Bavli, M'gila 5 amud 2, cites a doubt as to when the m'gila is read in T'verya: on the fourteenth of Adar, as in most places, or on the fifteenth, as in a city walled since the time of Y'hoshua. The doubt arises because T'verya is walled except for its sea-facing side: is that side considered walled, since it's protected, or not, since it is open to the outside? In fact, as codified in Mishna B'rura 688:9, T'verya reads the m'gila both days, for this reason.

So a sea-facing side is a doubtful wall.

Consider Manhattan. Assume for the sake of argument that it's been an island since the time of Y'hoshua. Then it's been doubtfully walled since the time of Y'hoshua and so should read both days. Yet I've never heard of anyone reading two days in Manhattan — or on any other island.

  • Why not?
    • Is it perhaps because the city must have been inhabited since the time of Y'hoshua? If so, is that rule stated anywhere? I've never heard of it. And then what about the island-city of Kythnos, which has been inhabited that long? If Jews settle there, would they read both days?
  • Do any halachic opinions maintain that islands (that have been islands since the time of Y'hoshua) should read both days?
  • I was pretty sure that the doubt(like with Tzefat) was whether it was walled CITY since the time of Yehoshua. Nevermind Chazal having some problems with history(Tveria didn't exist before 20CE). Manhatten certainly wasn't in the time of Yehoshua. For cities that are certain, they don't read on two days, just one(Shushan Purim). Apr 5, 2013 at 10:29
  • There is a custom in Akko to read on both days
    – Epicentre
    Apr 7, 2013 at 4:12
  • @Epicentre, there's a list at judaism.stackexchange.com/a/14966. Were you clarifying or correcting something I wrote, or recommending an improvement to my post?
    – msh210
    Apr 7, 2013 at 6:38
  • 1
    Clarifying. Akko also has sea (without a wall) on one side.
    – Epicentre
    Apr 7, 2013 at 8:27
  • 1
    Note also that Manhattan has Wall Street.
    – Double AA
    Mar 3, 2015 at 19:06

3 Answers 3


I gave a Shiur on this last year. Here is my summary of the reasons to be lenient. Much of this is based on a piece in קובץ פרי תמרים אדר תשמ"ז by Rav Ezriel Kahn. (Its also worth looking up the תשובה מאהבה חלק א' סי' ר"י.)

1) Rav Chaim Kanievsky - Because of the changing of the tides and shorelines and the like we don’t really know whether it was surrounded by water (he actually said whether it even existed) during the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun.

דולה ומשקה סוף עמ' רמ"ה – "שאלה: אם יש אי בים, האם תלוי בספק הגמ' בימה של טבריה האם הוי חומה, ויקראו בט"ו מספק. תשובה: יתכן שלא הי' אי בימי יב"נ ורק אח"כ העלה הים שרטון".

Interestingly, the Geography of Manhattan has changed drastically. Marble Hill used to be connected to Manhattan before it was connected to the Bronx and the Rest of North American mainland but it was possible to wade from the mainland to Marble Hill. I haven't found a source that tells us whether water that you could wade through counts as a wall. Also, although its clear the Native Americans waded through that water I did not find any sources as to what things had been like during the times of Yehoshua Bin Nun.

2) There is also a Machlokes whether walled cities in Chutz La’aretz qualify.

ר"ן מגילה ריש ב. בדפי הרי"ף - ואיכא מ"ד דכיון דבמוקפין חומה תלינן ביהושע דוקא בארץ אבל בחו"ל אפי' מוקפין חומה מימות יהושע קורין בי"ד מה ענין יהושע בחו"ל ועוד דבגמרא אמרינן דילפינן פרזי פרזי כתיב הכא היושבים בערי הפרזות וכתיב התם לבד מערי הפרזי מה להלן מוקפות דידהו מימות יהושע אף כאן מוקפות דידהו מימות יהושע ולבד מערי הפרזי בארץ ישראל כתיב

We do Pasken cities in Chutz La’aretz qualify, but you can still use it as a Snif.

3) Rav Moshe Feinstein (Mesores Moshe Vol. 2 O.C. #327) points out that It probably wasn’t dwelled at the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun and many hold it has to have been dwelled in at that time to qualify.

4) Even if it was dwelled (the Lenape Indians may have been in Manhattan then. Its not clear) it’s possible that they didn’t live in the whole thing (the Lenape Indians generally lived in groups of 25-50 people and never in groups bigger than 300. That doesn't take up a particularly significant percentage of Manhattan). For example, Australia doesn’t qualify as a walled city, or more extreme, the Americas don’t qualify because the wall isn’t specifically around the city.

5) We may not Pasken like Chizkiah. The Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, Tur, Rif, and Rosh all don’t bring the Din of Yamah Chomasah (possibly because we Pasken that we do learn out from Batei Arei Chomah/because we Pasken like Rebbi based on one of the final two answers and therefore Teveriah reads on 14th), the first big name to bring it is the Magen Avraham.

