Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why I Observe Two Days of Purim

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

In most of the world, Purim is observed on the 14th of Adar. This is because in the Purim story, the vast majority of Jews were forced to go to war against their enemies on the 13th of Adar. They then enjoyed the next day, the 14th of Adar, to rest and celebrate their speedy victory. The Jews who lived in Shushan, however, continued to fight on the 14th of Adar as well, and were only victorious a day later, on the 15th of Adar. As such, Purim is observed on the 14th of Adar in most of the world, while in places which had a wall around it, similar to Shushan, Purim is observed on the 15th of Adar.[1]

Click here to read moreAlthough Mordecai and Esther only decreed that walled cities similar to Shushan were to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar, our sages saw Purim as an opportunity to bestow honor upon the Land of Israel. During the Purim era Jerusalem lay in ruins and it was felt that it would be unbecoming to highlight a Persian city as the example for which cities are to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar. As such, the sages modified Mordechai and Esther's original decree and extended the observance of Purim on the 15th of Adar to include any city which had a wall around it in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun, which would include Jerusalem in this distinction.[2]

I live in Beit Shemesh, and Beit Shemesh is among those cities which had a wall around it in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun.[3] According to halacha, any city which had a wall around it or even if it might have had a wall around it in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun, is to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar.[4] Not only is modern day Beit Shemesh samuch and nireh to the site of the ancient city, but there is reason to believe that parts of the modern city of Beit Shemesh may have unintentionally been built directly on top of the territory of ancient Beit Shemesh.

The Chazon Ish also ruled that even a city which may have had a wall around it in the days of Yehoshua should observe Purim on both the 14th and 15th of Adar.[5] In fact, the Chazon Ish, who lived in Bnei Brak where Purim was typically observed only on the 14th of Adar, would also observe Purim on the 15th of Adar due to the residential continuity from Bnei Brak right through to Biblical Yaffo, a city whose walled status is itself doubtful.[6] It is also deemed a "middat chassidut" to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar in a place whose walled status is in doubt.[7] It is worth noting that according to some authorities the reading of the Megilla has the status of a Torah based mitzva ("divrei kabbala") and therefore greater efforts to properly observe Purim are warranted.[8]

There is yet another consideration which contributes to Beit Shemesh assuming the status of a walled city: the city-wide Eruv. The Beit Shemesh community Eruv not only surrounds the entire city, but sections of the "Tel" are included within the Eruv's perimeter as well, thereby combining modern and ancient Beit Shemesh into a single domain. The ability of the Eruv to halachically unite the new city along with the ancient one for the purposes of Purim is independent of the applications of "samuch" and "nireh".[9] In fact, it might just be that the only reason the neighborhood of Ramot observes Purim on the 15th of Adar along with the rest of Jerusalem is by virtue of the municipal Eruv which connects it with the rest of the city.

Indeed, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach insisted that an Eruv which includes an area which is to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar will compel all other neighborhoods included in the same Eruv to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar, as well. In fact, he himself observed Purim on the 15th of Adar in the neighborhood of Ein Karem long before it had any territorial (residential) continuity with the rest of Jerusalem.[10] He felt very strongly that since Ein Karem had been included along with the Jerusalem city-wide Eruv it assumed the status of Jerusalem for the purpose of Purim.[11] Following the same approach, Beit Shemesh would also assume the status of a city which is to observe Purim on the 15th of Adar.

Furthermore, from among the many archeological excavations of biblical cities in Eretz Yisrael very few have been so positively identified as the ancient site of Tel Yarmut.[12] Yarmut was a prominent kingdom in ancient Israel and is mentioned several times in Sefer Yehoshua. It is not only mentioned in Tanach, but also in the El Amarna Tablets as a main city in the Late Canaanite period. It is also one of the largest "Tel" sites in all of Israel. Therefore, from both archeological and scriptural sources, there is no doubt whatsoever that the city of Yarmut had a wall around it in the days of Yehoshua.[13]

The site of Tel Yarmut is well within one "mil" of all Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhoods.[14] As such, Ramat Beit Shemesh should inherently assume the status of a walled city due to its adjacency ("samuch" and "nireh") to Tel Yarmut. Furthermore, construction has already begun on the neighborhood of "Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel" which is being built directly on top of territory belonging to the site of Tel Yarmut! In fact, it has already been reported in local and national newspapers that valuable antiquities have been found on the construction site which continues to impede the speed of the construction.

Finally, it is recorded that in ancient times, most cities in Eretz Yisrael read the Megilla on both the 14th and 15th of Adar, due to the concern that they may have had a wall around it in the days of Yehoshua.[15] In fact, there was once a custom to observe Purim exclusively on the 15th of Adar in any city which is mentioned in the Tanach and its environs.[16] As a result of these precedents, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukatchinsky writes that the Megilla should be read on both days of Purim in all the [modern-day] Biblical cities of Eretz Yisrael.[17] Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has encouraged such communities to adhere to Rabbi Tukatchinsky's ruling in a number of published forums.

As such, observing Purim on the 15th of Adar in Beit Shemesh is not a radical innovation, but rather, an application of normative halacha principles and the restoration of an original custom.[18].

“And the people of Beit Shemesh…rejoiced!” (Shmuel 1 6:13)

My position has been endorsed by a number of poskim including Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt and Rabbi Yehuda Henkin as a "worthwhile chumra that a baal nefesh should consider". My full "teshuva" (10 pp/Eng.) on the issue of Purim in Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh is available upon request.


[1] Esther 9:20-22
[2] Megilla 2b
[3] This is true based on historical, archeological, and Talmudic sources: Yerushalmi Megilla 1:1
[4] Megilla 5a,O.C. 688:4
[5] Chazon Ish 153:3
[6] Teshuvot V'hanhagot 3:235
[7] Ran;Megilla 3b s.v. "V'linyan". Though some authorities require it "mikkar hadin".
[8] Chatam Sofer O.C. 161, Pri Megadim E.A. 688:4. See also Chatam Sofer Y.D. 233
[9] Minchat Yitzchak 8:62
[10] Shalmei Mo'ed 57
[11] Halichot Shlomo 20:9 based on Magen Avraham O.C. 401
[12] http://www.iaa-conservation.org.il/Projects_Item_eng.asp?site_id=25&subject_id=6
[13] Yehoshua 10:3,5,23, 12:11, 15:35
[14] See: www.gpsupload.com/show_gallery.php?yahoo=0&route=8897&picture=6561 and http://www.gpsupload.com/show_gallery.php?yahoo=0&route=8897&picture=6562
[15] Shu"t Divrei Yosef 2, also cited in Kaf Hachaim 688:17
[16] Ran;Megilla 5, Minhagei Eretz Yisrael (Gallis) 35:2
[17] Luach Eretz Yisrael, Ir Hakodesh V'hamikdash 3:26
[18] Ran 2a s.v. "Aval", See also Dr. Yoel Elitzur's remarks on this issue in Techumin Vol. 9

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