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Walled Cities

Walled Cities

Why Jerusalem celebrates a day later

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The battles fought between the Jews and their enemies throughout the Persian empire took place on 13 Adar. Around the world, the Jews rested and celebrated on the following day—14 Adar. In the capital city of Shushan, however, where there were a greater number of Jew-haters, the fighting continued for two days, 13 and 14 Adar. The victory celebrations in Shushan were thus held on the 15th.

When the holiday of Purim was set for the 14th of Adar, the sages instituted that Shushan residents perpetually observe Purim on the 15th of Adar—the day when the Shushanite Jews celebrated. The 15th of Adar is hence known as “Shushan Purim.”

Along with Shushan (which is located in modern-day southwestern Iran), all cities that were walled at the time when the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, entered Canaan, observe Purim on the 15th.1

Today, the only city that we are certain had walls in Joshua’s times is JerusalemToday, the only city that we are certain had walls in Joshua’s times is Jerusalem.2 And indeed, in the holy city, Purim is festively celebrated one day after all other cities.3 There are a number of other ancient cities in Israel, such as Jaffa and Tiberias, regarding which there is a reasonable doubt whether they were walled in Joshua’s times. These cities observe two days of Purim.

Three-Day Purim

The 14th of Adar—the “regular Purim”—can never fall on Shabbat, but the 15th of Adar can. For the residents of Jerusalem, this results in the unique phenomenon of a “triple” or three-day Purim. Because a number of the Purim mitzvot cannot be performed on Shabbat, the observances are spread over a period of three days.

Friday:

Megillah reading,4 night and day. Gifts to the poor during the daylight hours of Friday.5

Shabbat:

The Purim VeAl HaNissim is added to all the day’s prayers and Grace After Meals. The maftir of the day is the Torah reading for Purim, and for the haftorah we repeat the story of Saul and Amalek—that was read last week on Parshat Zachor.

Sunday:

We send mishloach manot,6 and enjoy the Purim feast7 during the daylight hours of Sunday.

Solidarity with Jerusalem

“It would therefore be fitting and good, very good, that on this Sunday [when Jerusalemites celebrate the ‘third day of Purim’] Jews everywhere should add in joyful activities: words of Torah (which ‘gladden the heart’), gladdening other Jews with a feeling of love, and, if fitting or necessary, through sending mishloach manot and giving gifts to the poor . . .

“And through this all to further unite with Jerusalem, to which we turn daily during the course of every prayer: ‘And they will pray to G‑d by way of the city that You chose’8—chosen and given to each and every Jew forever, an eternal inheritance.”9

FOOTNOTES
1.

“Why did the [sages] make it contingent on Joshua’s time? In order to give honor to Israel, which was in ruins at the time [of the Purim miracle]. So that they [in cities of Israel] shall read [the megillah] as do the residents of Shushan . . . and there will be some symbolic connection to the Land of Israel in the miracle” (Maimonides, Laws of Megillah 1:5).

2.

The exact location of the ancient city of Shushan is also uncertain.

3.

Purim is also observed on the 15th in all locales that are adjacent to a walled city—such as all the Jerusalem neighborhoods that are outside the walled old city.

4.

The megillah is not read on Shabbat, for the same reason that we don’t blow the shofar or take the Four Kinds on Shabbat: for fear that a person will carry the megillah/​shofar​/Four Kinds in the public domain. And Sunday is not an option, because the Talmud derives from the book of Esther that the 15th of Adar is the latest date for the megillah reading.

5.

This mitzvah is performed on Friday because “the eyes of the poor are lifted at the reading of the megillah [to receive charity]” (Talmud, Megillah 4b).

6.

One of the reasons for mishloach manot is to ensure that all have food for the Purim feast. As such, the food packages are sent on the same day as the feast.

7.

We cannot have the Purim feast on Shabbat, because it would be indistinguishable from the regular Shabbat meals. We therefore do a “makeup” feast on a later date.

8.

I Kings 8:44.

9.

From a public letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 11 Adar II 5741 (1981).

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor, and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Chaya Mushka and their three children.
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Discussion (6)
March 17, 2014
Purim shows us that G-d is always protecting Jews
The Purim Megilla shows us that G-d is always protecting Jews, and sometimes in a "hidden" manner, but nevertheless--definitely with us. That is why, in the Megillah Esther/Purim, G-d is not mentioned even once--but one can readily see, from the unfolding of events, that Hashem is protecting us against our enemies. Early in the Megillah, it looks "bad" for the Jews, as Hamen plots to destroy them by casting "pur" or lots. Yet at the end, the King decrees that Hamen is hung on the very same gallows he meant for Mordecai, and Mordecai receives the blessing and high honors from the king, which Hamen had planned for himself! The Megilla shows us that although G-d is not mentioned even once, in the Megilla, nevertheless, G-d works "behind the scenes", protecting Jews from devastation, while heaping devastation upon Jews' enemies. This teaches us to always have great faith, in the midst of a problem, that Hashem loves and protects His beloved Jewish people.
Chaya Blitzer
Hamden, CT/USA
chabadofhamden.com
March 4, 2014
vered yericho
As mentioned in the article, the only city that we know for sure should celebrate on the 15th is Jerusalem. The reason for this is, because although we may be certain that a city was walled at the time of Joshua, there is no way of knowing if the modern-day city is in exactly the same location as the ancient walled city was. Those cities, such as Tiberias, Lod and Jaffa, therefore celebrate both days, because it is impossible to determine.
Jericho, however, is unique.
When the Jewish people conquered Jericho, they did so by causing the walls to sink into the ground, and Joshua continued to decree that the walls never be rebuilt. It comes out then that the city of Jericho was never a walled city inhabited by Jews, because by the time they settled in it the walls had fallen.
It would therefore appear that the Megillah only be read on the 14th of Adar, like a regular unwalled city.
Shaul Wolf
Brooklyn
March 3, 2014
I hope to be in Vered Yericho this Purim. It is just outside the city of Jericho. What day should I be celebrating?
David
Vered Yericho
March 10, 2012
Ancient cities
What is most troubling for me about being Jewish is becoming aware of the hatred towards Jews in the past as well as today.
Anonymous
March 9, 2012
Ancient cities
I was wondering. Are any new cities building walls around themselves. Why should only the ancient ones get to have all the fun ?
Anonymous
February 26, 2012
ancient walled cities
What is known about the possiblity that the wall around Budapest is as old as Yerushalayim or Shushan? I read about this but can not locate the article.
yy
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