17 – Walled and Unwalled Cities

01. What Is a Walled City?

As we already learned (15:4), the Sages established two separate times for celebrating Purim. Most places celebrate on the fourteenth of Adar, whereas Shushan, along with cities that were surrounded by walls at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun, celebrate on the fifteenth of Adar.

It makes no difference whether the city is located in Eretz Yisrael or outside of it; any city that had a wall at the time of Yehoshua is considered a walled city, even if its wall was subsequently destroyed. Shushan, where the miracle actually took place, is the only exception; it is considered a walled city even though the city had not yet been built at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun (sa 688:1).[1]

When the Men of the Great Assembly instituted the holiday of Purim, many large cities, especially in Eretz Yisrael, had a tradition that they had been surrounded by a wall at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. The residents of these cities, therefore, celebrated Purim on the fifteenth of Adar. Over the centuries, however, these cities have been destroyed, and the traditions regarding their status have been lost. Some modern cities, like Lod, have the same name as cities that were known to have been surrounded by a wall at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. The problem is that we do not know with certainty whether the modern city is located exactly where the city stood in Yehoshua’s time, or perhaps it is simply named after the ancient city but is actually situated somewhere else nearby. Some ancient cities became devoid of Jews, and we do not know whether they existed at the time of Yehoshua, because the traditions regarding their status were lost. There are other cities, such as Hebron, that we know existed at the time, though we do not know if they had a wall. There is only one city concerning which there is a clear tradition that it was surrounded by a wall at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun: our holy and glorious city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the only place where Purim is celebrated nowadays on the fifteenth of Adar. We will first elaborate on the laws of Jerusalem and then discuss the laws of the various uncertain places.[2]


[1]. Megilla 3b states that a walled city is a city that was surrounded by a wall before its houses were built, or whose houses were built with the intention of surrounding the city afterward with a wall. If, however, the residents built the city without any expressed intent to build a wall and afterward surrounded it with a wall, it is not considered a walled city (sa 688:1). The Gemara continues: “A city in which there are not ten batlanim is reckoned as a village.” According to She’iltot and Ramban, this principle can be applied to Purim. Rambam, Tosafot, Rosh, and many other Rishonim maintain that this law was stated in reference to the other laws of a walled city, but regarding Purim, a place does not need to have ten batlanim in order to be considered a city. sa 688:1 rules according to this opinion. See mb ad loc. 2. What are batlanim? Rashi writes that they are ten people who do not work and are sustained by the community so that they can always be available to pray in the synagogue. Itur, Rambam, Nimukei Yosef, and others concur. According to Ramban, Rashba, and Ritva, however, they do not have to remain unemployed; they simply need to attend the synagogue services in the morning and the evening on a consistent basis.

[2]. Responsa Divrei Yosef (Schwartz) §2 states that Jerusalem is the only place about which we are certain that it was surrounded by a wall. Take Hebron, for example: According to Radbaz 2:681, it was not surrounded by a wall (see Teĥumin, vol. 1. pp. 122-123), whereas Ĥida writes that the Jews there had a custom to read the Megilla on the fifteenth as well (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 688:17). Regarding Lod, Megilla 4a states clearly that it is a walled city. However, it is uncertain whether modern Lod is located exactly where the ancient city of Lod stood. Therefore, we treat it as an uncertainty. This is how R. Ovadia Yosef rules in Yabi’a Omer 7:60. As for Tiberias, Megilla 5b explains that it has an uncertain status because one side of the city was not walled; it bordered on the sea. In general, even if we would discover a city that has remnants of an ancient wall from the time of Yehoshua bin Nun, it would still be unclear whether the city was built with the intention of surrounding it with a wall, as that is the only way a city can be considered walled. R. Shaul Yisraeli suggested that if the walls of an ancient city are buried beneath the ground and the houses of the modern city are built above the height of the walls, the modern city is not considered walled (cited in Teĥumin vol. 1, p. 126). See the same source for a lengthy discussion concerning the town of Beit El, which is located around a kilometer away from the excavations of the ancient city of Beit El. On p. 128, R. Sraya Deblitzky states, based on Igrot Ha-Re’iyah §423, that one should not determine halakha based on archeological evidence. See p. 130, which cites the ruling of my father and teacher, R. Zalman Melamed, that residents of Beit El should celebrate Purim only on the fourteenth of Adar.

