Talmud Tips

For the week ending 12 July 2014 / 14 Tammuz 5774

Megillah 2 - 8

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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“Large cities that were surrounded by a wall from the days of Yehoshua bin Nun read the Megilla of the 15th of Adar.”

This statement in the first mishna of our mesechta fixes that the pertinent date for a city to have the status of a “walled city” is from the time of Yehoshua and not from the later and seemingly more logical time of the Purim miracle. Why?

At the time of the Purim miracle the Land of Israel was in a state of destruction as a result of the Babylonian conquest of Israel some 70 years prior. Dating a “walled city” from the time of the miracle would result in a lack of honor to the Land of Israel, since all the walls of the cities in Israel were then in ruins. Therefore, to show honor to Israel, the date for determining a city to be “walled” was from the time when Yehoshua led the Jewish People to inherit the Land of Israel — a time when many of the cities were populated, fortified and walled. In addition, it is appropriate to date from the time of Yehoshua since he was a leader in the first war against Amalek, the ancestor of the evil Haman of the Purim miracle (Rabbeinu Nissim, Tiferet Yisrael).

  • Megilla 2a

“If a person tells you, ‘I’ve worked hard but have not succeeded’, don’t believe him; if he says, ‘I’ve not worked hard but have succeeded’, don’t believe him; but if he says ‘I’ve worked hard and succeeded’, believe him.”

This oft-quoted teaching is taught on our daf by Rabbi Yitzchak and is qualified in the gemara by two addenda. One is that the statement refers to learning Torah and not to success in worldly and business matters. Secondly, this teaching links one’s efforts to his success only regarding sharpening one’s understanding of the Torah — but remembering what one has learns requires special help from Heaven (Rashi).

  • Megilla 6b

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