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Peninei Halakha > Zemanim > 15 - Purim and Reading the Megillah > 06. When to Read the Megilla

06. When to Read the Megilla

One must read the Megilla at night and again during the day, to commemorate the fact that the Jews cried out to God in their time of need during the day and at night (Megilla 4a; Rashi ad loc.).

The nighttime Megilla reading may take place at any point during the night – from tzeit to alot ha-shaĥar – while the daytime reading may take place an time during the day – from sunrise (and be-di’avad, from alot ha-shaĥar) until shki’a. However, the zealous perform mitzvot promptly, reading the Megilla at night immediately after Ma’ariv and during the day immediately after Shaĥarit (sa 687:1, 693:1, 693:4).

One may not eat or sleep before reading the Megilla at night. Studying Torah, however, is permissible. One who finds it difficult to extend Ta’anit Esther until after the Megilla reading may drink beforehand, on condition that he avoids intoxicating drinks. Similarly, one who is very hungry may eat a snack before Megilla reading. That is, he may eat as much fruit as he wants and up to an egg’s volume (kebeitza) of grain-based (mezonot) foods (sa 232:3, mb ad loc. 35; Rema 692:4, ma ad loc. 7, mb ad loc. 14-15).

The same laws apply to the daytime reading. However, since this reading takes place immediately after Shaĥarit, one must also be careful about all the prohibitions that apply prior to Shaĥarit, which are more stringent. Nonetheless, one who already prayed Shaĥarit and has yet to hear the Megilla should not eat before fulfilling the mitzva. Under pressing circumstances, however, one may eat a snack before hearing the Megilla. Likewise, a woman may not eat before hearing the Megilla. If she is very hungry, she may eat a snack, but not a full meal (mb 692:15-16; in a time of very great need, she may ask someone to remind her to hear the Megilla, and then she may eat a full meal before the reading).

Some of the greatest Rishonim maintain that the mitzva of reading the Megilla and publicizing the miracle is primarily fulfilled during the day, like all the other mitzvot of Purim. Therefore, one must be more meticulous about the daytime reading and make an even greater effort to read it in the presence of a large group of people, or at least a minyan.[5]

[5]. See Megilla 4a and Berur Halakha ad loc. Tosafot and Rosh ad loc. state that the mitzva of reading the Megilla and publicizing the miracle is primarily fulfilled during the day. According to Ran, the villagers who read earlier – on the “day of assembly,” i.e., the Monday or Thursday before Purim – do not have to read the Megilla at night at all. Rashba and Ritva maintain that the enactment was for the villagers to read the Megilla on the day of assembly with a minyan, while they would read it at night in their hometowns without a minyan. The only point of disagreement between Rashba and Ritva is which night the villagers would read the Megilla: Rashba maintains that they would read it on the night before the day of assembly, whereas Ritva maintains that they would read it on the night of Purim itself. Noda Bi-Yehuda 1:41 and Turei Even, Megilla 4a state that the law of the daytime reading is mi-divrei kabbala, while the nighttime reading is merely a rabbinic decree. Yabi’a Omer, oĥ 1:43:13 suggests that Ohel Mo’ed, Or Zaru’a, and Ran share this opinion. However, according to Roke’aĥ, Rashba, and Ritva, the nighttime reading is also mi-divrei kabbala (though a minyan is not required at night, because the miracle is publicized primarily during the day). Rambam and sa seemingly maintain that there is no difference between the nighttime and daytime obligations.

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