02. Jerusalem and Its Environs

The Sages said: “A walled city and all that adjoins it (samukh) and all that is visible with it (nir’eh imo) are reckoned as a walled city” (Megilla 3b). Therefore, not only do the residents of the Old City of Jerusalem celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar, but so do the residents of all the neighborhoods adjacent to the Old City. Even though the city has expanded greatly over the years, each and every neighborhood takes on the status of the Old City and reads the Megilla on the fifteenth, since each one is adjacent to the one next to it.

While the neighborhoods of Jerusalem were still being built, a question arose regarding the status of neighborhoods that were originally built far away from the rest of the city. Most recently, this question came up regarding the neighborhoods of Ramot and Har Nof. Some authorities maintain that only neighborhoods to which there is a continuous stretch of houses from the Old City are considered part of Jerusalem. If, however, there is a gap of 141 and one third amot (67.8 meters) between the two areas, they are considered separate locations. Accordingly, these authorities ruled that residents of Ramot and Har Nof must read the megilla on the fourteenth.

Others maintain that all neighborhoods that are considered part of the Jerusalem municipality for tax purposes – and all the more so if they are surrounded by the same eruv – take on the status of Jerusalem and read the Megilla exclusively on the fifteenth. Thus, they ruled that residents of Har Nof and Ramot must read the Megilla on the fifteenth. The former Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, R. Shalom Messas and R. Yitzĥak Kulitz, ruled in this manner, and this is the prevalent custom. All of these rulings were decided, over time, as Jerusalem expanded. With the help of God, Builder of Jerusalem, the city will continue to be built up, and even the furthest neighborhoods eventually become adjacent and linked to the rest of the city, until it becomes clear to all that they are considered part of Jerusalem.[3]


[3]. Megilla 3b states that if a place is “adjoining, even if it is not visible” or “visible, even if it is not adjoining,” then it is considered part of the walled city. Rashi, Rabbeinu Ĥananel, Raavan, Or Zaru’a, Rashba, Me’iri, and Ritva explain that if a place is not visible from an adjacent walled city, it is considered part of the city as long as it is within a mil (912 meters) of the city. But if the place is visible from the walled city, it is considered part of the city even if it is more than a mil away. They ask: Is the place still considered part of the walled city if it can be seen from the city, but is very far from it? Me’iri explains that the Gemara refers to a place that is subordinate to the city and considered part of the same district. Similarly, Ritva writes that this law applies only when residents of the surrounding villages participate in the affairs of the city.

In contrast, Rambam maintains that even a place from which a walled city can be seen is not considered part of the city if it is more than a mil away. The only distinction is that when the city is visible, we measure the mil as the crow flies, and when it is not visible, we measure it by a straight, terrestrial line (Maharitatz §120). Alternatively, when the city is visible, we measure a mil; and when it is not visible, the nearby place takes on the status of the walled city only if it truly adjacent – on the outskirts of the city (Maharam Alashkar). That is, if there is a distance of 70 and two thirds amot between the two places, and the walled city is not visible, they are considered separate places. And if there are two neighborhoods, the distance is doubled – 141 and one third amot. Ran, Roke’aĥ, and Ohel Mo’ed concur. The Aĥaronim disagree about the opinion of sa 688:2. According to ma and others, sa agrees with Rashi and most Rishonim. Pri Ĥadash and others claim that sa concurs with Rambam.

The reason that places adjacent to or within view of a walled city take on the status of the city is that they are subordinate to and reliant on it. This can be inferred from the words of Ritva, who writes that residents of these places come to take refuge within the city’s walls in times of danger. Turei Even 3:2 and Ĥatam Sofer, oĥ 193 explain that the reason is in order not to separate between people who live close to each other.

Practically speaking, mb 688:6 and sht ad loc. 7 maintain that the first opinion is the primary one. Yabi’a Omer 7:58-59 states that one should take the second opinion into consideration as well, especially since residents of walled cities can satisfy their obligation, be-di’avad, by reading the Megilla on the fourteenth.

