The Mishna (Megillah 2:3) in today’s daf (Megillah 19a) records a debate between Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosi about the quantity of the Megillah text which must be read to fulfil the religious duty of מקרא מגילה.
According to Rabbi Meir, the entire text of the Megillah must be read. According to Rabbi Yehuda, as long as the reading begins from Esther 2:5 (אִישׁ יְהוּדִי הָיָה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה), one has fulfilled their duty. According to Rabbi Yosi, as long as the reading begins from Esther 3:1 (אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה), one has fulfilled their duty. Beyond this, the Gemara later cites a Beraita recording a fourth opinion of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who states that as long as the reading begins from Esther 6:1 (בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא), one has fulfilled their duty.
Overall, each opinion seems to be making the argument that, given that the essence of reading the Megillah is all about פרסומי ניסא (publicizing the Purim miracle), then which section of the Megillah is truly essential in conveying the miracle of Purim? According to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the essential section begins once Achashverosh honours Mordechai for previously saving his life which occurs after Esther’s first banquet. According to Rabbi Yosi, it is once Haman is promoted and when Mordechai refuses to bow down to him. According to Rabbi Yehuda, it begins once we are introduced to Mordechai and Esther. While according to Rabbi Meir, the miracle of Purim begins from the first verse of the story where we read about the banquet of Achashverosh’s banquet. Significantly, we are subsequently informed that the halacha follows Rabbi Meir.
Yet, as Rav Soloveitchik asks (as recorded in ‘MiPeninei HaRav’ p. 366), the insistence of requiring that we read the entire Megillah is perplexing – for what possible importance can there be in reading the section of the story about a drunken king who makes a banquet, and what possible lessons can be drawn from this part of the story?
Rav Soloveitchik answers by explaining that the miracle of Purim is neither explicit nor sudden. Instead, it takes place through the divine coordination of natural events over a period of time during which various seemingly insignificant events slowly come together to bring about a remarkable outcome. On this basis, he explains that by insisting that we follow the position of Rabbi Meir, we learn that when it comes to hidden miracles, even the smallest of details make a difference.
In terms of the application of this message to our own lives, we often fall into the trap of thinking that the small things that we are doing isn’t making a big difference, and in some instances, this feeling can even lead us to the decision to stop trying. But what we often don’t understand in the moment is that even the smallest of things that we do can lay the foundation towards a remarkable outcome. In fact, it was in this spirit that – just yesterday – I contacted someone who is doing important work in our community but who I suspected was in need of some chizuk in light of the events of the past week, and simply let them know how much I respect, admire and appreciate the work that they do.
Given all this, the lesson I draw from our Mishna is that it is important to remember that what we do can matter, what we do does matter, and that even the seemingly smallest of our actions have the potential of contributing to a story – to be told in the future – of our salvation and redemption.