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There have long been 'legends' of various liberal figures in Judaism, including Yeshayahu Leibovitz (brother of Nechama Leibovitz) that would 'skip' Purim. On the 14th of Adar they would be sure to be in Jerusalem, while on the 15th of Adar they would be sure to be outside of Jerusalem, thereby avoiding the halachic requirement of fulfilling the mitzvah of Purim. The reason given is that Purim can be perceived as an 'immoral' holiday, celebrating the murder of tens of thousands members of the Persian empire at the hands of Jews (though possibly explainable as self-defense).

a) I've seen multiple sources referring to this story, some claiming it as fact, others claiming it as fiction. Does anyone have any clear cut sources on the matter?

b) Is there any reference in halachic literature to such a practice? Is it explicitly looked down upon? How about the more general idea of putting oneself in a position in order to be exempted from a mitzvah?

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He feels he is more moral than the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah? Even if one was allowed to put oneself in a place where he would be Patur from a Mitzvah, he isn't allowed to do so if he is doing it as a protest against the "immorality" of the Torah. (IIRC, while there is no technical requirement to eat meat, the Rabbis generally disapprove of one who is vegetarian for "reasons" of Tzaar Baalei Chaim as it implies that the Torah is unethical). –  Shmuel Brin Mar 5 '12 at 0:10
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@ShmuelBrill You make a lot of unsourced sweeping claims in your comment. What if someone refuses to own a slave because he thinks it is immoral even though the Torah permits it? What about polygamy? Who are these "rabbis" who disapprove of vegetarianism? I'm a proud omnivore, and I know plenty of rabbis who are too, but some (notable Rav Kook and others) are perfectly happy with vegetarianism. Lastly, I'm not sure how you know that one's intention in avoiding purim determines its permissibility or not. So let's keep your self-righteousness out of it, shall we? –  Double AA Mar 5 '12 at 4:45
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@DoubleAA the OP said "The reason given is that Purim can be perceived as an 'immoral' holiday". All I said was that this attitude is wrong. –  Shmuel Brin Mar 5 '12 at 4:46
    
Also, any complaints anyone has against Yeshayahu Lebovitz are not related to the question. It is a fine question. +1 –  Double AA Mar 5 '12 at 4:47
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The difference, @DoubleAA, is that there's no mitzvah to own a slave. There is a mitzvah (miderabanan) to observe Purim. (And as for vegetarianism, fine, Rav Kook may be perfectly happy with it - indeed, more so, he says that it is the ideal, and thus that no animal korbanos will be brought in Moshiach's times - but does he say that this is because eating meat in the present time is an immoral thing to do? No.) –  Alex Mar 5 '12 at 5:48

2 Answers 2

There is a machlokes Rishonim about the status of a traveling Ben Ir and a Ben Kerach around Purim. According to one view (Aruch HaShulchan 688:14, the view of the Rosh), the correct procedure hinges on where one will be on the day of the 14th. If one expects to be home that evening before sunrise on the 14th, then he reads like wherever he lives (either on the 14th of the 15th), even if he doesn't actually get home. And if he doesn't plan to be home sometime on the night of the 14th (i.e. he will be in the place he is visiting for at least some daylight on the 14th), then he reads like the place he is visiting. According to this view, if one planned to be in Jerusalem on the day of the 14th, he would have to read like the custom of Jerusalem (on the 15th) no matter where he was then. So according to this view, it is not clear how one could avoid the megillah.

The other view (see Aruch HaShulchan 688:15, the view of Rashi & Rambam) states that the correct procedure hinges on whether you will be in a walled city for at least part of the daytime of the 15th, or a non-walled city for at least part of the daytime on the 14th. According to this view, one could potentially avoid Purim by planning to be in Jerusalem on the 14th.

This machlokes means it is not clear whether one could really avoid Purim (and certainly not according to all major Rishonim); thus I think the premise of the question is dubious.