How exactly do we measure the distance between a walled city and a place that can be seen from it? Some maintain that we measure only from areas that are actually walled (Yabi’a Omer 7:59:1), while others maintain that the measurement begins from the edges of the expanded city. Another dispute concerns whether the residents of the place need to be able to see all – or at least most of – the walled city (this appears to be Me’iri’s position, and R. Ĥayim Palachi writes this explicitly), or if it is sufficient for them to be able to see a small part of the city (Maharil Diskin, Mikra’ei Kodesh [Frank] §24)?

In practice, the former Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, R. Shalom Messas (Shemesh U-magen 1:51-52, 2:16-17) and R. Yitzĥak Kulitz, maintained that all neighborhoods that are part of Jerusalem for the purposes of paying municipal taxes read the Megilla exclusively on the fifteenth. They ruled this way even for the residents of Ramot and Har Nof. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach concurs. Moreover, in his opinion, the outlying areas would read the Megilla on the fifteenth even if they were separate entities for tax purposes, because there is an eruv that connects these neighborhoods to the city of Jerusalem (Halikhot Shlomo 20:8-9). These authorities also relied on the majority opinion of the Rishonim, who maintain that “adjacent and visible” is measured from the farthest outskirts of the expanded city. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 688:10 suggests a novel idea: that the definition of a mil is the amount of time it takes to travel a mil; R. Messas mentions this suggestion as additional support for his ruling. My teachers, R. Avraham Shapiro, R. Mordechai Eliyahu, and R. Shaul Yisraeli, also endorsed, in practice, the halakhic determination that all neighborhoods of Jerusalem should read the Megilla on the fifteenth, with a berakha (Mikra’ei Kodesh [Harari] 5:11 and n. 43).

In contrast, several great authorities maintain that the rule is as follows: Any neighborhood within a mil of the wall itself reads on the fifteenth, even if the entire area in between is empty. However, when measuring from a point in the expanded city, an empty area of 141 and a third amot constitutes a gap between Jerusalem and that neighborhood, and thus its residents must read on the fourteenth, with a berakha. This is the opinion of Yabi’a Omer 7:58 and Or Le-Tziyon 1:45. Ĥazon Ish 153:2-3 and Mikra’ei Kodesh (Frank) §23 also rule similarly, but they ruled that the residents of Giv’at Sha’ul should read the Megilla on the fifteenth, despite the fact that hundreds of meters of undeveloped land separated between that neighborhood and the rest of the city at the time. Apparently, they ruled this way because the residents of Giv’at Shaul were dependent on the city for all their affairs. Minĥat Yitzĥak 8:62 ruled that the residents of Ramot should read the Megilla on the fourteenth. The same is reported in the name of R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Several years later, however, when Ramot expanded, R. Elyashiv changed his ruling and instructed residents of Ramot to read the Megilla on the fifteenth (even though there is an undeveloped area of more than 141 and a third amot between it and the main part of the city).

A bigger question arose regarding Mevaseret Yerushalayim, which is, indeed, connected to Jerusalem by the eruv, but is its own municipality. According to the second opinion stated above, its residents certainly must read the Megilla on the fourteenth, and some actually do so. According to the first opinion, however, they should read it on the fifteenth, because from some parts of Mevaseret, one can see the outskirts of expanded Jerusalem. In addition, its residents are dependent on Jerusalem to a degree, and, as already mentioned, the two cities are joined by an eruv. R. Messas ruled in accordance with this opinion, and R. Uri Cohen, head of the Meretz Kollel there, implemented this ruling in practice. See Oraĥ Mishpat §146, which states similarly regarding Bayit Vegan in 1920. (Bayit Vegan in those days was like Mevaseret Yerushalayim today.)

