Purim – The Megilah1 Adar 5771
Before the Megilla
1. May one eat or drink before hearing the megillah?
Under normal circumstances, it is forbidden to eat before the megillah, both at night and in the morning. Drinks are also forbidden with the exception of water.
2. From what time in the evening does this restriction begin?
From half-an-hour before nightfall. This is particularly relevant for people who are not fasting, and for those who observe Purim on the 15th of Adar.
3. What if a person is sick or weak?
A person who is sick or weak because of the fast may eat cake or bread up to a kebeitza. Other foods and non-alcoholic drinks may be consumed without limitation.
4. What if he needs to eat more than this quantity of bread or cake?
He may eat if he asks another person who is not eating to remind him to hear the megillah.
5. Does this restriction also apply to women?
Since women are obligated to hear the megillah (see question 92) these restrictions also apply to them. However, if a woman must wait a long time before hearing the megillah, she may eat foods other than bread and cake if she feels weak.
6. May one sleep before hearing the megillah?
Within half-an-hour before nightfall, even a short nap is forbidden.
7. May one do work before hearing the megillah?
One should avoid activities that
· take more than a few minutes or
· have a tendency to continue for some time or
· are hard to break off in the middle.
Women should not become involved with lengthy household tasks, in case they forget to attend the megillah reading.
8. May one learn Torah before hearing the megillah?
1. Are women obligated to hear the megillah?
Yes. Although this is a time-bound mitzvah, women are obligated since they were also included in the decree and the miraculous salvation.
2. Are children obligated to hear the megillah?
Children who are mature enough to listen attentively to the megillah reading should do so. Preferably, such children should be brought to shul to hear the public reading. However, they must be properly supervised during the reading and should understand that they have not been brought to shul simply for the fun of banging at Haman. Young children who are likely to cause a disturbance and prevent others from hearing the megillah should not be brought to shul.
3. Why is the megillah read twice – at night and again in the morning?
This is to recall the miracle that occurred through the Jews crying out in their troubles by day and by night.
4. What is the earliest time for the night reading?
The correct time is after nightfall. If a person wishes to read the megillah earlier due to extenuating circumstances, he should consult a rav. If a person is suffering because of the fast, it is better to eat a small quantity of food (see question 86) and read the megillah after nightfall than to read the megillah early and eat afterwards.
5. What is the latest time for the night reading?
It must be read before halachic dawn. It is praiseworthy to read the megillah immediately after ma’ariv, since one should endeavor to perform all mitzvos at the first possible opportunity.
6. What if a person missed the night reading?
The mitzvah cannot be made up by reading the megillah twice during the day (see also question 102).
7. What is the earliest time for the daytime reading?
The correct time is after sunrise. In an unavoidable situation, it may be read after halachic dawn.
8. What is the latest time for the daytime reading?
It must be read before sunset. If a person did not read or hear the megillah before sunset, he should nevertheless read it before nightfall, but without reciting the brachos. He should also omit the brachos if he begins to read before sunset but will not complete the reading until after sunset.
9. If a person knows in advance that he will not be able to hear the megillah on Purim (e.g. he is scheduled for surgery on that day, traveling) what can be done?
He should read the megillah (from a kosher scroll) at night and during the day on the 11th, 12th, or 13th of Adar. The brachos should not be recited. If this is also impossible, he may read it even from Rosh Chodesh Adar. In these situations, it should preferably be read in the presence of ten people.
10. What if subsequently it becomes possible to read the megillah on Purim?
He must read or hear the megillah again on Purim with brachos.
11. What if a person accidentally missed both megillah readings on the 14th of Adar?
· It is praiseworthy for him to be in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar (see chapter thirteen).
· If this is not possible, he should read the megillah on the 15th without brachos. Preferably, it should be read in the presence of ten people.
