Megilah 23 - 32
- Sources for the number of men called to the Torah on regular and special days
- Who can be called to the Torah and details about maftir
- Things that require a minyan
- How many passages must be read and rules about skipping
- Why the one called for maftir leads the Mussaf service
- Light for the blind and kohanim unfit to bless
- Improper attitudes to prayer and to wearing tefillin
- Improper prayers and interpretations of Torah
- Torah and Prophets readings which are not translated for public
- What is done with funds received from selling synagogues and sacred objects
- Was Jerusalem divided among the tribes
- Taking down one synagogue to build another and selling one Sefer Torah to buy another
- Comparative sanctity of a place of learning and a place of prayer
- More rules governing sale of a synagogue
- Merits that gained long life for a number of Sages
- How to relate to a synagogue in ruins
- Contrast of Sages in Eretz Yisrael and those in Babylon
- Of eulogies, funerals and the Divine Presence with Jews in their exiles
- The four special Torah readings in the Purim-Pesach season
- The Torah and Haftara readings on holidays and special days
- The voice from Heaven
- Rules regarding the rolling and lifting of the Sefer Torah and the blessings made by the one called to the Torah
When Torah Study is Put Aside
- Megilah 29a
Burying the dead is such an important mitzvah that it, like making a wedding possible, requires one to even put aside his Torah study in order to fulfill it.
This rule, which appears both here and in an earlier part of our mesechta (Megilah 3b), raises a question in regard to the following story related in one of the minor tractates (Mesechta Derech Eretz Zuta, Chapter 8).
Rabbi Akiva once came upon a Jewish corpse in a place where there was no one around to bury it and no place to do so in a nearby cemetery. He therefore carried the body the distance of four mil (approximately four kilometers) to a Jewish cemetery.
When he subsequently related his experience to his teachers, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer, they criticized what he assumed was a heroic deed.
"Every step you took," they told him, "was equivalent to shedding innocent blood!"
On the surface it seems that their criticism was directed at his taking off so much time from his Torah study. But this would be counter to what we quoted above from our gemara.
Tosefot solves the problem by pointing out that although Torah study may be put aside to play a necessary role in the burial of any dead Jew, even when the death took place in a populated area, there is a special rule in regard to a met mitzvah, a corpse found in an unpopulated area. That body need not be transported to a distant cemetery and should be buried where it was found.
Rabbi Akiva was thus not at fault for taking time from his Torah study but for failing to accord that body the honor it deserved of being buried where death had taken place.
What the Sages Say
"The Houses of Prayer and Houses of Torah Study in Babylon (and everywhere else – Maharsha) will eventually be relocated in Eretz Yisrael."
- Rabbi Eliezer Hakapar - Megilah 29a