From 1948 to 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem was under Jordanian occupation. Because of this, the question arose: Should those residing in neighborhoods adjacent to the Old City celebrate Purim on the fifteenth, even though the area within the walls itself is bereft of Jews? Masat Moshe 2:3 and Birkei Yosef state that in such a situation, the Megilla is read on the fourteenth. The Vilna Gaon maintains, based on the Yerushalmi, that it is read on the fifteenth. Rashba and Ritva concur, and this was the practice in Jerusalem in those days. The proponents of this viewpoint suggest another rationale: Ancient Jerusalem was larger than the area known today as the Old City. R. Zvi Pesaĥ Frank accepted this in practice, recording his ruling in both Har Tzvi 2:131 and Mikra’ei Kodesh §25. It is worth adding that the whole reason Jews came to the new side of Jerusalem was in order to draw closer to the holy ancient Jerusalem. For this reason, all neighborhoods of Jerusalem are subordinate to it in all matters.

03. Uncertain Places

There is uncertainty about when to celebrate Purim in the following cities: Tiberias, Hebron, Shechem, Jaffa, Lod, Gaza, Tzefat, Akko, and Haifa. Some add the following cities to the list: Beit She’an, Jericho, Beersheba, Ramla. In addition, the following cities outside the Land of Israel have uncertain status: Tyre, Sidon, Damascus, Izmir, and Baghdad.[4]

The Rishonim disagree about how residents of cities of uncertain status should conduct themselves on Purim. All agree that the Megilla must be read on the fourteenth of Adar, with a berakha, in these cities, since even a resident of Jerusalem fulfills his obligation, be-di’avad, if he reads the Megilla on the fourteenth, when most of the world reads it. Therefore, in places of uncertain status, the Megilla must be read, le-khatĥila, on the fourteenth, with a berakha. The question is whether residents of these places must read it on the fifteenth as well.

Some maintain that residents of uncertain places celebrate Purim exclusively on the fourteenth, with no obligation whatsoever to read the Megilla on the fifteenth. Only those who wish to follow a pious custom read it on the fifteenth without a berakha (Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Ritva).

Others maintain that in places of uncertain status, the Megilla must be read on the fifteenth as well, without a berakha, so that the uncertainty surrounding these cities is not forgotten. An additional reason is to enhance the honor of Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, the berakha is omitted because of the uncertainty of the matter (mt, Laws of Megilla 1:11, Me’iri, Shibolei Ha-leket, sa 688:4). The poskim debate the matter of the other mitzvot of Purim – mishlo’aĥ manot, matanot la-evyonim, and se’uda. Some maintain that residents of uncertain cities observe these mitzvot only on the first day, which is Purim for most of the world (Pri Ĥadash). Others maintain that they must perform these mitzvot on the second day as well (Ri’az).[5] People who live adjacent to cities of uncertain status observe Purim exclusively on the fourteenth, as only those who live adjacent to a city that reads the Megilla on the fifteenth with certainty take on its status, not those who live adjacent to a city of uncertain status. However, some authorities rule stringently, stating that even in places that are near a city of uncertain status, the Megilla should be read on the fifteenth as well.[6]

In practice, most uncertain places today rely on the lenient opinion and celebrate Purim exclusively on the fourteenth. Only in places where the likelihood that it was truly a walled city is greater, like in Tiberias and Hebron, do many people customarily read the Megilla on the fifteenth as well. Some even fulfill Purim’s other mitzvot on the fifteenth as well in these cities.


[4]. See Mikra’ei Kodesh (Harari) 5:11 (pp. 101-107), which specifies the uncertainty and outlines the custom of each city. There are two possible reasons for uncertainty: 1) whether the city had a wall at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun (and even if it did, perhaps the wall was erected after the houses were built); 2) whether the city is currently located in the same place as in ancient times. Some cities are uncertain for both reasons, while others are uncertain for only one reason. The cities enumerated in the first list were more likely surrounded by a wall, while for those in the second list this were less likely. Consequently, fewer people customarily read the Megilla on the fifteenth in those places.

[5]. Megilla 5b relates that the amora Ĥizkiya read the Megilla in Tiberias on both the fourteenth and the fifteenth, because although the city was walled on three sides, the fourth side bordered on the sea, and thus it was uncertain whether the city was considered walled. In addition, R. Asi read the Megilla in Hutzal on both the fourteenth and the fifteenth, because it was uncertain whether it was walled at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun.

