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Megilah, 18

MEGILAH 16, 17, 18, and 19 (1st day of Sukos) sponsored by a generous grant from an anonymous donor. Kollel Iyun Hadaf is indebted to him for his encouragement and support and prays that Hashem will repay him in kind.


QUESTION: The Gemara explains that it is permitted to read a Megilah that is written in a language other than Hebrew to those who understand that language. When the Megilah is written in Hebrew (Ashuris), everyone is Yotzei by hearing it, even those who do not understand Hebrew.

But did we not learn earlier (8b-9a) that when the Beraisa says that "it must be written in Ashuris (b'Ashuris al ha'Sefer uv'Diyo)," it is referring to Megilas Esther? As the Gemara there explained, the verse says, "ki'Chsavam" -- "... according to their writing..." (Esther 9:27), which teaches that the Megilah must be written only in Ashuris. This contradicts the Gemara here, which says that the Megilah may be written in any language!


(a) TOSFOS 8b DH Ad explains that when the Beraisa earlier said that the Megilah is not valid unless it is written in Ashuris, it was referring to the Halachah of being Metamei Yadayim (the Rabanan decreed that Sifrei Kodesh are Metamei Yadayim; see Shabbos 14a). A Megilah is not Metamei Yadayim unless it is written in Ashuris. It is a valid Megilah, though, for fulfilling the Mitzvah of Mikra Megilah, even when it is written in another language. (The RITVA and Rishonim explain that the verse "Ki'Chsavam" only teaches that one who *does not understand* the language in which the Megilah is written may not read from it, unless it is written in Ashuris.)

However, if it is a valid Megilah when written in a foreign language, why is it not Metamei Yadayim? TOSFOS answers that Tum'as Yadayim does not depend on being a valid Sefer. Rather, a Sefer is Metamei Yadayim because of the importance of Kisvei ha'Kodesh. A Megilah written in a foreign language does not have that importance (since it cannot be read to everyone), even though it is a valid Megilah for fulfilling the Mitzvah of Mikra Megilah (for one who understands that language).

(b) The RI'AZ, cited by the Shiltei Giborim, explains that when the verse "ki'Chsavam" teaches that a Megilah is Pasul if it is written in any foreign language, it means that we may not use a foreign *script* (that is, the actual letters of a foreign language) to write a Megilah. The script must be Ashuris. The *language* of the words that are being written, though, may be in a foreign language. That is, the Megilah may be written in any language that was transliterated into Hebrew. That is what our Mishnah means when it says that one may read the Megilah in any language to someone who understands that language: the script of the writing itself must be Ashuris, but the words can be foreign words that were transliterated into Ashuris. (The PNEI YEHOSHUA (17a) and VILNA GA'ON (OC689) also side with this opinion.)

QUESTION: Rav and Shmuel conclude that a Megilah written in Yevanis (Greek) is valid for everyone (even those who do not understand Greek). They rule like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel who permits Sifrei Kodesh to be written only in Ashuris or in Yevanis (8b), and they apply his ruling to the Megilah as well. According to this explanation, if one hears a Megilah being read in Greek, he fulfills the Mitzvah even if he does not understand Greek at all. (If one hears the Megilah in any other foreign language, he must understand it in order to be Yotzei.)

This ruling of Rav and Shmuel is problematic. First, the Gemara earlier (9a) says that the Megilah is only valid if written in Ashuris (if it is read to people who do not understand the language in which it is written, see previous Insight), as is derived from "ki'Chsavam." The Gemara there implies that everyone -- even Raban Shimon ben Gamliel -- agrees with that! How can Rav and Shmuel say that the Megilah may be written in Yevanis, when the Gemara earlier expounds the verse "ki'Chsavam" to be teaching that the Megilah may only be written in Ashuris?

Second, Rebbi Yochanan (9b) rules that the Halachah is like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel concerning whether a Sefer Torah (and Sifrei Nevi'im and Kesuvim) may be written in a foreign language. The Rabanan permit writing it in a foreign language, and Raban Shimon ben Gamliel permits writing it only in Yevanis. According to Rebbi Yochanan, the Halachah follows Raban Shimon ben Gamliel. According to Rav and Shmuel's understand of Raban Shimon ben Gamliel's opinion, this means that l'Halachah, even a Megilah may be written in Yevanis.

