purim. Simcha (joy), he explains, is inherent and intrinsic to Shabbat. When we dine, rest, or rejoice on Shabbat, we are opening our hearts to that which is an innate part of the day. Rather than generating the day’s essence, we enjoy a day whose “joy is dependent on Shamayim.”
In contrast, on Purim, we are required to experience something else entirely. We must take an ordinary weekday and transform it into a day of simcha. In this case, even the beit din – and not just Shamayim – has the power to engender a change in the day’s very essence.
Perhaps this is the secret of Purim’s power: the ability to look at our impersonal, political, and national reality and to alter – in its wake – our religious reality. Each and every year, we are commanded to try and recreate this power. Specifically, we must rejoice – even in situations that are not necessarily joyful. Despite everything, we must infuse the day’s very essence with simcha.
Yet, R’ Zeurah does not stop here. He goes on to say that there is a certain contradiction between inherent simcha and the simcha which we generate. We cannot add to Shabbat’s simcha, but we can append simcha to ordinary weekdays. A person’s task is to insert kedusha (holiness) and simcha into places that lack these attributes. Our mission is to repair that which is broken – and not just to examine that which is whole.
This idea is applicable every year. But this year – when it is that much harder to rejoice; when the month of simcha began with so much heartache and overbearing sadness – it seems that we are faced with an even bigger challenge. We must generate simcha even where it does not exist. We cannot suffice with the simcha created in Shamayim; we have to keep generating it here on earth as well.