According to Ramban, Rashba, Ran, and Ritva, based on the Ge’onim, those who live in cities of uncertain status read the Megilla exclusively on the fourteenth, with a berakha. Technically, they do not need to read the Megilla at all, because we are lenient in cases of uncertainty about a rabbinic law. However, in order to avoid canceling the mitzva altogether for such people, the Sages established that they read it on the fourteenth, like the majority of the world. Ĥizkiya and R. Asi were merely following a pious custom by reading it on the fifteenth as well. In contrast to the Rishonim mentioned above, Rambam, Shibolei Ha-leket, Me’iri, and sa 688:4 maintain that halakha requires residents of cities of uncertain status to read the Megilla on both days – on the first day with a berakha and on the second day without a berakha. (According to Ri’az, they recite a berakha on both days, while according to R. Yeĥiel, they omit the berakha both days.)

Seemingly, one could ask: How can these people recite a berakha over the Megilla reading on the fourteenth when it is uncertain if their city is considered unwalled? The answer is that the Yerushalmi (y. Megilla 1:1, 1:3, 2:3) states that, be-di’avad, a resident of a walled city who reads the Megilla on the fourteenth fulfills his obligation. It is true that Pri Ĥadash §688 and several other Aĥaronim state that the Bavli disagrees with this, and according to them, a resident of a walled city who reads the Megilla on the fourteenth does not fulfill his obligation. Nonetheless, Pri Megadim, Mishbetzot Zahav 688:2 and other Aĥaronim maintain that the Bavli agrees with the Yerushalmi. In addition, Vilna Gaon 688:4 explains that this is the basis for the opinion of Rambam and sa. This is also how the position of Ramban and Rashba is explained. Therefore, residents of uncertain cities read the Megilla on the fourteenth, with a berakha.

Rashba, Ritva, and the Vilna Gaon write that the practice of reading the Megilla on both days in uncertain cities applies only in Eretz Yisrael. Others disagree; see ma 688:4. Ben Ish Ĥai (Tetzaveh 14) states that in Baghdad the custom was to read the Megilla on both days.

According to Ri’az and ma 688:5, when there is uncertainty regarding a city’s status, its residents observe all the mitzvot of Purim on both days. Pri Ĥadash and Mateh Yehuda maintain that reading the Megilla is the only mitzva that is performed on both days. Binyan Shlomo explains that the mitzva of reading the Megilla was instituted by the prophets, while the other mitzvot were rabbinically mandated, which is why we are more lenient regarding the other mitzvot when there is an uncertainty. (See mb 688:10, which sides with ma, whereas bhl§695 agrees with Pri Ĥadash. Perhaps the distinction is that he rules leniently when it comes to mitzvot that require monetary outlay.) Igeret Ha-Purim states that the custom in Hebron and Tiberias is only to read the Megilla on the fifteenth, not to observe the other mitzvot. The author of Ben Ish Ĥai observed all of the mitzvot on both days. The Aĥaronim disagree about whether there is Torah reading (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 688:25). Regarding Al Ha-nisim, mb 693:6 states that one should recite it on the second day as well, while Kaf Ha-ĥayim 688:23 states, based on R. Ĥayim Vital, that one should not recite it.

[6]. According to Birkei Yosef 688:9, cited in bhl 688:2, people who live near a city of uncertain status read the Megilla only on the fourteenth. Pe’at Ha-shulĥan 3:15 states that the villages near Tzefat read it on both days. Ĥazon Ish 153:3 concurs; for this reason, Ĥazon Ish required the residents of Bnei Brak, which is close to Jaffa, to read the Megilla on the fifteenth. However, we already learned that, according to many Rishonim, technically, one does not need to read the Megilla on the fifteenth even in places of uncertain status. Therefore, in a nearby village, there are two uncertainties (sfek sfeika), and so we rule leniently. In addition, perhaps one could claim that this strengthens the opinion that even in the city of uncertain status itself the Megilla should be read only on the fourteenth. After all, one of the explanations given for why a place adjacent to a walled city takes on the status of the city is that we want to avoid separating between people who live as neighbors (Turei Even and Ĥatam Sofer, as cited above in n. 3). If residents of a place adjacent to a city of uncertain status would celebrate Purim only on the fourteenth, while the residents of the city itself celebrate on the fifteenth as well, they will be divided. Therefore, it is proper for residents of the uncertain place to follow the practice of those who live adjacent to them and observe only the fourteenth, especially since most Rishonim (based on the Ge’onim) espouse this opinion.