12. Must the reader and listener be celebrating the same day of Purim?
Ideally, yes. However, if someone who is celebrating the 14th heard the megillah on the 14th from someone who will celebrate the 15th, he has fulfilled his obligation. If someone celebrating the 15th heard it on the 15th from someone who celebrated the 14th, he has not fulfilled his obligation. (Compare questions 181,211.)
13. May the reader use a printed megillah?
No, one may not fulfill the mitzvah by reading from a printed megillah. The mitzvah must be performed by reading a kosher megillah, hand-written on parchment.
14. What if a few letters are defective?
Ideally, one should use a megillah in which every letter is written clearly. If such a megillah is unobtainable, one may read from a hand-written megillah that has several defective letters.
15. May the brachos be recited when reading from a partially defective megillah?
The brachos should be recited only if the megillah is read for at least ten people.
16. How many defects are permitted?
As long as the majority is written clearly the reader may use such a megillah. However, if an entire section is defective or if the first or last verse is defective, the megillah may not be used.
Reading the Megillah
1. Why is the megillah spread out wide and folded over?
- The megillah is called a letter (chapter 9, verse 26) and when a person reads a letter he spreads it out completely.
- To make greater publicity of the miracle.
2. Should everyone spread out his megillah?
The custom is that only the reader does so, but not the listeners. When the megillah is read privately to individuals, even the reader does not spread it out.
3. Which brachos are recited before the megillah reading?
Three brachos are recited:
· אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על מקרא מגילה.
· שעשה ניסים.
Ashkenazic congregations repeat all three brachos in the morning. Sephardim do not repeat shehecheyanu at the daytime reading.
4. Must one stand when saying or hearing the brachos?
Yes, a person should stand if he is able to.
5. What should one think about when listening to the brachos?
One should have in mind that he is fulfilling his obligation. When hearing the b’racha shehecheyanu during the day, one should have in mind to include all the special mitzvos of Purim.
6. What should the reader think about when reciting the brachos?
He should have in mind that he is reciting them on behalf of the entire congregation.
7. Who should say the brachos if the reader has already fulfilled his obligation?
Preferably the listeners should say the brachos. This is especially relevant when reading for women. However, many have the custom that the reader always says the brachos.
8. If the listeners wish to say the brachos should one man say the brachos aloud for everyone?
If there are ten or more men listening, one man should say the brachos aloud for everyone. If there are less than ten men, each person should say the brachos for himself.
9. If ten or more women are listening should one woman say the brachos aloud for everyone?
One woman may say the brachos for all the women. According to some opinions, each woman should say the brachos herself. If a man is also listening, he should recite the brachos for himself and the women.
10. Do women recite the same brachos as men?
No. The custom is to change the text of the first b’racha and they should recite either לשמוע מגילה or לשמוע מקרא מגילה.
11. May a mourner read the megillah in shul?
Since a mourner may not say the b’racha shehecheyanu on behalf of the congregation, it is preferable for someone else to read the megillah. If the regular reader became a mourner he may read the megillah as usual, but another person should say the brachos.
12. What if a person arrived in the middle of the brachos?
- If there is sufficient time, he should say the brachos himself, taking care to complete them before the reading begins.
- If there is insufficient time to recite all of the brachos, he should say as many of the brachos as he can.
- If there is not enough time to recite any of the brachos, he should preferably attend another reading where he will hear the brachos. If this is very inconvenient, he may remain to listen to the megillah without brachos.
13. What if a person who is reading the megillah for himself forgot to recite the brachos?
If he remembers during the reading, he should say the brachos between the paragraphs (i.e. where there are spaces in the hand-written megillah).
14. May a woman read the megillah for herself from a kosher megillah?
Ideally, a woman should hear the megillah read by a man. In extenuating circumstances she may read it for herself (see also question 117).
15. May a woman read the megillah for a man?
No, a man must hear it read by another man.
16. May a woman read it for another woman?
Yes, but she should not read it for a group of women.
17. May a boy read the megillah for an adult?
Ideally, an adult should hear the megillah read by an adult. In extenuating circumstances, he may hear it read by a boy under bar mitzvah.
