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Megillah on the Internet

Megillah 4a and 4b

Why is the Megillah read in Jerusalem on the l5th day of Adar, in New York on the 14th day of Adar, and in Sefat and Chevron on the 14th and the 15th of Adar? On what day does an American tourist read the Megillah in Jerusalem and when does an Israeli tourist read the Megillah in New York? Why is the Megillah read twice during the same day, once at night and once during the day? If one can only attend one reading of the Megillah, which one should one choose? Why does Purim outside of Israel never occur on Shabbat? When Purim in Israel occurs on Shabbat, why is the Megillah read on Friday? Can the Megillah be recited in English? Can the Mitzvah of listening to the Megillah be fulfilled over the telephone or the radio? Can a loudspeaker be used?

Those who reside in a city, such as Jerusalem, which was surrounded by a wall in the days of Joshua, recite the Megillah on the 15th day of Adar. Those who reside in cities regarding which there is uncertainty whether or not they were surrounded by a wall in the days of Joshua, such as the cities of Yaffo, Acco, Aza, Lod, Tiveria, Shechem, Chevron, Tsefat and Haifa, are required to read the Megillah both on the 14th and the 15th days of Adar. Residents of all other cities recite the Megillah on the l4th day of Adar. The reason for this distinction is that in the city of Shushan itself, the battle of the Jews against their enemies continued on through the 14th day and Purim was celebrated on the 15th. Because Shushan was a walled city in Mordechai’s day, all other walled cities celebrate Purim on the 15th day of Adar. Out of deference, however, to the cities of Israel, most of which had been destroyed before Mordechai’s time, the relevant time chosen by the Sages to determine whether a city was surrounded by a wall or not was the time of Joshua.

A tourist in Jerusalem, who originally planned to leave Jerusalem prior to the 15th day of Adar, recites the Megillah in Jerusalem on the 14th day of Adar, even if, contrary to his original plans, he still finds himself in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar. If, however, such a person originally intended to be in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar, he recites the Megillah in Jerusalem on the 15th. Conversely, a resident of Jerusalem visiting New York, who originally planned to return to Jerusalem prior to the 14th day of Adar, recites the Megillah in New York on the 15th day of Adar, even if contrary to his plans he still finds himself in New York on the 14th day of Adar. If, however, such a person originally intended to be in New York on the 14th of Adar, he recites the Megillah in New York on the 14th of Adar.

The Megillah must be recited both on the night of Purim and on Purim day. However, reciting the Megillah on the day of the 15th has greater significance than reciting the Megillah at night on the eve of the 15th. This is because the daytime reading was instituted by Mordechai and Esther whereas the nighttime reading was instituted subsequently by the rabbis. Accordingly, if circumstances force one to choose one reading over the other, most authorities agree that one should attend the daytime reading. Others argue that the rule of ein ma’avirim al hamitzvot, do not offend a mitzvah by postponing it, requires that one choose the nighttime reading. To fulfill the mitzvah of listening to the Megillah, each word must be heard. If a word is missed, the listener should read it quietly to himself from the text in his hand. The principal purpose of reciting the Megillah is to publicize the miracle of Purim. Accordingly, many poskim permit the Megillah to be read in English if the reader does not understand Hebrew. Because Yom Kippur can never occur on a Friday, the 14th day of Adar can never occur on a Shabbat. If the 15th day of Adar occurs on a Shabbat, the Megillah is read in Jerusalem on a Friday. This is out of the dual concern that people would carry the Megillah in the streets on Shabbat and would not be able to give money to the poor on Shabbat.

One can fulfill the mitzvah of listening to the Megillah as long as one hears the voice of the person reciting the Megillah on one’s behalf. Most poskim agree, therefore, that listening to a live broadcast of the Megillah over the radio or the telephone is unacceptable because you are listening to an electronic transmission of the reader’s voice rather than the voice itself. According to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a microphone is unacceptable. This is because according to his understanding, the membrane of the microphone absorbs the human voice and then emits an electronic version of it. According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, however, a microphone is halachically acceptable because the transmission is simultaneously activated by the human voice. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef concedes, however, that a microphone may be used to amplify the reader’s voice in a case where the reader’s voice would still be audible without it.


Raphael Grunfeld, a partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, received semichah in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Harav Haga’on Dovid Feinstein, zt”l. This article is an extract from Raphael’s book “Ner Eyal: A Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zerai’m” available for purchase at www.amazon.com/dp/057816731X  or by emailing Raphael at [email protected].

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