04. Traveling between Walled and Unwalled Cities

Since Purim is celebrated in unwalled cities on the fourteenth and in walled cities (today, only in Jerusalem) on the fifteenth, many questions arise regarding one who travels from an unwalled city to Jerusalem, or vice versa. When should such a person observe the holiday of Purim? The general rule is that a person’s obligation is determined by his location on the day of Purim, not by his permanent residence throughout the year, because one who stays in an unwalled city for even one day is nonetheless considered a resident of an unwalled city with respect to the laws of Purim. The determining moment is alot ha-shaĥar (dawn) – on the fourteenth for unwalled cities, and on the fifteenth for walled cities – because that is when the obligation of the daytime Megilla reading begins.

A resident of Jerusalem who wants to celebrate Purim on the fourteenth must enter an unwalled city on or before the night of the fourteenth and remain there until after alot ha-shaĥar. This way, he is considered a resident of an unwalled city according to all opinions. Then, even if he returns to Jerusalem early in the morning, before managing to read the Megilla, he remains obligated to read the Megilla on that day – the fourteenth – in Jerusalem. In such a case, he should appoint someone who is staying in an unwalled city to be his shali’aĥ to give matanot la-evyonim and mishlo’aĥ manot on his behalf. If, on the other hand, a resident of Jerusalem enters an unwalled city on the night of the fourteenth with intention to return to Jerusalem before alot ha-shaĥar of the fourteenth, or if he first enters the unwalled city after alot ha-shaĥar of the fourteenth, and he returns later on to Jerusalem, he is still considered a resident of Jerusalem, because the determining time is alot ha-shaĥar of the fourteenth.

If a resident of an unwalled city celebrates Purim on the fourteenth and wants to celebrate the holiday again on the fifteenth, in Jerusalem, he must come to Jerusalem on the night of the fifteenth and stay there until after alot ha-shaĥar of the fifteenth. This way, he is considered a resident of Jerusalem for the day and must fulfill all the mitzvot of Purim on the fifteenth. However, he should try to hear the berakhot for the Megilla from someone else – and if he reads the Megilla for himself, he should omit the berakhot altogether – because some authorities maintain that one who already observed Purim on the fourteenth does not need to observe it a second time (based on Rosh). Even though he is halakhically required to observe Purim on the fifteenth as well, when it comes to reciting the berakhot, we take into account the opinion of those who rule that he is exempt and therefore omit the berakhot. One who is going to be in Jerusalem from the night of the fourteenth all the way through the day of the fifteenth must observe Purim only in Jerusalem, and he may recite the berakhot over the Megilla on the fifteenth according to all opinions.

The Rishonim debate the case of a resident of Jerusalem who traveled to an unwalled city on the night of the fourteenth and planned to return to Jerusalem before alot ha-shaĥar, but was delayed and did not manage to return in time. Some authorities maintain that his status is determined by his intentions, and thus he is exempt from observing Purim on the fourteenth (Rif, Ramban). Others maintain that we consider only his actions, and thus he must observe Purim on the fourteenth (Rashi, Ha-ma’or). Within the opinion that his status is determined by his intentions, some maintain that his status is determined by his intention at the time that he traveled to that location (Mishna Berura), and others maintain that his status is determined by his intention when Purim begins. In practice, in both cases one should observe the mitzvot of Purim without reciting berakhot. If added uncertainties arise, one should consult a competent rabbi.[7]


[7]. This issue is very detailed and complicated. Therefore, I wrote this section in a way that is suitable for everyone, summarizing the disputes very briefly. See Torat Ha-mo’adim 6:9-10, which rules that the law generally follows one’s location, and Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag ch. 9, which rules that the law generally follows one’s intentions. There are many more distinctions regarding this issue; see ibid. and Piskei Teshuvot 688:9-10, which expands upon the topic in great detail.

The determining time is alot ha-shaĥar because that is when the obligation for the daytime Megilla reading – which is the primary reading – begins. Several poskim write that halakha actually implies that in order to become obligated, one must stay there long enough after alot ha-shaĥar to be able to read the Megilla, which is approximately half an hour (see sht 688:17).