18. Must the megillah be sung with the correct tune?
Ideally, it should be sung with the traditional tune. If a person must read the megillah but does not know the tune, he may say the words. An inexperienced reader must take care not to make any reading mistakes, and it is advisable to ask someone else to listen and correct any errors.
19. Must all reading mistakes be corrected?
Ideally, yes. However, if a mistake was not corrected, the reading is still valid if the error did not cause a change or loss of meaning to the sentence.
20. Why are the names of the ten sons of Haman customarily said aloud by the congregation?
- The names should be read in one breath to indicate that all ten sons were slain and hung together. This should be done by each individual.
- The reader is inclined to rush through the names and the listeners may not hear every word clearly.
21. What if a person did not succeed in saying all the names in one breath?
He does not need to repeat them.
22. Why are certain verses said aloud by the congregation?
- These are crucial points in the story, marking the beginning or end of a miracle.
- To arouse the interest of the children.
- To express joy.
23. Which verses are said aloud by the congregation?
- איש יהודי (chapter 2, verse 5).
- ומרדכי יצא (chapter 8, verse 15).
- ליהודים היתה (chapter 8, verse 16).
- כי מרדכי (chapter 10, verse 3).
24. Why does the reader recite the four verses and the ten names after the congregation?
For the benefit of those who are reading from a printed megillah.
25. Why does the reader repeat certain verses?
In two places in the megillah there are two versions of the text. In order to say both versions, the verses are read twice. In some communities, only the questionable phrase is repeated.
26. Which verses are they?
- Chapter 8, verse 11 – להרוג, ולהרוג.
- Chapter 9, verse 2 – בפניהם, לפניהם.
27. Is a b’racha recited after the megillah reading?
An after-b’racha is said only when the megillah is read in the presence of a minyan. The congregation should listen carefully to the b’racha and not speak until it has been recited.
28. If the after-b’racha is said, should the megillah be rolled up first?
29. Is anything said after the megillah reading in shul?
- In the evening, the poem ‘asher heini’ is recited. This is followed by ve’ata kadosh and aleinu. On motzai Shabbos, viyhi no’am is recited as usual.
- In the morning, the lines ‘shoshanas ya’akov’ are recited. Shacharis continues with ashrei.
30. Is the after-b’racha recited when ten women hear the megillah?
The prevalent custom is to omit it. It is correct for the women to say the lines ‘shoshanas ya’akov’.
Hearing the Megillah
1. What should one think before reading or listening to the megillah?
The reader should have in mind to include all the listeners who wish to fulfill their obligation. The listeners should have in mind to fulfill their obligation.
2. What if a person did not think about this?
Since it is assumed that he had this at the back of his mind, he has fulfilled his obligation.
3. Must one stand during the reading of the megillah?
The listeners may sit. The reader should stand when reading to a minyan, but may lean if necessary. When reading to individuals or for himself, he may sit.
4. Must the reader stand when reading to ten women?
He should preferably stand.
5. Must one hear every word of the megillah?
Yes. If a person missed even one word he has not fulfilled his obligation.
6. What should a person do if he did not hear some words?
He should immediately say the words himself. However, this creates a problem since the reader continues to read the megillah while this person is saying the missed words, thereby causing him to miss further words. Therefore, he must say the missed words and continue reading until he overtakes the reader, at which point he may resume listening.
7. May the missed words be said from a printed megillah?
If possible, a person should try to follow the reading in a kosher hand-written megillah, in order to be able to say the missed words from it. However, even if a person has a printed megillah, he may say the missed words from it and fulfill his obligation.
8. What if a person did not hear a syllable (or the reader occasionally swallowed a syllable)?
If the word changes or loses its meaning it must be repeated, otherwise it need not be repeated.
9. What if a person is unsure whether he heard every word?
- If this occurs at the night reading, nothing needs to be done.
- If this occurs at the day reading, and he has a serious doubt whether he fulfilled his obligation, he must make an effort to read or hear the megillah again. The brachos should not be repeated.
