READING THE MEGILLAH
Rabbi Yisrael Dov Webster
It is a Mitzvah D'rabanon to read the Megillah at night and to repeat it during the day (Shulchan Aruch 687-1). The time for reading the Megillah at night begins from nightfall, not earlier, and continues the entire night until dawn - if not read earlier (Shulchan Aruch 692-4, Chai Adam 195-5, MB 687-1). In case of great necessity, when it would be otherwise be impossible to hear the Megillah all together one may read it from Plag Hamincha (one and a quarter Halachic hours before sunset). A competent Orthodox Rabbi should be consulted.
One who does not feel well and cannot wait till after the reading of the Megillah to eat due to the fast, may eat or drink a light refreshment before the reading, if there are others present to remind him to hear the Megillah (Shulchan Aruch 392-4, MB-13).
The daytime reading of the Megillah starts preferably from sunrise and continues for the entire day if not read earlier. In great necessity, one may read the Megillah from dawn (Shulchan Aruch 687-1, MB-4).
One should not eat a meal until after hearing the Megillah.
Men, women and children that reached the age of training (chinuch) both by boys and girls, are required to hear the Megillah. Although women are usually exempt from mitzvos aseh shehazman grama (those mitzvos which have a time restriction), the fact that women played an essential role in the miracle causes them to have the same requirement as a man. A child from the time that they are old enough to follow the reading should be brought to shul. Some state that since reading the Megillah is similar to reading the Torah, a woman should not read the Megillah out loud and include a man in their reading (SO 689-2). Others say they should not even read the Megillah for themselves, but rather hear it from a man. (MA 389-6). Some say that when this is not possible, a woman may read it herself (Chai Adam 155-11, MB 689-8), and recite the bracha "Lishmoah Megillah" instead of "Al Mikrah Megillah"(Rama 689-2, Chayei Adam which states that she should say Lismoah Mikrah Megillah). Since women are required to hear the Megillah, girls should go to shul to hear the Megillah (Biur hatev 689-1, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141-15, MB). If they did not go, or if they missed hearing some words, one must read the Megillah for them. Many communities have a second reading of the Megillah for women. A woman should only read the Megillah for a large gathering of women if there is no other possibility for them to hear the Megillah (Shulchan Aruch 689-1, MB).
A person can fulfill his requirement of the Megillah by either reading the Megillah for himself or hearing it from another person. However, the reader of the Megillah must also be required to read the Megillah. If he is not required to read the Megillah than, he cannot read it for you (Shulchan Aruch 689-2). The following people cannot read the Megillah for another person: a deaf person, or a child under bar mitzvah. If they did read it for you, you have not fulfilled your requirement.
It is preferable for one to hear the Megillah in shul where there are many people, thereby publicizing the miracle of Hashem in a greater way (Bach 691, MA-23). Those people that are unable to attend shul or reading at the prescribed time should preferably gather ten men for the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle. If this is not possible, one should read the Megillah by himself (Shulchan Aruch 690-8, Shar Hatzion 689, MB 690-64, Chai Adam). The Villna Goan is of the opinion that one need not do this if one reads the Megillah in its proper time, on the 14th of Adar
Reading for Another
A person who will read the Megillah for the entire shul must have in mind to fulfill not only his own requirement of the Megillah but also the requirement of those listening to him (Shulchan Aruch 690-14). One who has already fulfilled his mitzvah, may still read the Megillah for someone else. Preferably that person should say the Brachos for himself, if he knows how (Shulchan Aruch 692-3, MA 585-3).
The listeners need to have in mind that they are fulfilling their requirement with the reading of the Megillah reader. The listeners should stand when the Brachos are being recited (Machatitz Hashekel 690-1, Kaf Hachayim -2).
Three Brachos before the Megillah
One recites three Brachos before reading the Megillah (Shulchan Aruch 692-1). The Brachos are
The listeners should just listen to the one reciting the Brachos and only answer amen, preferably, one should not answer "Baruch Hu U'Varuch Shemo" (Shulchan Aruch 124-5). Some say the bracha of "Shehechiyanu" is not said by the daytime reading, only the first two Brachos. Others say that even by day we recite all three. The custom is to say all three Brachos even by day (MB 692-2). By the bracha of Shehechiyanu during the daytime reading, one should also have in mind that all the mitzvos of the day are covered by this bracha (the Purim meal, Mishloach Manos, and Matanos Laevyonim- money for the poor). However, if one did not have a Megillah or did not have these mitzvos in mind one should not recite the bracha before these Mitzvos (MA-1, MB-1).
One must read the Megillah, from beginning to end, from a kosher Megillah (one that was written on parchment). If one read it by heart, the requirement has not been fulfilled, for him or the listeners (Shulchan Aruch 690-3, MA 8). However, if one read part of the Megillah by heart it is ok (MB-7). Therefore, if one missed hearing a few words from the reader, one should read them by heart or from their Chumash until one reaches the place with the reader, and then stops reading for themselves and resumes listening to the reader. This way one at least fulfills ones Mitzvah B'dieved, because if one misses even one word one would not fulfill their requirement of reading the Megillah at all. If one does not have a kosher Megillah, one may read from a Chumash but without a bracha (Pri Migadim 691, MB-27).
