Why are the Dates of Purim Celebrations dependent on the
Purim is different from all other
Jewish holidays in at least one very interesting aspect. Purim
is observed in some places exclusively on the 14th of Adar and
in others, exclusively on the 15th (Shushan Purim). The
specific day on which Purim is celebrated depends on the
localtion; in places where Purim is celebrated on the
fourteenth, it is not celebrated on the fifteenth and vice
The original observance of Purim as a festival was
established by the Sages and the Prophets who decreed that it be
observed in every generation, as we read in the Megillah: To
establish these days of Purim at their appropriate time (9:31).
They explained: "these days…. at their appropriate
time", i.e., the time appropriate for one [city] is not
appropriate for the other [city].
Why were different days established as Purim in different
cities? Why wasn't one day chosen as Purim in all cities, just
as other festivals are celebrated on the same day in every city?
We find that even in the times of Mordechai and Esther, Purim
was celebrated on a different day in Shushan than in the other
cities. In all other cities, the battle took place on the
thirteenth of Adar and the people rested and celebrated on the
fourteenth of Adar. In Shushan however, the battle took place on
the thirteenth and fourteenth of Adar and the people rested and
celebrated only on the fifteenth.
It was therefore proper that only the city of Shushan should
celebrate on the fifteenth of Adar, for it was only there that
Purim was celebrated on that day. The Sages of that era,
however, wished to accord honor to Jerusalem and to the Land of
Israel which was desolate at the time.
They therefore issued the following ruling: Shushan ? where
the miracle occurred ? has an importance of its own and
celebrates Purim on the fifteenth, even though it was not
settled and thus did not have a surrounding wall at the time of
Yehoshua bin Nun (Joshua). Other cities which were settled and
had walls at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun, even if they are in a
state of ruin and are no longer surrounded by walls, are
considered to be important. They are therefore accorded the
status of Shushan and celebrate Purim on the fifteenth. Cities
which did not have surrounding walls at the time of Yehoshua bin
Nun ? even if they have walls surrounding them today ? are to
celebrate Purim on the fourteenth of Adar.
The criteria for judging whether a city is given the status
of Shushan or not ?regarding celebrating Purim on the fifteenth
rather than the fourteenth ? is thus linked to the state of that
city at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. Its present state is not
taken into account; i.e., even if the cities in the Land of
Israel were desolate at the time that Purim was established, the
fact that they were settled and surrounded by walls when
Yehoshua bin Nun conquered the Land of Israel gives them an
importance which makes them equivalent to Shushan. Their present
state of destruction [i.e., at the time when the Sages
established Purim] is considered to be temporary.
As regards cities outside the Land of Israel: Even though
they may be considered important and may be surrounded by walls
today, since they were not important at the time of Yehoshua bin
Nun, they are not given the status of Shushan, and Purim is
celebrated on the fourteenth.
Hence, the Purim which is celebrated on the fourteenth of
Adar is referred to as Purim of the "open" [i.e.,
unwalled, or less important] cities, whereas the Purim which is
celebrated on the fifteenth is referred to as Purim of the
walled (major cities).
Today, the only city in which Purim is celebrated on the
fifteenth of Adar ? besides Shushan ? is Jerusalem. Although the
Me illah is also read on the fifteenth of Adar in a number of
other cities in the Land of Israel: Acre, Jaffa, and Tiberias,
this is only a custom based on the possibility that they may
have been surrounded by walls at the time of Joshua. These
cities celebrate Purim on the fourteenth; the additional
Megillah reading on the fifteenth is a stringency based on doubt
as to their status and thus, they do not recite the blessings
when reading on the fifteenth.