This past Motza’ei Shabbat, we read Megillat Esther in celebration of the holiday of Purim. The last Rambam describing the laws of the Megillah (Hilchot Megillah VeChanukah 2:18) writes, “Kol Sifrei HaNevi’im VeChol HaKetuvim Atidin Libatel LiY’mot HaMashi’ach Chutz MiMegillat Esther, VeHarei Hi Kayemet KeChamisha Chumshei Torah UKeHalachot Shel Torah SheBeAl Peh, SheEinan Beteilin LeOlam,” “In the time of Mashiach, all the books of the Nevi’im and Ketuvim will become null and void except for Megillat Esther, which will last forever and will never become nullified, like the five books of the Torah and the Oral Torah.”
I would like to share with you a beautiful message that we can learn from the Mitzvah of reading Megillah that I heard from the Rav when I was privileged to be in his Shiur. The Gemara (Megillah 3a) states “Samchu Beit Rebbi SheMevatlin Talmud Torah UVa’im LiShmo’a Mikra Megillah,” we learn from the Yeshivah of Rebbi that the Mitzvah of hearing the Megillah is so important that one must stop learning Torah in order to hear the Megillah. The Rav asked: how is it possible that the learning of Torah is stopped--if we can fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah by hearing the Keri’at HaTorah on Monday and Thursday mornings, should we not be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah by hearing the Megillah? The Rav quoted the Rashash’s and the Maharatz Chayot’s answers to this question. The Rashash explains that we have a concept of “BeRov Am Hadrat Melech,” “where there is a multitude of people there is more glory to the King” (Mishlei 14:28), with regards to the Megillah. At the Yeshivah of Rebbi there were many students, but at the Shul in the city, there were far more people. The Bitul Torah refers to the time spent traveling from the Yeshivah into the city to the Shul. Alternatively, according to the Maharatz Chayot, Rebbi missed the reading of the Megillah while the students did not. Therefore, Rebbi found himself in a dilemma when he was supposed to give Shiur: should he present Shiur and thus miss the Megillah reading, or should he hear the Megillah and cause the Bitul Torah of his students? (Everyone knows that when the Rebbe is away, the students will play.)
The Rav was not partial to either explanation, as these were the students of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, who surely would have learned while traveling to the Shul or while their Rebbe was not with them. The Rav therefore explained that when someone learns Torah at an unbefitting level to that person, it constitutes Bitul Torah. For the students of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi who could learn Mishnayot with all of the pertinent insights, learning a story that they already knew would constitute Bitul Torah. Yet, the eternal Mitzvah of Megillah is so important that learning must be stopped in order to hear it, since it teaches us that Hashem controls everything, even when He is behind the scenes and is not performing open miracles.
The Gemara (Kiddushin 40b) states that after we pass away, the first thing for which we will be punished is Divrei Torah, the quantity and quality of the Torah that we have learned. May we all learn this important message of what it means to learn Torah properly so that we can all reach our full potential in Torah learning.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Purim, fulfilling each of its four Mitzvot and gaining the strength to remember the message of the Megillah throughout the year.