Some Concluding Thoughts on Masechet Megillah

“And I have given them statutes that are not good, and laws that they do not live with" (Yechezkel 20:25). In our last post, we discussed the application of this verse to those who learn Torah without singing. While there is much to be gained in using song in study, Abaye is startled that one who does not learn via song is in fulfillment of this verse--a seemingly harsh appraisal for one who is, in actual fact, learning Torah.

Megillah 21: We Stand on Guard for Thee

One of the ways we show respect for a person is to stand in their honour, and such an honour is not only bestowed on people. The notion of the “changing of the guard”, with those guards standing at attention, is one of the ways we demonstrate honour to institutions of great importance. “We stand on guard for thee” has even been incorporated into our (Canadian) national anthem.

Megillah 17: Must We Pray?

One of the most central requirements of Jewish life—both in time and importance—is that of daily prayer. Yet most fascinatingly, the source of the obligation to pray—or whether such an obligation even exists—is a matter of great debate. It is the Rambam, and few (if any) others, who claim that there is a biblical obligation of daily prayer—and even such obligation is fulfilled by prayer once daily.

Megillah 14: The Songs of Israel

Pesach is the foundational holiday of the Jewish people, and the Exodus is the defining moment of Jewish history. A group of slaves formed a nation that, a mere seven weeks, later stood at Sinai so they could become a nation of priests and a holy nation. Mitzvah after mitzvah is observed zecher lyetziat mitzraim, to remember the Exodus. And these mitzvoth are in addition to the stand-alone mitzvah to remember the Exodus.

Megillah 6: Try Harder

When one makes a siyum to mark the completion of a tractate of Talmud, we recite the beautiful words of the hadran[1], that "we toil and they toil; we toil and receive a reward, and they toil and do not receive a reward". Whereas, in the secular world, it is the bottom line that counts—no one cares how hard you work if the results are great—in the spiritual world, it is effort, not result, that matters most.

Megillah 3: What Comes First

"These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed" (Esther 9:28). In a rather astonishing teaching, Rabbi Yossi the son of Chaninah explains that the expression "all families" teaches that even "the families of priests and Levites desist from their Temple service [to] come hear the reading of the Megillah" (Megillah 3a).

Megillah 2: Breaking the Walls

The first daf (page) of Masechet Megillah focuses on the distinction between open and walled cites, regarding the timing of the reading of the Megillah. While one might have argued that, almost by definition, whatever is outside of a walled city cannot be part of the city protected with a wall, the Gemara quotes the view of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi—without quoting a dissenting view—that "a walled city and all that is adjacent to it and that is seen with it is judged like a walled city" (Megillah 2b).


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