תשובה מאהבה חלק א' סי' ר"י - ולכאורה צ"ע דהרי"ף והרמב"ם והרא"ש והטור וש"ע השמיטו הך ספיקא דחזקי' אם הים חשוב חומה זולת המג"א סי' תרפ"ח סק"ד מביאו להלכה פסוקה וכו' .

6) Even if we do, it’s likely only a Middas Chassidus (based on the Geonim, unlike the Rambam).

ר"ן על הרי"ף מגילה סוף ב. - ולענין עיירות המסופקות אם הן מוקפין חומה מימות יהושע בן נון או לא הורו הגאונים ז"ל שהולכין בהן אחר רוב עיירות שרובן אינן מוקפות חומה מימות יהושע וקורין בהן בי"ד ועוד שאפילו תאמר שהוא ספק שקול ה"ל ספק של דבריהם ולקולא ונמצא פטורות בשניהם ומבטל ממנו בודאי מקרא מגילה לפיכך קורא בראשון ופטור בשני ודאמרינן בגמרא [דף ה ב] אטבריא והוצל שהיו קורין בהן בארבעה עשר ובחמשה עשר במדת חסידות היו נוהגין כן משום ספקא דטבריא דתליא במגניא ומכסיא ובהוצל מפני שהיו נחלקין בה בקבלתו זה אומר מוקפת וזה אומר אינה מוקפת והיו קורין בלא ברכה דספק דדבריהם לא בעי ברוכי כדאיתא בפרק במה מדליקין [דף כג א] אלא שראוי לברך בארבעה עשר מפני שהולכין אחר רוב העולם והרמב"ם ז"ל כתב בפרק ה' מהלכות מגילה עיר שהיא ספק קורין בה בשני הימים ובליליהן אבל אין מברכין על קריאתה אלא בי"ד הואיל והוא זמן קריאה לרוב העולם:

7) The Maggid Mishneh brings that some hold that the whole concept of reading on the 15th if you are unsure if the city was walled during the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun may not apply outside of Eretz Yisrael. Although the Maggid Mishneh himself feels that you should follow the Rambam this as well may be used a Snif.

ויש מי שכתב שלא חשו לספק זה אלא בא''י שהיו עריהם ידועות בשעת התקנה מחמת דין בית בבתי ערי חומה אבל בח''ל מעיקרא כך התקינו שכל שהוא ספק לא יקראו אלא בי''ד.

8) Rav Moshe Feinstein (Mesores Moshe Vol. 2 O.C. #327) also mentions that it is possible that water may only be able to be a fourth side, but if it is surrounded by water on all sides and there are no walls whatsoever, that may not count as a walled city.

I do just want to point out that if you'd be Machmir on Manhattan there would be room to be Machmir (should you so desire) on Queens, Brooklyn, Passaic, Bronx, Monsey, and more depending how you hold about Nireh and Samuch. However:

a. The Birkei Yosef says that any city that we’re Mesupak on whether it is walled or not doesn’t have a Din of Samuch.

  • ברכי יוסף אורח חיים סימן תרפ"ח אות ט'

אם בכרך קרו בי"ד וט"ו מספק, הכפרים הנראים וסמוכים קרו בי"ד, דלא אמרו דהם ככרך אלא כשהכרך קרו בט"ו לבד, אבל אם הכרך עצמו מסופק, הנראה וסמוך קרו בי"ד. הרב משאת משה בתשו' הנז'. והכי מסתברא, דכיון דאעיקרא הא דסמוך ונראה חידוש הוא למגילה, משא"כ בבתי ערי חומה, כמש"ל. תסגי לן ודאן, דקרו בט"ו לחוד, לדרוש סמוכים כמשפטן, אבל היכא דכרכים גופייהו יספוק עלימו, הסמוך ונראה דינן כעיירות דעלמא.

b. Many Poskim explain the R that the Din of Samuch/Nir’eh only applies to a small city that’s secondary to a big city.

ריטב"א ב. סוף ד"ה כרכים המוקפין חומה מיב"ן קורין בט"ו

והכא נמי כל היכא דמגנו ויש בה צד הקף חומה מיב"ן עשאוה כמוקפ' גמורה כגון כרך והסמוך לו דכיון דסמוך לכרך מוקף ומגנו בתוכו בעת צרה ובהדי הדדי קיימי ומשתתפי דינא הוא דליקרו הדי הדדי

  • All the Rishonim not quoting Chizkia supports Teveria reading on the 15th not 14th. That seems to be the conclusion of the Yerushalmi. Chizkia just had a personal Chumra.
    – Double AA
    Feb 24, 2019 at 6:41
  • 1
    So, let’s say, theoretically, we have evidence that a certain island A) had its current borders in the times of Yehoshua bin Nun, and B) was inhabited in its entirety at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. Are you saying that’s sufficient for them to read on the 15th?
    – DonielF
    Feb 24, 2019 at 19:41
  • @DonielF No. See points 5 through 8 (and 2 for Chutz La'aretz).
    – Eliyahu
    Feb 19, 2021 at 3:27
  • Related.
    – msh210
    May 6 at 5:44

