1) A MEGILAS ESTHER WRITTEN IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN HEBREW
QUESTION: The Gemara explains that when one reads a Megilah written in a language other than Hebrew to those who understand that language, they fulfill the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah. When one reads a Megilah written in Hebrew (Ashuris) to those who do not understand Hebrew, they nevertheless fulfill the Mitzvah.
The Gemara earlier (8b-9a) quotes a Beraisa which says that the Megilah "must be written in Ashuris (b'Ashuris Al ha'Sefer uv'Diyo)." The Gemara there derives this requirement from the verse, "ki'Chesavam" -- "... according to their writing..." (Esther 9:27), which teaches that the Megilah must be written only in Ashuris. This clearly contradicts the Gemara here which says that the Megilah may be written in any language. How can this contradiction be resolved?
(a) TOSFOS (8b, DH Ad) explains that the Beraisa earlier (which says that the Megilah is not valid unless it is written in Ashuris) refers to the Halachah of Tum'as Yadayim (the enactment of the Chachamim that Sifrei Kodesh cause one's hands to become Tamei; see Shabbos 14a). A Megilah written in any language other than Hebrew is not Metamei Yadayim. For the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah, however, it is a valid Megilah even when it is written in another language. (The RITVA and Rishonim explain that the verse "ki'Chesavam" teaches only 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.)
Why, though, is a Megilah written in a foreign language not Metamei Yadayim if it is valid for the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah? Tosfos answers that a Sefer's ability to make one's hands Tamei does not depend on its status as 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 not everyone can fulfill his obligation with it (but only one who understands that language).
(b) The RI'AZ (cited by the Shiltei Giborim) explains that the law derived from the verse "ki'Chesavam" that a Megilah written in a foreign language is invalid refers to a Megilah written with a foreign script. The script -- the actual letters -- must be Ashuris. The language of the words that are written, however, may be a foreign language. That is, the Megilah may be written in any language transliterated into Hebrew (Ashuris) script. When the Mishnah says that one may read the Megilah in any language to someone who understands that language, it means the script of the writing itself must be Ashuris, but the words may be foreign words that were transliterated into Ashuris. (The PNEI YEHOSHUA (17a) and VILNA GA'ON (OC 689) side with this opinion.)
2) HALACHAH: A GREEK MEGILAH
QUESTION: Rav and Shmuel conclude that a Megilah written in Yevanis (Greek) may be used for the Mitzvah by everyone, even by those who do not understand Greek. They rule like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel (8b) who permits writing Sifrei Kodesh in Ashuris or in Yevanis, and they apply his ruling to the Megilah as well. According to their view, one who hears the reading of a Megilah written in Greek fulfills the Mitzvah even if he does not understand Greek. (One who hears the Megilah in any other foreign language does not fulfill the Mitzvah unless he understands that language.)
The ruling of Rav and Shmuel seems problematic for several reasons. The Gemara earlier (9a) says that the Megilah is valid only when it is written in Ashuris (if it is read to people who do not understand the language in which it is written), as is derived from the verse, "ki'Chesavam." The Gemara there implies that everyone -- even Raban Shimon ben Gamliel -- agrees with this ruling. Why, then, do Rav and Shmuel say that the Megilah may be written in Yevanis, when the Gemara earlier derives from the verse "ki'Chesavam" that the Megilah may be written only in Ashuris?
Moreover, Rebbi Yochanan (9b) rules that the Halachah follows the view of Raban Shimon ben Gamliel. The Rabanan permit writing a Sefer Torah (and Sifrei Nevi'im and Kesuvim) in a foreign language, while Raban Shimon ben Gamliel permits writing it only in Yevanis. Since the Halachah follows the view of Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, it emerges that -- according to Rav and Shmuel -- even a Megilah may be written in Yevanis.
However, Rebbi Yochanan elsewhere (Shabbos 46a, 81b, and many other places) states that the Halachah always follows the opinion of an anonymous Mishnah. Here, the anonymous Mishnah (17a) states that the Megilah may be read in a foreign language (such as Yevanis) only to someone who understands that language. The end of the Mishnah clearly states that only a Megilah written in Ashuris may be used by anyone, even one who does not understand the language. The anonymous Tana of the Mishnah clearly disagrees with Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, who permits Yevanis like Ashuris. How can Rebbi Yochanan (on 9b) rule like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel if the anonymous Mishnah here (17a) follows the Rabanan and says that one who does not understand the language may read the Megilah only in Ashuris and not in Yevanis?
