Parshas Titzaveh and Zachor 5758 - '98

Outline Vol. 2, # 19

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Purim: The Days of Reversal

The ninth chapter of Megilas Esther describes how the day of the proposed annihilation of the Jews was turned about. On the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, instead of being slaughtered -- in a manner sanctioned by law -- the law suddenly permitted the Jews to defend themselves. On the following day -- the fourteenth -- Jews throughout the entire empire rested. (Esther 9:16-17)

In the Persian capital, however, permission was granted for an additional day of confrontation. They continued to fight on the fourteenth, and rested only on the fifteenth. (Esther 9:18)

Here, the Megilah distinguishes two divergent days of celebration, corresponding to the two divergent days of rest: "Therefore, the Jews in the unwalled cities, make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar a time of merriment, celebration and festivities, and send gifts to each other." (Esther 9:19) The implication is that the Jews of walled cities celebrate a different day. (Tractate Megilah, 2b) This is Shushan Purim, celebrated in Yerushalayim on the fifteenth of the month, although unwalled cities observe the fourteenth.

The Talmud determines other days of the celebration, depending on geographical location (Tractate Megilah, 2a), which are not in effect today (ibid.).

In Tractate Yevamos (13b-14a), the question is raised: The Torah states: "Lo Sisgodedu," do not make "agudos, agudos," that is, do not make diverse groups, observing the Torah in different ways. If so, how is it acceptable for some people to keep Purim on one day, and others, on different days?

Separate Courts (Batei Din)

Two separate courts, in differing locales, are allowed separate rulings and practices. One court does not interfere with a different court, unless the matter is brought before the high court -- the Sanhedrin Hagadol of seventy one.

In Softim (Book of Judges), the story is related of how a civil war broke out among Yisrael, because of atrocities committed in one of its tribes. The Ramban, in his commentary to the Torah (parshas Vayishlach), declares that, if sovereignty had been recognized, and the tribe allowed to judge itself, civil war would have been prevented. See further, Ramban, Devorim [Deut.16:18].

Regarding different customs and practices, the Halacha recognizes that the distinct tribes had their own distinct practices. Quoting a Kabalistic source, the great legal authority, Magen Avraham, declares that there are twelve gates in heaven corresponding to the twelve shvatim (tribes); each tribe has its own separate gate and custom. (Orach Chayim 68; also quoted in Mishnah Bírurah, 68:4.) An extension of this quote would later become a source of debate between Chasidim and authorities skeptic of their practices; the original quote, however, was incorporated into the standard legal codes.

Within the court, however, once a vote has taken place, the Halacha is according to the majority of judges. The Talmud concludes that those members of the court who voted in opposition, are allowed to continue to hold their own view for themselves, as long as their private view is more stringent. Thus, Beis Shammai, who were outvoted by Beis Hillel, continued to be stringent among themselves. (For more information, see Kovetz Haaros, Yevamos.)

So far, we have seen that the Halacha can embrace a variety of rulings and customs, as long as each practice is in a separate location, under a separate jurisdiction. Members of a different, visiting community, are not to change the status quo of the host community. (Pesachim, 51b.) The visitors would, however, keep their own customs for themselves -- if their own customs are more stringent. (ibid.)

The issues that we need to examine involve combinations of people from differing communities. Nowadays, our world is constantly on the move. Our communities are conglomerations of many diverse people with differing backgrounds. How can consistency be established with such diverse practices? How do we avoid "Lo Sisgodedu," do not make "agudos, agudos," separate groups which make it appear as if there were two Torahs?

The Issue Relates to Purim

How appropriate it is, that the Talmud discusses this issue in regard to Purim. Hamanís complaint was that the Jews were a people Ďmefuzar umefuradí -- scattered, disparate. Unfortunately -- he was right on that account. The Jews could agree on pitifully little. The story of Purim -- the struggles, the disasters, the miracles -- would connect the people with a powerful bond. Thus, the Talmud is in a quandary -- how could it be that the very decrees of Megilas Esther and the Men of the Great Assembly bring about disparate practices?

To be continued...

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.

HOMENewInfo& FAQGuest BeshalachokLearningSpecialOtherPrograms

Copyright © '98 Project Genesis, Inc.

[email protected]
6810 Park Heights Ave
Baltimore, MD 21215