One must read the Megillah in its proper order. If one reads it in reverse order, or not in its proper order, one has not fulfilled their requirement (SA 690-6). Therefore, if one omitted a word or one Pasuk, one must go back to that word or Pasuk and read from there and on in its proper order.
After the Reading
After reading the Megillah, we have the custom to recite the bracha of "Harav Es Riveinu etc." a bracha that gives praise and thanks to Hashem Yisborach for the miracles that he performed for us. This bracha is only recited when the Megillah is recited with a quorum (Rama 692-1). Some Poskim hold that this bracha is recited even if there is not a quorum (Maharil Purim, Aruch Hashulchan 692-8). This bracha is recited by both readings- at night and by day. The bracha is not recited until the Megillah is rolled up.
At night after the chazon recites the bracha mentioned above, the piyut of "Asher Heini and Shoshanas Yaakov" is said by everyone. However, only "Shoshanas Yaakov" is said during the day. (Shulchan Aruch 692-1).
Tefillot On Purim
After reading the Megillah at night we recite "Vata Kodosh" as on Saturday night (Shulchan Aruch 693-1). If Purim falls out on Saturday night, we recite in addition to "Vata Kodosh" also "Vayhi Noam," read the Megillah and then make Havdallah and afterwards say "Vayiten Licha." Some communities for convenience have a break after Maariv, whereupon the men go home, make Havdallah, and then return to shul for the reading of the Megillah. The Megillah should not be brought to shul before Maariv on Saturday night in a place where there is an eruv (Chai Adam 195-10)
On Purim, we do not say Hallel (Shulchan Aruch 693-3).
Tefillot That Are Omitted in the Davening
We do not say "Tachnun, laminatzach, and kal erech apayim by the reading of the Torah (MB 693-8).
Reading the Torah
On Purim morning we take out the Torah and read the portion about Amalek (at the end of Parshas Bishalach) for three people. Even though there is only nine pasukim we read this without doubling the last Pasuk of the Parsha, since this is the reading of the day (Shulchan Aruch 693-4).
If there is a Bris Milah on Purim, we perform the Bris before the reading of the Megillah (Chai Adam 155-6, MB 687-9). Others perform it after the reading of the Megillah (See Rama 693-4, Gra).
Some have the custom to wear Shabbos Clothing on Purim from Maariv (Rama 695 MB-3).
Matanos L'evyonim - Gifts for the Poor
Every man, woman and child that reaches the age of chinuch is required to give Tzedakah. Even a poor person that is supported from tzedaka is required to give money to two really poor people on Purim, as it is written "Matanos Laevyonim" which means two presents (matonos), which is one present per poor person (Shulchan Aruch 694-1,695-4, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142-4). Some women rely on their husbands, and do not give money themselves. However, others are more stringent and give themselves.
Matonos Laevyonim is to be given on Purim by day and not by night (Rama 695-3, MA-13,MB-22).
The money that one give should be his own and not of masser money (MA 695-1). Although we have stated that one is required only to give two people, if one wishes to give more people or more than the minimum amount of money (see below), then one could give the additional monies from masser money (MB 694-3). Matonos Laevyonim should not be given before Purim, since the money might be spent by the poor people before the prescribed time (MA 694-1, Kaf Hachaim -15). However, some have the custom that the money may be given earlier to a person to hold for him and allocate it on Purim by day. Others give it before the reading of the Megillah (Rabbi Y. Emdin Zt"l) while others give it after the reading of the Megillah (Kaf Hachaim 694-18). The Gemorah states that one must give two gifts to two poor people, however, the Gemorah does specify the amount of these gifts. There is a dispute to the exact amount of money that must be given in order to fulfill this mitzvah. Some write that even a small coin (nickel or dime) is sufficient (Ritvah Megillah DAF 7a). Others state the amount needed is the amount equivalent to the cost of a meal (Pri Migadim 694-1, MB, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Zt"l, etc.). Therefore, the amount should be around four dollars (American) per poor person. One can fulfill this Mitzvah with either money or by actually giving food products (Rambam chap.2-15).
Men, women, and children from the age of chinuch are required to send two food products to one person, as it is written in Megillas Esther -Two presents to one person (Shulchan Aruch 695-4). A woman should send to a woman and a man to a man (Rama 695, MB-26). However, a man should not send to a single woman and a woman should not send to a man. One must send prepared food that is ready to eat and needs no further preparations, i.e., cooked fish, meat, candy, fruits or wine, but not for example raw meat. (Gemorah Megillah DAF 7,Shulchan Aruch 695-4, MB-20). Each item must be at least the size of a kizayis (Aruch Hashulchan -14 &15). One does not fulfill this mitzvah with clothing etc. (Rambam Megillah 2-15, etc.).
