- Purim 5763
- Rabbi Bernard Fox
"There are those that maintain that the reading of
Parshat Zachor and Parshat Parah is a Torah obligation. Therefore,
people living in an area in which there is not a congregation
are obligated to come to a place that has a minyan for these
Shabbatot. This is in order to hear these Torah readings that
are Torah commandments." (Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim
The Shabbat prior to Purim, we read Parshat Zachor. This special
reading is found at the end of Parshat Ki Tetze. It discusses
two mitzvot. The first is the obligation to remember the evil
of Amalek. The second is the obligation to destroy the very memory
of this corrupt nation. Shulchan Aruch notes that, according
to many authorities, the reading of Parshat Zachor is required
in order to fulfill the mitzvah of remembering Amalek. Therefore,
it is important for every person to hear this reading.
Parshat Zachor is one of two sections in the Torah that discusses
the wickedness of Amalek. The second section is at the end of
Parshat Beshalach. These passages describe the unprovoked war
that Amalek waged against Bnai Yisrael. This section also records
Hashem's pledge to destroy Amalek. These passages are the Torah
reading for Purim. Magen Avraham raises an interesting question.
Can one fulfill the obligation to recall the wickedness of Amalek
through the Purim Torah reading? This reading also discusses
the wickedness of Amalek.
Magen Avraham suggests that one can fulfill the obligation to
remember Amalek with the Purim reading. He argues that there
is no reason for specifically requiring one to read the passages
at the end of Parshat Ki Tetze. Neither is there any obvious
reason for requiring that one fulfill the mitzvah the week before
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Ztl disagrees. He points out that
there is a basic difference between these two sections. Parshat
Zachor discusses the mitzvot regarding Amalek. These are the
mitzvot to remember Amalek and to destroy the nation. The reading
of Purim does not describe these commandments.
Rav Soloveitchik continues his analysis with a very simple question.
What is the nature of this mitzvah to remember Amalek? In his
Mishne Torah, Maimonides implies that this commandment to remember
Amalek is closely linked to the mitzvah to destroy the nation.
Maimonides explains that we are required to destroy Amalek. Then,
he adds that we are required to regularly recall the evil of
Amalek in order to evoke an abhorrence of this nation. Maimonides
seems to imply that remembering Amalek is a precursor to waging
war against the nation. We remember Amalek in order to motivate
us to fulfill the commandment to destroy Amalek.
This implication is confirmed by Maimonides, formulation of the
mitzvah to destroy Amalek in his Sefer HaMitzvot. There, Maimonides
writes that we are obligated to recall the evil of Amalek in
order to motivate the Bnai Yisrael to wage war with this wicked
Rav Soloveitchik suggests that Maimonides' formulation of the
mitzvah to remember Amalek suggests that Parshat Zachor may be
specifically required. It is possible that the Purim reading
is not adequate. The mitzvah to remember Amalek is designed to
provide motivation for waging war. It is reasonable to assume
that the mitzvah can only be fulfilled through a Torah reading
that specifies the obligation to destroy Amalek. Through this
reading, the recollection of Amalek,s wickedness is linked to
the commandment to destroy the nation. The Purim reading does
not discuss the requirement to wage war against Amalek. This
commandment is only mentioned in Parshat Zachor.
"One is obligated to read the Megilah at night and
to repeat it during the day." (Shulcah Aruch, Orech
Shulchan Aruch explains that the Megilah is read twice on Purim.
It is read at night and during the day. This law is derived from
the Talmud in Tractate Megilah. Tosefot and many other commentaries
explain that the two readings of the Megilah are not of equal
importance. The more fundamental reading is during the day. There
are numerous proofs for this assertion. One simple proof is that
the fundamental mitzvot of Purim are observed during the day.
For example, the Purim feast can only be held during the day.
The Talmud equates these observances to the reading of the Megilah.
The equation seems to imply that, just as other mitzvot performed
of Purim must be performed during the day, so too the reading
of the Megilah is related to the day of Purim and not the night.
This raises an interesting question. Why, then is the Megilah
read at night? Secondly, the wording of Shulcah Aruch and the
Talmud seem to imply that the nighttime reading is the more fundamental.
Both refer to the daytime reading as a repetition of the nighttime
reading. Referring to the second reading as a repetition indicates
that it is secondary!
Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv) Ztl answers this question
through a brilliant explanation of the relationship between the
two readings. In order to understand his explanation, we must
more carefully study the text of the Talmud.
The discussion in the Talmud begins by quoting Rebbe Yehoshua
ben Levi. He explains that a person is required to read the Megilah
at night and "le'shnotah" by day. The term leshnotah
can be interpreted in two ways. It can mean "to learn"
or it can be understood as "to repeat". At first, the
Talmud understands the term to mean "to learn". According
to this interpretation, we are required to read the Megilah at
night and to study the laws during the day. The Talmud rejects
this interpretation and concludes that lesshnotah means "to
repeat". Therefore, the requirement is to read the Megilah
at night and repeat the reading during the day.
Netziv asks, "How could the Talmud initially assume that
the Megilah is not read during the day?" Yet, this seems
to be the Talmud's original understanding of Rebbe Yehoshua ben
Levi's lesson. The Talmud interprets his statement to mean that
the Megilah is read at night and the laws of Purim are studied
during the day!
Netziv responds that the Talmud never assumed that the laws of
Purim should be learned to the exclusion of reading the Megilah.
The Talmud always understood that the fundamental reading of
the Megilah takes place during the daytime. Instead, the Talmud
originally assumed that Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi was establishing
an additional requirement. Beyond the mere reading of the Megilah,
one must study the laws. This enriches the reading of the Megilah.
Through the study of the laws, the student acquires a more advanced
comprehension of the Megilah's contents. Netziv further points
out that this initial interpretation of Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi's
dictum reveals an essential premise of the Talmud. The Talmud
assumes that Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi is not describing the fundamental
mitzvah of reading the Megilah. The fundamental mitzvah is to
merely read the Megilah during the day! Rebbe Yehoshua
ben Levi is establishing a requirement to enhance this performance.
Through identifying the Talmud's premise, Netziv answers our
questions. The Talmud rejects its initial interpretation of Rebbe
Yehoshua ben Levi's lesson. His intention is to require the reading
of the Megilah at night and its repetition during the day. However,
the Talmud never abandons its essential premise! Rebbe Yehoshua
ben Levi is establishing a requirement to enhance the performance
of the mitzvah. In order to enhance the reading during the day,
it must be preceded by a reading during the night. The daytime
reading will be a repetition of the nighttime reading. Like any
material, the Megilah is understood more clearly with review!
Because the daytime reading is a second review, it will be better
understood and appreciated.
Netziv explains that the nighttime reading is required to prepare
us for the daytime reading. The daytime reading must be a repetition
of the nighttime reading. True, the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch
refer to the daytime reading as a repetition. However, this is
not intended to diminish the importance of this second reading.
The intention is to stress its fundamental nature. Through rendering
this daytime reading into a repetition, it is enhanced with greater
understanding and appreciation.
 Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne
Torah, Hilchot Melachim 5:5.
 Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Sefer
HaMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh 189.
 Rav Michel Sherkin, Harrai Kedem, Chapter 195.
 Mesechet Megilah 4a.
 Tosefot, Mesechet Megilah 4a.
 Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (Netziv), Meromai Sadeh, Commentary
on Mesechet Megilah 4a.