(a) The RAMBAN (in Milchamos) explains that the Gemara here argues with the earlier Gemara. Rav and Shmuel -- who say that Raban Shimon ben Gamliel permits writing the Megilah in Yevanis -- do not expound the verse of "ki'Chesavam" as teaching that the Megilah must be written only in Ashuris, while Rebbi Yochanan does expound that verse (as does the Gemara on 9b). Therefore, Rebbi Yochanan -- who rules like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel -- maintains that Raban Shimon ben Gamliel 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 does not contradict the anonymous Mishnah (which does not allow a Megilah written in Yevanis to be read to those who do not understand Yevanis) when he rules like Raban Shimon ben Gamliel.
The Halachah follows the ruling of Rebbi Yochanan, and thus one does not fulfill the Mitzvah to read the Megilah with a Megilah written in Yevanis if he does not understand the language.
(b) The RAN and RITVA explain that, according to Rav and Shmuel, Raban Shimon ben Gamliel agrees with the Derashah of "ki'Chesavam" and he does not argue with the opinion in the previous Sugya. However, he learns the Derashah differently. He 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 one have thought that a Megilah may be written in any other language such that a new verse is necessary to teach otherwise?
The Ran and Ritva explain that one might have thought that the Megilah may be written in any language either because it is called an "Igeres," an informal letter, or because it was originally sent to all nations in their own languages (Esther 9:29-30). Therefore, an additional verse is necessary to teach that the Megilah may not be written in any other language.
Accordingly, the Derashah of "ki'Chesavam" excludes all languages except Ashuris and Yevanis. When the Megilah is written in Ashuris or Yevanis, one fulfills the Mitzvah even when 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"), it refers only to languages other than Yevanis. A Megilah written in Yevanis may be read to anyone, even one who does not understand Yevanis. Hence, the Mishnah does not contradict Raban Shimon ben Gamliel's ruling.
However, one question remains. How can Raban Shimon ben Gamliel agree with the Mishnah? The end of the Mishnah states that the only Megilah which may be read to one who does not understand the language is a Megilah written in Ashuris. Raban Shimon ben Gamliel, however, says that such a person may hear a Megilah written in Ashuris or Yevanis. The TOSFOS RID answers that the word "Ashuris" should be omitted from the Mishnah. Indeed, this is the Girsa of RABEINU CHANANEL (19a) and many other Rishonim, as the DIKDUKEI SOFRIM (#2) points out.
(c) The RI'AZ argues with the other Rishonim and explains that when the Mishnah says that the Megilah must be written in Ashuris, it means that the script of the Megilah must be Hebrew letters. The language, however, may be any language (that is, a transliteration into Hebrew script; see previous Insight). When Raban Shimon ben Gamliel says that the Megilah may be read in Yevanis to everyone, he refers to a Megilah written with the script of Ashuris which forms words in transliterated Yevanis. Accordingly, Raban Shimon ben Gamliel agrees with the Derashah of "ki'Chesavam," because that verse refers to the script which must be used, and not to the language. (The PNEI YEHOSHUA (17a) and VILNA GA'ON (OC 689) side with this opinion.)
HALACHAH: The TUR cites opposing views with regard to whether one who does not understand Yevanis may fulfill the Mitzvah with a Megilah written in Yevanis. He cites the RIF and the ROSH who rule that one does not fulfill the Mitzvah by hearing a Megilah written in Yevanis (unless he understands it). The BEIS YOSEF writes that the RAMBAM agrees with this ruling but for a different reason. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Tefilin 1:19) that the language of Yevanis has been forgotten from the world and therefore it may not be used for the Mitzvah of Megilah.
From the fact that the SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 690) makes no mention of reading the Megilah in Yevanis, it is evident that he rules like the Rif, Rosh, and Rambam, and he maintains that Yevanis is no different from any other foreign language.
3) AGADAH: CAST YOUR BURDEN UPON HASH-M
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the Rabanan did not know the meaning of the word "Yehavcha" in the verse, "Cast upon Hash-m Yehavcha" (Tehilim 55:23), until an Arab merchant told Rabah bar bar Chana, "Take your Yehav and cast it upon my camel." At that moment they learned that "Yehavcha" means "your burden."