10. What if a person needs to use the bathroom during the reading?
- A person who needs to use the bathroom is permitted to remain until the end of the megillah. If he is unable to remain, he will inevitably miss a large part of the megillah and must attend another reading.
- If he is reading for himself, he may stop to use the bathroom and continue from where he left off. The b’racha asher yatzar should be recited after the reading.
11. May one speak during the megillah reading?
It is forbidden for the reader or the listeners to speak from the beginning of the first b’racha until the end of the after-b’racha. This is particularly relevant for parents who bring young children to the reading.
12. What if the reader spoke during the reading?
The reading is still valid.
13. What if a listener spoke during the reading?
If he did not miss any words (i.e. he spoke during a break in the reading) he fulfilled his obligation. If he missed a word, he did not fulfill his obligation unless he corrected the situation (see question 143).
14. What if the listener paid attention to the reading while he was speaking?
It is still considered as if he missed some words and he did not fulfill his obligation unless he corrected the situation (see question 143). This is particularly relevant for parents who may need to speak to their children during the reading.
15. Is it preferable to say the words quietly along with the reader?
- If a person is following with a printed megillah he must not say the words with the reader. This is because he may pay more attention to his own invalid reading than to the words of the reader.
- If he is following with a hand-written megillah he may either listen or say the words along with the reader. Even if he chooses to read along, he should have in mind to fulfill his obligation through listening to the reader, except for any missed words which he fulfills through his own reading. Care should be taken not to disturb other people who wish to listen to the reader.
16. What if a person’s mind wanders during the reading?
- If his mind wanders completely to other things it is questionable whether he fulfills his obligation.
- If he is still partially concentrating on the megillah, he fulfills his obligation.
17. What is meant by partial concentration?
This means that he would be able to answer the question ‘What was read just now?’.
18. How can one maintain concentration for the entire reading?
It is strongly recommended to keep one’s finger on the page throughout the reading. Parents should not bring young children who need constant attention, since this will certainly interfere with their concentration.
19. Must one understand every word of the megillah?
No, a person fulfills his obligation even if he does not understand the words. However, a person who does not know Hebrew is recommended to read a translation beforehand in order to understand the story. This will enhance his concentration and he will have a greater appreciation of the miraculous events.
20. Should the banging at ‘Haman’ be discouraged?
One should not rashly abolish or scorn any Jewish practice, since most customs have a valid basis. This particular custom is based on the mitzvah to eradicate the memory of Amalek (see questions 1 and 4). Originally, children would write the name ‘Haman’ or draw his picture on pieces of wood and stone. When the pieces were banged together the name or the picture would be obliterated. Nevertheless, excessive noise and tumult should be discouraged since this often prevents people from hearing clearly.
21. If the shul reading is extremely noisy may one stay at home and read the megillah privately?
In order to enhance the mitzvah and make greater publicity of the miracle, both men and women should make every effort to attend the public reading in shul. Even if one can organize a minyan at home, it is better to join the congregation. If a person has difficulty hearing every word in shul, he should say those words himself (see question 143). If he knows that it is impossible to hear the reading in shul, he should attend a private reading.
22. What if a person cannot go to shul?
He may read or listen to the megillah privately. Nevertheless, it is praiseworthy to gather ten men or women to attend the reading in order to enhance the mitzvah, even if these people have already heard the megillah.
23. May one listen to the megillah via a telephone, loudspeaker, or radio broadcast?
A person should not fulfill his obligation by these methods. The sound that is heard from such machines is not a human voice but a recreated electronic voice, which is invalid according to some opinions. Nevertheless, if a person will not be able to hear the megillah any other way, he should listen to such a reading.
24. May one listen to the megillah with the assistance of a hearing aid?
In this case too, the sound heard is electronically created and the hearing aid should be removed. If it is very difficult to listen without a hearing aid, he should preferably read the megillah himself from a kosher scroll. Otherwise, he may listen to a megillah reading with a hearing aid.