First the doubt is not whether Tiberias was walled, or not, it is a matter of whether Tiberias was settled from before the days of Yeshoshua Bin Nun this seen clearly on page 6a of the same Gemarra(English for those who need it). The Beit Yosef brings this in 688:4. There he brings the Rambam who says the sofek is whether it was walled from the days of Joshua(not whether or not it was walled). He also quotes the Gemarra in question.
The footnotes of the Tur HaMaor(number 1 on that page) say that there is a machloket in the Gemarra as what made the sofek, whether it was the sea as a wall(which is one option). The other option is that Tiberias is another city mentioned as walled(or not) in the book of Joshua. Assuming for now that it is the sea that causes the sofek, natural barriers(such as mountains and other things, which would also be a see) are spoken of in 688:2 of the Shulhan Arukh(as well as the Tur and Beit Yosef). One of the issues we see there is that the natural barrier cannot be more then a mil from what was settled in the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun. See the Mishneh Berurra seif katan 7 for further discussion on the distance. So to answer your question. Manhatten was not settled(by anyone) in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun. If the Mishnah Berurra didn't consider Europe settled in those days, certainly North America was not either. Kythnos, would technically be possible, if the city covered enough of the island that no edge of it was more than a mil from the Ocean. However looking at maps, it seems to actually a collection of small villages on a rather large island, and thus also would not work.

  • 1
    I don't see, on 6:1, any indication that whether T'verya was settled is at issue in deciding when to read there; and the g'mara I quoted in the question clearly says that what's at issue is whether it's considered walled. On another note, there's no mention of Jews in MB 688:9. −1.
    – msh210
    Apr 5, 2013 at 17:17
  • They are arguing over which city it is, which means they are not sure whether it is one of cities that is mentioned as walled in Joshua or not. I removed the piece about Jews, because I simply don't have the time to prove it out from the sources. Instead I substituted the Beit Yosef's understanding, and the footnotes of the Tur HaMaor. Apr 6, 2013 at 16:56
  • 1
    @msh210 PS when sourcing the Talmud, correct reference is number letter(i.e. 2a, 2b ect). When sourcing Mishnah correct reference is number colon number(i.e. 2:1, 2:2 ect). You don't have to do that if you don't want to, but since it is the agreed referencing both in the Rabbinic and Acadmic scholarly circles, it can be quite confusing when not followed. Apr 6, 2013 at 17:14
  • Re page references, in rabbinic circles it's 2 ע‎"1 (or, I suppose, b ע‎"a, but that seems the less reasonable way to read it). Re distance, I don't see the relevance of the rule of "close" (which determines whether a small city is considered as connected to a large one and can, as you note, be blocked by natural barriers) to here.
    – msh210
    Apr 7, 2013 at 1:44
  • @msh210 Please show any Rabbi who in English writes 2:1 as a page reference for Talmud. Re:disstance, that is the halakha. IF the natural barrier is more than a mil away it does not constitute a wall. Apr 7, 2013 at 1:54

I would assume that even if the sea is considered part of the wall, that would only be in a case that there was a human-erected protective wall that took advantage of the sea on one side.

However, a completely natural barrier would presumably not have the status of a walled city even if it would be considered a barrier for carrying on שבת. The logic would be that the wall needs to be an integral feature of the city. A natural formation is not related to the city perse.

  • Your argument is plausible, but, if you'll excuse me, I think not very strong: my question seems stronger to me. (Of course, it's mine, so that's part of why.) Also, if what you say is true, then I suspect someone has said so in writing at some time since the Talmud was written.
    – msh210
    Mar 7, 2017 at 21:11
  • @msh210 By that logic no one can ever propose a solution to any question because no body ever thought of it. It would also mean that your question is invalid because nobody came up with that either. Of course if I had support I would quote it, but I have not done a thorough investigation to determine if there is anyone who contemplates this question. Mar 8, 2017 at 15:08
  • I wouldn't say "if what you say is true, then I suspect someone has said so in writing at some time since the Talmud was written" about everything that one might think of nowadays. But your restriction ("that the wall needs to be an integral feature of the city"), leniency (that that integrality needs to be only for part of the wall), and categorization (that a "natural formation" is not an integral feature) -- or at least the first 2 of those -- affect halacha in so many cases that I suspect someone must've said them before now. (Which may in fact be true: maybe someone has said them.)
    – msh210
    Mar 8, 2017 at 15:16
  • @msh210 We have clear halachic precedence that islands do not have any status of a walled city, as you yourself have noted. So, all I am attempting is to justify why no one ever entertained this possibility. Mar 8, 2017 at 15:24

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