However, elsewhere (Shabbos 46a, 81b, and many other places) Rebbi Yochanan states that the Halachah always follows the opinion of an anonymous Mishnah. Here, the anonymous Mishnah (17a) says that the Megilah may be read in a foreign language (like Yevanis) only to someone who understands that language. The end of the Mishnah says clearly that the only type of Megilah with which one is [always] Yotzei is one written in Ashuris. The Mishnah, then, is clearly not expressing the opinion of Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, who permits Yevanis just like Ashuris. How can Rebbi Yochanan rule like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel (on 9b) if an anonymous Mishnah rules like the Rabanan? The anonymous Mishnah here (17a) says that one may read the Megilah only in Ashuris, and not in Yevanis!


(a) The RAMBAN (in Milchamos) explains that indeed, this Gemara argues with the earlier Gemara. Rav and Shmuel, who say that Raban Shimon ben Gamliel permits writing the Megilah in Yevanis, did not expound the verse of "ki'Chsavam" to be teaching that the Megilah must be written only in Ashuris. Rebbi Yochanan, though (and the Gemara on Daf 9a), did expound that verse. Therefore, when he ruled like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, he held that Raban Shimon himself *agrees* that a Megilah must be written only in Ashuris, as the Gemara earlier (9a) concludes!

This answers both questions. It explains why Rav and Shmuel argue and say that a Megilah may be written in Yevanis, and not just in Ashuris. It also explains why Rebbi Yochanan, who holds like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, was not swayed by the anonymous Mishnah which does *not* allow Megilah to be written in Yevanis (if read to those who do not understand Yevanis). We rule like Rebbi Yochanan, that one does not fulfill his obligation with a Megilah written in Yevanis.

(b) The RAN and RITVA say that according to Rav and Shmuel, Raban Shimon ben Gamliel agrees with the Derashah of "ki'Chsavam," and he does not argue with the previous Sugya. However, he learns the Derashah differently, and maintains that it excludes all foreign languages *except* for Yevanis. Thus, a Megilah may be written in either Ashuris or Yevanis.

However, if Raban Shimon ben Gamliel does not permit *any* type of Sefer (such as a Sefer Torah) to be written in any language other than Ashuris or Yevanis, then why would we have thought that a Megilah may be written in those other languages, such that we need a new verse to teach us differently?

The Ran and Ritva explain that an extra verse is needed for the Megilah, because we might have thought that the Megilah may be written in all languages, either because it is called an "Igeres," an informal letter, or because it was sent to all nations in their languages (Esther 9:29-30). Therefore, it is necessary to have an additional verse to teach that the Megilah cannot be written in other languages.

That is how Rav and Shmuel understand the Derashah of "ki'Chsavam" -- excluding all languages *except* Ashuris and Yevanis. When the Megilah is written in Ashuris or Yevanis, one is Yotzei even if he does not understand those languages.

When the Mishnah says that one may read the Megilah in a foreign language to one who understands that language ("l'Lo'azos b'La'az"), that only refers to languages other than Yevanis. If it is written in Yevanis, it may be heard by anyone. Thus, the Mishnah does not contradict Raban Shimon ben Gamliel's ruling.

However, how can the Mishnah be Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, when it says in the end of the Mishnah that the Megilah is *only* valid when written in Ashuris (unless, of course, it is read in a language that is familiar to the person hearing it)? The TOSFOS RID answers that the word "Ashuris" should be erased from the Mishnah. This was indeed the Girsa of RABEINU CHANANEL (19a) and of many Rishonim, as the DIKDUKEI SOFRIM (#2) points out.

(c) The RI'AZ argues with the other Rishonim and says that when the Mishnah says that the Megilah must be written in Ashuris, that means that the letters of the Megilah must be Hebrew letters; the language, though, may be any language (i.e. a transliteration into Hebrew). That is what Raban Shimon ben Gamliel means when he says that the Megilah may be read in Yevanis to everyone -- it is valid if the *script* is Ashuris, and forms words in transliterated Greek. Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, have no problem with the Derashah of "ki'Chsavam," because that verse is referring to the *script* and not the language. (The PNEI YEHOSHUA (17a) and the VILNA GA'ON (OC 690) side with this opinion.)

HALACHAH: The TUR cites opposing views whether someone who does not understand Yevanis is Yotzei with a Megilah written in Yevanis. He cites the RIF and the ROSH who rule that one does *not* fulfill his obligation by hearing a Megilah written in Yevanis (unless he understands it). The BEIS YOSEF says that this is also the view of the RAMBAM, but for a different reason. He writes (Hilchos Tefilin 1:19) that Yevanis has been forgotten from the world and therefore it cannot be used for the Megilah.

The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 690) makes no mention of reading the Megilah in Yevanis, and thus he is ruling like the Rif, Rosh, and Rambam, that Yevanis is no different than any other foreign language.