How was it possible that an Arab merchant was more familiar with the meaning of the words of Tehilim than the Amora'im of his time? (VILNA GA'ON, cited by Rav Mendel of Shklov in his commentary to Mishlei 3:5)
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON answers that the Rabanan knew the meaning of the word "Yehavcha." Their uncertainty involved the meaning of the verse and arose from their doubt about a basic concept in Avodas Hash-m. The Rabanan were not sure how far the trait of "Bitachon," trust in Hash-m, must be taken. Perhaps one is supposed to make an effort to provide a livelihood for himself and then trust that Hash-m will cause his efforts to bear fruit. On the other hand, perhaps the optimal expression of Bitachon is when a person makes no physical effort to provide for himself, but rather he focuses entirely on serving Hash-m and trusting that Hash-m will provide him with all of his material needs.
The word "Yehav" in the verse comes from the word "Yahav," the Aramaic word for "give." The Rabanan initially understood that that the former type of Bitachon is the proper approach, and thus they did not understand why this word is used in the verse. The verse should not say, "Cast upon Hash-m what you give," but rather, "Cast upon Hash-m what you need (Tzorchecha)."
The incident of Rabah bar bar Chana and the Arab merchant demonstrated that the latter approach to Bitachon is the correct one. Rabah should have had to pay the Arab to carry his burden for him, but instead the Arab voluntarily suggested that Rabah cast his burden upon the Arab's camel. The use of the word "Yehav" in this incident demonstrates that the word "Yehavcha" is used in the verse to teach that Hash-m provides all the needs of the person who trusts in Him and He does not demand that the person invest his own effort into providing for his needs. Even though it was Rabah who should have asked and even paid the Arab to carry his burden, nevertheless the Arab asked Rabah to allow him to carry the burden. The Rabanan understood from that incident that when the verse uses the word "Yehavcha" it means, "Cast upon Hash-m even those things for which you should rightfully be required to give [money or effort] in order to gain." (See also DIVREI ELIYAHU, Tehilim 131:2.)
The question of the Rabanan seems to correspond to the debate among the Tana'im in Berachos (36b) about the extent to which one must develop his trait of Bitachon. The Vilna Ga'on's explanation here follows the opinion of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, who maintains that Hash-m will send provisions to the person who commits all of his time and energy to learning Torah. (Apparently, even Rebbi Yishmael -- who apparently argues with Rebbi Shimon there -- agrees that one on the spiritual level of Rebbi Shimon must develop this degree of Bitachon.)
The Vilna Ga'on there explains the verse in Mishlei (3:5), "Trust in Hash-m with all your heart (b'Chol Libecha)." He explains that one should change the order of the letters in the word "Libecha" and transform "your heart" ("Libecha" -- Lamed, Beis, Kaf) so that it is "entirely" ("ba'Kol" -- Beis, Kaf, Lamed) dedicated to the service of Hash-m. When one does so, Hash-m will bless him in return with "ba'Kol" -- all that he could possibly need.
Perhaps this is also the implication of the end of the verse quoted by the Gemara here: "Cast upon Hash-m your burden (Yehavcha) and He will provide for you (Yechalkelecha)." "Yechalkel" comes from the word "Kol" -- He will provide you with all of your needs, "ba'Kol," because you placed all of your trust in Him.
This may be the meaning of the verse which says that Hash-m blessed Avraham "ba'Kol" (Bereishis 24:1). The Midrash says, "Avraham had a daughter (i.e. a trait) named ba'Kol." That is, Avraham Avinu placed his full, unwavering trust in Hash-m and acknowledged that there is no need to put any effort into providing sustenance for oneself because Hash-m will provide for him. In return, Hash-m indeed provided Avraham with all of his needs. That verse introduces the Torah's account of how Eliezer sought a wife for Yitzchak at Avraham's behest. Why did Avraham send Eliezer to find a wife for his son, and he did not have Yitzchak go to find a wife for himself? How could Avraham be confident that Eliezer would succeed in finding a fitting match for Yitzchak? The answer is that Avraham knew that Hash-m provided him with all of his needs and that his own efforts were superfluous. It was from Avraham's expression of Bitachon that Eliezer, Avraham's servant, learned that the way to find a wife for Yitzchak was to ask Hash-m to help him and show him the proper bride in a miraculous manner, rather than to research various families and interview multiple candidates. (M. KORNFELD) (See also Insights to Rosh Hashanah 26:1.)