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But it seems the Shulchan Aruch and on all paskin like the Rambam, so it should be possible to skip purim according to the normative view. –  Double AA Mar 5 '12 at 5:35
    
@ Double AA: Note that the Aruch HaShulchan doesn't seem to take a clear side (unlike his usual approach) which indicates to me that this is far from a "normative", well-established view. But I never denied it wasn't possible (anything is possible according to some opinion), but that based on this machlokes, making such an argument and actually paskening according to it would be difficult (and perhaps unimaginable) –  Curiouser Mar 5 '12 at 5:41
    
In other words, to pasken like the Rambam in Shulchan Aruch on the question of which day to read is easy, in that one still reads, just potentially on a different day from the ROsh; but to pasken like the Rambam to get a result where you don't read, where the Rosh would require a reading, seems extremely unlikely. Do you see the difference? –  Curiouser Mar 5 '12 at 5:47
    
He says that the Shulchan Aruch follows the Rambam and doesn't quote any later dissenters. The Mishna Berura also takes it as pashut that the SA is like the Rambam. No one has long discussions because there were no later arguments AND it wasn't really so relevant. I can also tell you that when I was in yeshiva in Israel I was told regarding traveling to/from yerushalayim the psak of the Rambam/SA as simply the psak without question and I know many Israelis in the yeshiva who were going home for day 2 in yerushalayim held of it lechatchila. I really think that is the ikar hadin. –  Double AA Mar 5 '12 at 5:50
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As one point of reference, Rav Melamed, head of the Yeshivat Har Bracha and an influential posek in Israel, explains here the issues of when to observe Purim and Shushan Purim: yeshiva.org.il/midrash/shiur.asp?id=7056 . He concludes that the majority opinion is that one's obligation is dependent on your location at the halachic time of Alot HaShachar on the day of Purim and Shushan Purim. Based on Rashi, Ritva, Ramban, Riyaz (R Yeshaya Matruni), Shulchan Aruch, the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi) and more. In fact, the Rosh is very much in the minority. –  ChaimKut Mar 6 '12 at 4:28

I've never heard of anyone purposely skipping Purim. I think that's a separate question.

But as far as the behavior of someone purposely trying to get exempted from a Mitzva, the Gemara says that someone who goes out of his way to round his four-cornered garment so he'll be exempted from the mitzva of tzitzis, when Hashem is angry, watch out. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein applied this to strongly frown upon those who might say on Sukkos: "hm I'll just choose to do a two-day trip to an amusement park for the fun of it over Chol HaMoed, and woops! I'm a traveller so I don't need a sukkah."

Similarly one of the strongest explanations for the Mishna's prohibition on getting on a boat a few days before Shabbos is it's likely (or at leased used to be likely) that when on the boat, a situation will arise in which life-threatening matters may come up, forcing a violation of Shabbos. You ideally shouldn't put yourself in such a situation.

There are a series of questions & answers relating to the various Jewish holidays that have been asked of IDF rabbis over the years; one of them was in fact "the way it turned out, I was stationed in an old city on the 14th, and a new city on the 15th, so I never heard megillah." The answer was: "well yes congratulations you've circumvented the mitzvah altogether, but doing so should be avoided if at all possible."

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And yet, ever gadol in America has no problem finding reasons to avoid living in Israel. Clearly, you can't apply this rule to all mitzvot equally. –  avi Mar 5 '12 at 7:24
    
@Avi, if we view yishuv eretz yisrael as a kiyumis (or positive only as it enables other mitzvas), it's the difference between: "status quo I'm obligated now I'll try to get out of it", and "status quo I'm not obligated, should I go put myself in a position to become obligated" –  Shalom Mar 5 '12 at 13:23
    
status quo is that the person will be in Jeruselem on the 14th and outside of Jeruselem on the 15th... –  avi Mar 5 '12 at 15:41
    
@avi I agree that according to this purim is kiyumis. I disagree that there aren't valid reasons for someone to live in Chu"l and especially for a gadol. Bnei Chu"l need poskim and leaders too and I think it is assur for the gedolim to abandon their people (like a captain on a ship doesn't leave till the end, even if it means risking not getting out). –  Double AA Mar 5 '12 at 19:56
    
Technically, it's not "getting out" of a mitzvah. The obligation of the mitzvah never begins. See my answer over here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/15084/1095 When four-cornered garments were normal, cutting off a corner to avoid tzitzit was actively removing from a mitzvah that was obligatory upon you already. Now that nearly all Western clothing has no corners, if you don't wear a special four-cornered undershirt, your mitzvah of tzitzit has not even begun. –  user1095 Mar 12 '12 at 11:41

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