The Mishnah (1:1) teaches that the day that people read megillah depended on where they lived. Those that lived in cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua (bnei krachim) read the megillah on the fifteenth; other large city dwellers read the megillah on the fourteenth (bnei ayarot), while those that lived in the small villages1 (bnei kefarim) were allowed to read the megillah earlier on the Monday or Thursday prior to Purim. To explain, Ezra2 instituted that the Beit Din was in session and that the Torah was read on these two weekdays. The Rishonim explain that those that lived in the villages were not versed in reading the megillah. The Chachamim were therefore lenient in allowing them to read on the days that they would come to the cities for dinim(Rashi) or to hear the Torah reading (R’ Chananel) thereby relieving them from returning on Purim. The Gemara explains that the bnei kefarim were allowed to read earlier as they would otherwise be too busy to supply the large city with provisions for Purim.
The Ritva raises a number of questions on this leniency for the kefarim. Normally we say that our religion should not be practice agudot agudot – pockets of people each practicing the laws differently. How then can it be that the bnei ayarot and the bnei kfarim were allowed to read on different days? When it comes to the bnei krachim that read on the fifteenth it is not a problem, as that is a case of a separate city. However the bnei kefarim would read in the same city as the bnei ayarot?
The Ritva cites a number of answers. The Raavad understood that the bnei kefarimwould read in their village when they would all return together from the city. Consequently the different practices were kept in different cities. The Tosfot however explains that the only issue of agudot agudot is where each group claims that there is only one correct practice and they should all be doing the same thing. That is not the case here where the different days for reading depending on one’s residence, was established from the outset.
The Ritva however is not happy with this answer. The Gemara in Yevamot(13b) asks this question with regards to the bnei kerachim and the bnei ayarot and the Tosfot’s answer was not raised in the lengthy discussion there. (The final answer is as mentioned above; there is no issue when dealing with separate cities.)
The Ritva therefore answers that the issue of agudot agudot is when that a law is permitted to one while prohibited to another. When it comes to the bnei krachim it is not that they must read earlier; they can read on the fourteenth if they like. Reading earlier is a leniency granted to them, which they choose to adopt. Since this leniency is know to all there is no issue of agudot agudot.
Another question raised is that if the bnei kefarim came to the city to hear megilah, how could the city folk read for them? They were not obligated to read the megillah on that day and only those that are obligated in a mitzvah could perform it for another! The R’ Akiva Eiger suggests that a person from the city would read word by word with a ben kfar who would repeat it aloud after each word.
The Ritva offer two answers. The first is that since the takana was instituted such that a ben ir would read for a ben kfar it was considered as if they were obligated. The second answer is that even a ben ir could share the same law as a ben kfar if the city did not have ten batlanim(1:3). Consequently the former can read for the later. This would not be the case for a ben krach and a ben ir.
1 The Ritva cites the Tosfot who ask that the later Mishnah teaches that even large cities would be considered like kefarim if they did not have ten batlanim – ten people paid to ensure there is a minyan (Rashi). What is guaranteed that every city that did not have ten batlanim did not have a beit din? The Ritva answers that the later Mishnah is different and simply adds that this leniency also applies to large cities, not that they travel, but that they can read megillah early.
2 Ezra was later than the times of the megillah so how is it that the Anshei Knesset ha’Gedolah established that the it would be read on days that Ezra would in the future institute? The Ritva answers that Anshei Knesset Ha’Gedolah instituted the leniency that it could be read one or two days earlier for the reason mentioned in the Gemara above. After the takana of Ezra, those two days were established.
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