Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Puzzling Hanhaga from the Gaon on The Seudas Purim

The Tosfos Ma'aseh Rav, which was written by geonim and talmidim of the Gaon, says that the Gaon used to sit at the Seuda and eat the entire day, and then, toward evening, he let the effect of the food and wine wear off, and he bentched.   Obviously, when it says that  he sat down at the seuda, it means after Mincha Gedola, at one pm. But still, we're talking about staying at the seuda from one thirty till six thirty.   The Entire Day.  

Why did the Gaon do this?  Do you realize what that means to the Gaon?  Bishlema the Gemara (Megilla 3a) says מכאן סמכו של בית רבי שמבטלין תלמוד תורה ובאין לשמוע מקרא מגילה, so we're mevateil Torah for the Megilla.  And Bishlema the Bach in the beginning of OC 695 says that the makor for a lengthy seuda is the story (Megilla 7a) about the talmidim whose absence from the shiur on Purim on Purim was excused by saying they were busy with the meal- רב אשי הוה יתיב קמיה דאמימר נגה ולא אתו רבנן אמר ליה מאי טעמא לא אתו רבנן דלמא טרידי בסעודת פורים.  But that just means 'longer than usual.'  But the whole day???  How is this seuda different than any other seudas hoda'ah, or seudas yomtov?

It seems to me that the Gaon held that the same way there's a din of כל המרבה לספר by the Seder, which the Tanna'im, as a middas chasidus, continued the entire night until זמן קריאת שמע של שחרית, so too there is a middas chasidus to sit the whole day at the seder.  But do we know why the Seder has this unique halacha?  I don't.  But if you do, maybe it will shed light on the Gaon's hanhaga on Purim.

Another possible lead is the Gemara in Sukka 41b, that says that the Men of Yerushalayim used to carry the Lulav around with them the whole day, even though they were yotzei in the first moment of picking it up, and did the na'anu'im early in the morning, because they were diligent in the Mitzvos- 
תניא רבי אלעזר בר צדוק אומר כך היה מנהגן של אנשי ירושלים אדם יוצא מביתו ולולבו בידו הולך לבית הכנסת לולבו בידו קורא קריאת שמע ומתפלל ולולבו בידו קורא בתורה ונושא את כפיו מניחו על גבי קרקע הולך לבקר חולים ולנחם אבלים לולבו בידו נכנס לבית המדרש משגר לולבו ביד בנו וביד עבדו וביד שלוחו מאי קמ"ל להודיעך כמה היו זריזין במצות:
So I understand there is hiddur or zerizus in doing more than necessary.  The Tur in 652 paskens like this, although the Mishna Berura says that these days, it would be showing off to do so- מחזי כיוהרא.  But in any case, the Gaon only did this on Purim.  Why?
To answer this question, I would suggest that there is a basic difference between the seudos of other Yamim Tovim and the Seuda of Purim.  The other seudos are a fulfillment of the mitzva of Simcha and Oneg.  How do you have simcha and oneg?  By eating a festive meal.  On Purim, it's not only the din of Simcha, it's a din of eating per se, that having a festive meal is itself the mitzvas hayom, to commemorate the meal with Achashveirosh that began our downfall and Esther's meal that ended it.  So on Yomtov, even according to the hanhaga of the Anshei Yerushalayim there's no ma'alah of a day long seuda, because the eating is not the cheftza shel mitzva.  But on Purim when the eating is the mitzva itself, then doing the mitzva the whole day is exactly what the Anshei Yerushalayim did with their Lulavim.   I am told that the Brisker Rov also says this distinction between Seudas Yomtov and Seudas Purim.   I haven't seen it inside.

Dr. Meir Zahtz suggested that because Purim is seen as the חציו לכם aspect of Yom Kippur, the same way the din Taanis of Yom Kippur is in force the entire day without interruption, so too the mitzvas Lachem of Purim, the Seuda, is in force the entire day without interruption.  Dr. Zahtz gets points for ingenuity.  His pshat is especially good in light of the Gaon who quotes the Gemara in Pesachim 68b that מר בריה דרבינא fasted every day of the year with three (3) exceptions:  Erev Yom Kippur, Purim, and Shavuos.  The Gaon (I don't have the Mareh Makom, but it's common knowledge, and Rav Hutner brings it down in Pachad Yitzchak Purim #8) says pshat that each of these three days is a day of Kabbalas Hatorah, and that the two days, Purim and Yom Hakipurim, are inextricably tied together, as Meir said, with one functioning as the חציו לכם and the other as the חציו לשם.  The Zohar also says that each day serves as a השלמה for the other.  But his teretz doesn't appeal to me from a Gaon standpoint- it's a fine reason for a Rebbe to sit at the table and eat a whole day, but it's not a good enough reason for the Gaon to sit at the table the whole day.


  1. "But in any case, the Gaon only did this on Purim."

    See Maase Rav about Lulav. Just like the old Yerushalmim.

  2. I need to see that inside. I haven't seen that in the Ma'aseh Rav. Please give me a Mareh Makom.

  3. Take a look at this Mishnas Ya'avetz (R" Zolti) on the chiluk between simchas Y"T and simchas Purim -- http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=19954&st=&pgnum=493&hilite=

    My son's Rebbe said in shiur that he thinks the avodas hayom of Purim is in gashmiyus, in mishteh, and not talmud Torah. One of his ra'ayos was the Rama that says to be careful to learn a little Torah before the seudah -- mashma, that you are otherwise not occupied in learning this day. I told my son that had he not told me that his Rebbe said this with a straight face I would take it as Purim torah. Makes no sense to me.

  4. a) so when the ma'aseh rav says se'udas shacharis, it "obviously" means after mincha gedola?!

    b) since when do have to "understand" the Gaon? If he did it, it's axiomatic. If your perspective does not match reality, then obviously you were taught false perspectives. Go back to your Rebbeim and ask why they taught you zochor instead of zaicher. And bring your sword.

    c) consider that this is a mitzva mi'divrei kabbala [so it is certainly docheh mincha, without even considering osek b'mitzvah]. The Gaon obviously understood ad d'lo yada literally [kom Rava v'shachto l'Rav Zeira did not mean he had a little to drink and then went to sleep...], and "chayav" means what it says.

    d) R' Yisroel Salanter also understood the mitzvah literally, and so practiced it. That's what real mussar and yir'as Shomayim is.