כ״ז בתמוז ה׳תשע״ד (July 25, 2014)

Megilla 14a-b: Forty-Eight Prophets

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana taught: When King Ahashverosh removed his ring and transferred the power over the Jews to Haman (see Esther 3:10), it brought about greater repentance among the Jews than all of the 48 prophets that had been sent by God to admonish them.

Who are the 48 Nevi’im referred to by Rabbi Abba bar Kahana?

Rashi has one set of suggestions that reaches 46 individuals and closes with the admission that there are two that he cannot identify. Among the prophets he mentions are the Avot: Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’akov. Rabbeinu Hananel offers an alternative list that begins with Moshe and Aharon and closes with Mordekhai Balshan of the Megilla.

The commentaries discuss the various Biblical figures that might be considered for inclusion on this list, and in particular the identity of the two individuals that should fill out Rashi’s list. Some figures are the subject of clear dispute in the Gemara. Daniel, for example, is said by the Gemara to have not been a prophet, yet he appears in some of the lists. Among the suggestions raised are Shem vaEver and Eldad uMedad.

According to the baraita, the only thing that these nevi’im added to the Torah was the commandment of Purim, i.e. the reading of Megillat Esther. Rashi points out that there is an additional commandment – the mitzva to light Hanukkah candles. He answers that Hanukkah was established by , rather than by the prophets, which puts it in a different category of halakha. The Ran explains this position by pointing out that Rabbinic decrees are always established for the purpose of protecting Biblical commandments, or ensuring that they will be properly fulfilled. Reading the Megilla is unique in that it is an independent celebration. Tosafot Ri”d offers a simple explanation – that the intent of the baraita is to say that no public readings of the Tanakh were added aside from reading the Megilla.

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