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An Important Note from Rav Yosef regarding Megillah

As you will notice on the Purim night schedule, one of the three scheduled readings will be done by our dear friend Sara Smith. A word of halachik background is appropriate.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that men may fulfill their obligation through a women’s reading of the Megillah. This is based upon the Talmud (Megillah 19b and Arachin 2a-b) which rules that women and men are equally obligated in the reading of the Megillah, and that women may therefore discharge the obligation of men in this regard. Among the Rishonim (medieval authorities), this is the halachik position endorsed by Rashi, Rambam, Meiri, and Or Zarua. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef endorses this position as well.

The Shulchan Aruch also cites an alternative opinion which holds that a man cannot fulfill his obligation through a woman’s reading. This opinion is based on a Tosefta which doesn’t explain the basis of its ruling. Some understand the Tosefta as being uncomfortable with the propriety of such an arrangement, and others posit that the Tosefta is assuming that while a man is obligated to read the Megillah, woman are only obligated to hear it being read.

This disparity in obligation would preclude a woman being able to read Megillah for a man. Tosafot, Mordechai and others rule in accordance with the Tosefta. And while this difference of opinion persists, leading to a general practice that men are the readers when there are men among the listeners, there is a substantial group of Achronim (later authorities) who rule that the Tosefta’ s position only pertains to the daytime reading of the Megillah, through which the essential Mitzvah of Megillah is fulfilled. The nighttime reading, according to these Achronim, is done in order to achieve “pirsumai nissa” (publicly declaring the miracle), which is an obligation that falls equally upon men and women (as is does, for example, regarding Chanukah lighting). These Achronim therefore rule that even according to the second opinion cited in the Shulchan Aruch, men may fulfill their obligation at night through a woman’s reading.

Needless to say, there are those who disagree with the position of these Achronim as well, and men should make their own decision as to which of the readings they would like to attend. To be clear though, I feel very comfortable offering Sara’s reading as a valid halachik option.

Mon, June 25 2018 12 Tammuz 5778