AGADAH: The Gemara tells how the Rabanan did not know the meaning of the word "Yehavcha" in the phrase "Throw 'Yehavcha' on Hashem" (Tehilim 55:23), until an Arab nomad, who was traveling with Rabah bar bar Chanah, said to him, "Take your 'Yehav' (burden) and throw it on my camel." At that point they learned that "Yehavcha" means "your burden."

The VILNA GA'ON (cited by Rav Mendel of Shklov, in Mishlei 3:5) asks how can an Arab wanderer have been better acquainted with Lashon ha'Kodesh than the Amora'im of his time?

The Vilna Ga'on answers that the students knew what the word "Yehavcha" meant. Their uncertainty about the meaning of this verse, though, arose from a doubt about a basic concept in Avodas Hashem. The students were not sure how far the trait of "Bitachon," full trust in Hashem, can be taken. Is one supposed to make an effort to support himself and then trust that Hashem will cause his effort to bear fruit? Or does the optimal expression of Bitachon occur when a person makes absolutely no effort to support himself on his own, putting his efforts instead into serving Hashem and trusting that Hashem will supply him with all his worldly needs?

The word "Yehav" in the verse under discussion comes from the word "Yahav," the Aramaic rendering of "Nasan" (implying *giving*). The students, thinking that the former type of Bitachon is the proper one, did not understand why that word is used in this verse. It should not say, "Throw upon Hashem what you *give*," but rather it should say, "Throw upon Hashem what you *need*" ("Tzorchecha" in place of "Yehavcha").

However, from the story of Rabah bar bar Chanah and the Arab, it became clear that the latter approach to Bitachon is the correct one. Rabah should have had to *pay* the Arab to carry his burden for him, yet instead the Arab suggested of his own volition that Rabah throw his burden on the Arab's camel. We see that Hashem provides for all the needs of those who trust in Him without waiting for them to invest their own effort into their needs. Even though it was *Rabah* who should have asked -- and even paid -- the Arab to carry his burden, and not vice versa, nevertheless the Arab asked Rabah to allow him to carry the burden. If so, said the students, that is why the verse uses the word "Yehavcha." It means, "throw upon Hashem even those things which you should rightfully have to *give* [money, or effort] in order, to accomplish." The verse is instructing us to let Hashem take over, without putting in any effort ourselves. (See also Divrei Eliyahu, Tehilim 131:2.)

The question of the students, incidentally, seems to parallel the debate among the Tana'im in Berachos (35b) about how far the trait of Bitachon goes. The Vilna Ga'on's explanation here supports the opinion of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, who maintains that Hashem will send provisions for one who serves Him wholeheartedly, without that person having to exert any effort of his own. (Apparently, even Rebbi Yishmael, who appears to argue with Rebbi Shimon in that Gemara, agrees that for those who are on Rebbi Shimon's spiritual level, this type of Bitachon is in order.)

The Vilna Ga'on there goes further and explains the verse in Mishlei (3:5) that says, "Trust in Hashem with all your heart (be'Chol Libecha)." When reading the verse, he explains, reverse the letters of the word "Libecha," making "your heart" (Libecha - Lamed, Beis, Kaf) "completely" (ba'Kol - Beis, Kaf, Lamed) dedicated to the service of Hashem. When you do so, Hashem will bless you in return with "ba'Kol" -- all that you could possibly need. Perhaps this is also the implication of the end of the verse our Gemara is discussing. "Throw on Hashem your burden (Yehavcha), and he will provide for you (Yechalkeleka)." "Yechalkel" comes from the word "Kol" -- He will provide for you *all* of your needs, "ba'Kol," since you placed all of your trust in Him.

This might be what the verse means (Bereishis 24:1) when it says that Hashem blessed Avraham "ba'Kol" (literally, "with everything"). As the Midrash says, "Avraham had a daughter (meaning, a trait) named ba'Kol" -- that is, Avraham placed his full, unwavering trust in Hashem, acknowledging that there is no need to put any effort into providing for one's self since Hashem will provide for him. In return, Hashem indeed provided for him all of his needs. This is the Torah's introduction to the story of Eliezer and Rivkah. Why did Avraham send Eliezer and not have Yitzchak himself go to look for a wife? How could he be sure that Eliezer would succeed in finding a proper mate who would agree to marry Yitzchak, sight unseen? The answer is that Avraham knew that Hashem would provide for him all his needs, and his own efforts were superfluous. It was from this expression of Bitachon that Eliezer the servant learned to ask Hashem to point out the right girl in a miraculous fashion, rather than researching families and making other natural efforts until he found the right match. (M. Kornfeld)


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