Reflections on Masechet Megillah
A common theme throughout both the Megillah story and Masechet Megillah is lack of obvious Halachic significance. The only way we can accept the adavistic Halakhic portions and aggadetah, it seems, is if we can attribute it Halachic importance. But maybe the significance of these portions of Masechet Megillah isn’t Halachic at all?
Let us consider one of the more recent tangents the Masechet spends quite some time on that we also might be able to relate to as women: The discussion about the seven female neviot, one of whom is Esther, still doesn’t seem to directly contribute to discussion about reading Megillah or any of the Purim-related mitzvot:
The Gemara says that we know Sarah was a neviah because her nickname Yiskah suggests she had ruach hakodesh and Hashem told Avraham to always listen to her. We know Miriam was a neviah because she foretold Moshe’s birth, etc. So if one were to argue that tangents are only natural in a compilation of rabbinic conversations, these points would be acceptable. But the Gemara mentions also some of the women’s behavior, like Avigail’s practice of confirming with a gadol that the blood she found was really her period. Why is this important after the Gemara already proved that she is a neviah—by pointing to her foretelling of David’s sin with Batsheva—which is itself a tangent?
To answer this question, I’d like to point to Bereshit Perek Alef, which we all know is the story of Creation. Rashi, who values Halckhic relevance like we do, asks why the Torah, supposedly a book of laws, begins with a story, and not with the first mitzvah, Rosh Chodesh? Discussion then begins among the commentators about what kind of book the Torah really is—law-book, life-guide, book of metaphors, book of model-characters, etc: A discussion that really doesn’t have one solution. One answer is that the Torah’s significance is not only Halachic.
I’d like to suggest that the topic of neviot in Massekhet Megillah is an example of also the Gemara having personal, social relevance in addition to Halachic. The seemingly unnecessary information about the neviot points to certain behavior we are to mimic. Maybe the portion about Avigail’s behavior points to a certain thoughtful, careful manner we are supposed to have when doing mitzvot.
But is everyone supposed to act the way a Navi does? In other words, is this specific example of neviot really significant to my life? Possible answers from our massekhet are:
(1) The fact that one should heed the blessings/curses even of a normal person shows that yes, normal people do parallel neviim.
(2) The fact that we read megillah at all (and Tanach and other Megillot) suggests that we value the way our forefathers deal with their lives, which suggests we should glean from the way they deal with their lives.
I like this approach to Temple-related Halacha and aggadetah because I get meaning from my learning when I can apply, or at least relate, it to my life. So I hope this makes you think about how you can apply not just the strictly Halachic portions, rather the whole Gemara, to your every day life.