Mishloach Manos should be given by day and not by night (Darkie Moshe 695-7, MB-22). The packages should be sent after the reading of the Megillah (Rama 695-4, MB-22). One should send Mishloach Manos through a messenger rather than delivering it themselves. Preferably the messenger should be an adult who can serve as a shaliach not a child or non-Jew. However, one need only send one package this way the rest of the packages may be sent through a child (MB 695-18). Although it is sufficient to send only to one person, nevertheless, whoever increases and sends too many is praiseworthy (Rambam Megillah 2-15). The Rambam further states (2-17) that it is better for a person to increase in the giving of Matonos Laevyonim, rather than to increase in his seudah or in sending Mishloach Manos to more friends, as there is no greater and more prestigious Simcha than to give joy to the hearts of the poor etc. For he that rejoices the hearts of these saddened people are compared to the Hashem's Shechina.
Seudas Purim - The Purim Meal
It is a Mitzvah to eat at least one meal on Purim by day (Shulchan Aruch 695); one who ate the meal at night did not fulfill this requirement. Nevertheless, one should preferably also rejoice and eat something at night (Megillah DAF 7b, Rama 6951). One should invite ones family and friends to join him in the meal and make it a more joyous one (MB-9). One is obligated to drink more wine than usual during the meal until one falls asleep. However, women are not required to drink this much and a cup or less is sufficient (Shallos U"Tishuvos Rivivos Ephraim). The seudah should consist of meat, wine (Rambam). Many Poskim require one to wash for bread for the meal (Chai Adam 155-30, MB 695-4). Many have the custom to light candles for the meal (Sharei Teshuva 695). The custom is to eat this meal after Mincha in the late afternoon, since we are busy reading the Megillah, giving out Matonos laevyonim, Mishloach Manos in the morning (Terumas Hadashen 110, Rama 695-2). However, some eat the meal in the morning (Rama 695-2, Orchus Hachayim -35). Others eat two meals, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (Taz 693-2, MB-15). Most of the meal should be eaten during daytime and preferably continue into the night of Shushan Purim (Trumas Hadashen 110). However, when Purim is on a Friday, one should start the meal before noon in honor of the Shabbos. In this way, one will be able to eat that Shabbos meal properly, with an appetite (Rama 695-2, MB-10).
The Rama brings the custom that one should learn Torah before beginning the meal (Darkei Moshe 695-3). One should study some laws of Pesach on Purim day since it is thirty days before the start of the Yom Tov of Pesach
As was stated before, one recites Al Hanissim in the benching. If one began ones seudah by day and it continued into the night one stills says Al Hanissim when one benches (Shulchan Aruch 696-3, MB 15).
WORK ON PURIM
According to Halacha, one is permitted to do work on Purim (Shulchan Aruch 696-1). However, many have the custom not to do work. One is permissible to go to work if it will cause one a financial loss.
Since Klal Yisroel in the time of Mordechai and Esther fought against their enemies on the 13th of Adar, and rested on the 14th day, they observed Purim on the 14 of Adar. However, the Jews living in Shushan, continued fighting on the 14th of Adar, and did not rest until the 15th. They observed Purim on the 15 of Adar. This day is called Shushan Purim - the Purim for those people living in Shushan (Megillas Esther 9.17-19. All cities not surrounded by a wall from the days of Yehoshua Ben Nun read the Megillah on the 14th of Adar and observe all the Mitzvos of Purim (Shulchan Aruch 688-3). However, the cities that were surrounded by a wall from the days of Yehoshua Ben Nun, (in Eretz Yisroel, or outside) even if they are not surrounded by a wall now, read the Megillah and observe Purim on the 15th of Adar (Rambam Megillah 1-4 &5). Jerusalem is considered as a city surrounded by a wall. A city that is doubtful if it was surrounded by a wall from the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun reads the Megillah both on the 14th and 15th of Adar. However, the bracha on the Megillah is recited only on the 14th of Adar, like the majority of the world (Rambam, Shulchan Aruch 688-4). Matanos Laevyonim and Mishloach Manos and Seudas Purim are observed on both days (MA-5). Some say that this doubt pertains only to cities in Eretz Yisroel and not for those cities outside Eretz Yisroel who observe it on the 14th of Adar (Magid Mishna). Others say that when one is really in doubt the law applies in all places, even in cities out Eretz Yisroel (Shilah see MA 688-4). Some say that our countries arent included in this doubt, as they are north and far away from Eretz Yisroel and were most probably not inhabited in the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun (Levush se MA-4). Some Poskim argue on the whole law and hold that even when one is really in doubt you still read the Megillah only on the 14th of Adar (Geonim see Gra-8). Teveria in Eretz Yisroel is a city that is a doubt if it was surrounded by a wall (Gemara Megillah 5b). Since there are various opinions with regard to a person from a city that was surrounded by a wall outside it or vice versa, one should consult a competent Rav as to when he should read the Megillah and observe Purim. For example, a person from Bnei Brak who traveled to Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar and vice versa- the person from Jerusalem traveled to Bnei Brak on the 14th of Adar (688-5).
Even those who are in a city that was not surrounded by a wall nevertheless observe:
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