I wrote in the main text that the determining time is alot ha-shaĥar of the fourteenth and of the fifteenth, as that is the opinion of Rashi, Ramban, Ritva, Ri’az, sa, and others. Rosh, however, maintains that alot ha-shaĥar of the fourteenth is the only determinant. Accordingly, one can never obligate himself to observe two Purims. In consideration of his opinion, one does not recite the berakhot over the Megilla reading on the second day. Furthermore, according to most poskim, based on the Yerushalmi, it turns out that one who will be in Jerusalem on the fourteenth and in Tel Aviv on the fifteenth is exempt from observing Purim altogether. According to Rosh, however, since he knows on the night of the fourteenth that he does not intend to be in Jerusalem on the fifteenth, he must observe Purim on the fourteenth, and some say on the fifteenth as well.

05. Purim Ha-meshulash

The fifteenth of Adar, when Purim is celebrated in walled cities, sometimes coincides with Shabbat. The fourteenth of Adar never coincides with Shabbat. When the fifteenth falls out on Shabbat, Purim in that year is called Purim Ha-meshulash (“Triple Purim”), because its mitzvot are divided over three days. Why don’t we celebrate Purim on Shabbat? The Sages prohibited us from reading the Megilla on Shabbat for fear that one may carry it through a public domain. It is also inappropriate to conduct the se’uda on Shabbat, because it says, “To observe them as (lit. ‘to make them’) days of feasting and joy” (Esther 9:22), which means that the meal must be made for the sake of Purim, not Shabbat. (The date of Purim depends on an act of the beit din, which sanctifies the new month, while Shabbat is set and established from the time the world was created.)

Therefore, residents of walled cities read the Megilla on Friday. They also give matanot la-evyonim on that day, because poor people anticipate receiving money at the time of the Megilla reading and will be distressed if people neglect to give them gifts on that day. One should try to read the Megilla with a minyan, because some maintain that this reading is not conducted in its proper time, in which case it must be read in a group of ten Jews, men or women (mb 690:61). Nonetheless, the Megilla should be read on Friday, with the berakhot, even when no minyan is available (Tzitz Eliezer 13:73, Yabi’a Omer 6:46).

On Shabbat, which is the day of Purim in walled cities, residents of these cities recite Al Ha-nisim in the prayer services and in Birkat Ha-mazon. They also read the special Torah reading for Purim. That is, they take out two Torah scrolls; they read the weekly Torah portion from the first scroll and the portion for Purim – “Amalek came” (Shemot 17:8-16) – from the second scroll.

On Sunday, they eat the festive Purim meal and send mishlo’aĥ manot to one another, since mishlo’aĥ manot is connected to the meal.

The reason we read the Megilla before Shabbat but postpone the se’uda until after Shabbat is because we must publicize the miracle, by reading the Megilla, no later than the day on which the miracle occurred, as it says, “ve-lo ya’avor (lit. ‘and it shall not pass’)” (Esther 9:27). On the other hand, we may partake in the se’uda only once the day of the miracle has arrived, which is Shabbat. And since it is inappropriate to make such a meal on Shabbat, we postpone it until after Shabbat.

It is best to eat more meat and drink more wine than usual even on Shabbat, because some authorities maintain that the se’uda is supposed to be eaten on Shabbat. If possible, it is also good to send mishlo’aĥ manot privately on Shabbat, on condition that there is an eruv in one’s location.[8]


[8]. Ran derives from the Yerushalmi (y. Megilla 1:4) that we postpone the Purim meal until Sunday, and sa 688:6 rules accordingly. Radbaz, ma, Noda Bi-Yehuda, and others also agree. However, Ralbaĥ claims that the Bavli disagrees with the Yerushalmi and maintains that one should conduct the Purim meal on Shabbat. Therefore, it is proper to consume more meat and wine than usual at one’s Shabbat meal.

According to many poskim, a resident of an unwalled city who comes to Jerusalem on Friday does not need to observe the mitzvot of Purim Ha-meshulash, because he has already fulfilled his obligation. Others maintain that it is better for him to observe the mitzvot of Purim Ha-meshulash.

Contents