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Peninei Halakha > Zemanim > 15 - Purim and Reading the Megillah > 11. The Laws of Reading the Megilla

11. The Laws of Reading the Megilla

When not in use, the Megilla is rolled up from the end of the scroll to the beginning. However, since Megilat Esther is referred to as a “letter,” it is customary to prepare the scroll for reading in public by spreading it out and folding it over, leaf over leaf, in order to publicize the miracle. When the reading is completed, the Megilla is rolled up again from end to beginning, making sure that it is not left open out of respect for the Megilla. Only after the Megilla is rolled up does the ĥazan recite the berakha of “Ha-rav et riveinu” (sa 690:17, mb ad loc. 55-56, Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 102-105).

One may sit or stand while fulfilling the mitzva of reading the Megilla. The only one who must stand is the reader, out of respect for the congregation (sa 690:1). Most Jews have a custom to stand for the berakhot (mb 690:1; Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 1, Hilkhot Purim 4 [Tetzaveh]; see also Kaf Ha-ĥayim 690:2).

The Megilla should be read with its cantillation, but if no one knows how to read it with the cantillation, it may be read without the cantillation, be-di’avad (Sha’arei Teshuva 690:1).

One must read the Megilla in order. If one reads it out of order, he does not fulfill his obligation. For example, if one misses a word or a verse during the reading, he should not say, “I will continue listening to the Megilla until the end, and I will make up what I missed afterward.” Rather, he must immediately fill in what he missed, catch up to the reader, and continue listening to the reading, in the proper order, until the end of the Megilla.[14]

One who dozes off while listening to the Megilla does not discharge his obligation, as he certainly fails to hear some words (sa 690:12). As we learned above (section 9), one who hears the Megilla fulfills his obligation even if he does not understand Hebrew.

Le-khatĥila, one should read the Megilla continuously, but be-di’avad, if one interrupted the reading in the middle – remaining silent or even speaking – he has not forfeited what he already read and may continue reading from where he left off (sa 690:5; also see mb ad loc. 18 and sa §65).

Many poskim maintain that one who hears the Megilla through an electric device, like a telephone, radio, or loudspeaker, does not fulfill his obligation. The reason for this is that such devices receive a person’s voice as electronic signals and transform it back into a new voice. Therefore, it is like hearing a recording of the Megilla reading, which is invalid. Le-khatĥila, one should heed this opinion.[15]

[14]. If one comes late to the synagogue and finds that the congregation has already begun reading the Megilla, he should not say, “I will hear the Megilla and make up the first few verses afterward,” as that constitutes reading the Megilla out of order. Rather, if he is concerned that he will not be able to hear it again later, he should quickly recite the berakhot, begin reading from a printed megilla until he catches up to the reader, and hear the rest from him. This solution is only effective on the condition that he hears most of the Megilla from the reader. If, however, he is concerned that by the time he finds the text of the berakhot and recites them, the reader will advance to such an extent that he will not be able to catch up to him before midway through the Megilla – and afterward he will not be able to fulfill the mitzva any other way – it is better that he skip the berakhot. This way, he will have enough time to catch up to the reader before the halfway mark and fulfill the mitzva (see bhl 690:3, s.v. “ve-davka”).

[15]. See Peninei Halakha: Berakhot 12:10, which cites a dispute among the poskim regarding this issue. Rav Kook (Oraĥ Mishpat §48) and Mikra’ei Kodesh (Frank) §11 maintain that one who hears the Megilla through an electric device discharges his obligation. Igrot Moshe, oĥ 2:108, 4:91:4 inclines this way as well. On the other hand, Mishpetei Uziel, Minĥat Shlomo 1:9, and Yeĥaveh Da’at 3:54 maintain that one does not fulfill his obligation in this way. Le-khatĥila, one should avoid using electronic devices to discharge his obligation, but if there is no alternative, one should rely on the more lenient authorities and fulfill the mitzva at least according to their opinion.

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Editor: Nechama Unterman