Depending on when all three of you are reading this, you either have a chance to prepare properly for Purim Katan (Friday), or you will now learn if there is anything you should be doing today (Shabbos), having missed yesterday’s celebrations.
Celebrations? Were there celebrations on the 14th of Adar Rishon? What is Purim Katan, anyway? Just a day to not say Tachanun? (Not that I’m complaining. Happiness is an unexpected no-Tachanun day.)
And Shushan Purim Katan? What’s that all about? Isn’t that a little like having eight days a week? What’s its inner light?
Like every little thing, we start with a Gemara. (And ask yourself if you’ve got to get more Gemara learning into your life.) Megillah 6B discusses what to do when two Adars intrude upon Purim. When I was a young child, I remember singing a ditty, in Yiddish, that had the line, “I wish that Purim would come more than once a year.” Well, I should have known better, and I don’t want to spoil the party, but the Gemara learns from a posuk that Purim can indeed be only once a year. Nu, let it be that way. (As we will see, this is only regarding megilla leining and matanos l’evyonim, and probably mishlo’ach manos.)
There is a difference of opinion there as to which Adar gets the Purim. One tanna holds the first Adar, following the rule that one does not allow a mitzvah (in this case, Purim) to pass by, because tomorrow one never knows. The other tanna holds that it is celebrated in the second Adar, reasoning that it is a more perfect way to celebrate — one geulah (Purim) coming together now with another one (Pesach).
But there is a long and winding road till we understand the second tanna. Ask me why, says the Chasam Sofer, the second tanna holds what he holds — we have a rule that zerizin makdimin trumps doing a mitzvah in a more perfect fashion. So tell me why the second tanna holds that. Can we work it out?
The Chasam Sofer answers this by stating a chiddush. The celebration of Purim is really a Torah obligation! Think for yourself, he points out, as the Gemara elsewhere in megillah states: if we celebrate the Exodus by Torah Law, where we “merely” escaped from slavery to freedom, certainly we should celebrate an “exodus” from certain death to life itself! I’ve got a feeling, says Chasam Sofer, that the obligation to celebrate the salvation of Purim is a Torah obligation.
That Gemara, discussing which Adar has Purim, makes an enigmatic remark. It says that everyone agrees that the days of “Purim” — the 14th and 15th of Adar, on Adar One or Adar Two — are both prohibited from being fast days or days on which eulogies are said. The Chasam Sofer says that he’s got a feeling that this fits with what we have been saying. Zerizin makdimin indeed calls upon me to celebrate the first day that I can, the 14th of the first Adar. But a mere remembrance of the miracle suffices; no need for a full-blown celebration, with krias megillah and matanos l’evyonim. Zerizin makdimin will be in the first Adar, fulfilling the Torah imperative as derived from a kal vachomer by refraining from fasting and eulogies. And the sheleimus hamitzvah will be performed the ideal way, putting geulah next to geulah, waiting for Adar Two.
The Gemara says that eulogies and fasting are forbidden in both Adars. Megillah-reading and gifts to the poor are the machlokes there. We have seen the explanation of this, which certainly carries that weight of the difficulty, as given by the Chasam Sofer.
What about feasting and partying? The prohibition against fasting and eulogies are derived from the fact that the megillah speaks of joy and feasting. The Gemara derives that simchah teaches that it is forbidden to eulogize, and feasting teaches that it is forbidden to fast. So it follows that if fasting, etc., are forbidden, partying and a seudah are imperative! Well, we should have known better than to think it is anything but a machlokes rishonim! In fact, a three-way machlokes! In fact, I want to tell you, I want you to know, that it is a machlokes-within -a-machlokes.
Tosafos holds that there is no need to party in Adar Rishon. Tosafos maintain that the days take on the character of the days of megillas ta’anis, where the manifestations of sadness are prohibited (fasting, eulogies) but that’s all I’ve got to do. More than that is unnecessary, like fixing a hole in Norwegian wood.
The Ran holds that since the derivation is the words simchah and mishteh, it is only logical that we are also to party. (Tosafos doesn’t want to spoil the party, but holds that it cannot be more intense than other “minor” yomim tovim.) Why no mishloach manos? Tzitz Eliezer is not sure!
Some say that the Ran implies that partying on Purim Katan is limited to the 14th of Adar Rishon — when here comes the sun of the 15th, well, not a second time, no, while others learn that we get back to partying on the 15th also.
The Ran’s implication of “not 15th” is where we need a little help from our friends. Some learn the implication is limited to people who usually celebrate the 14th (unwalled cities) but Bnei Fifteen should feel fine celebrating Shushan Purim Katan; while others hold that overt celebration of the 15th is for no one, for a nowhere man.
Rema concludes that we should party on Purim Katan, out of a sense of doing something to increase our general sense of simchah, because all too often we cry instead. Levush holds we celebrate on the 15th, too; some hold that Rema agrees that Bnei Fifteen should not let us down, and should celebrate the 15th, too. Bkitzur, we can work it out.
I hope that in my life, be’ezras Hashem, im yirtzeh Hashem, there will be many more shanos me’ubaros with such problems. (It won’t be long now till the next one. I do know that there is one slated for when I’m 64.) I can just hope that this column keeps getting better all the time, that I don’t have to become a paperback writer, and that I’ll be back with a hello, goodbye. I will try to not let you down. Just tell me what you see, because in a certain sense, I need you.