From the Rav’s Desk: If you snooze do you lose? Momentarily falling asleep during the Megillah reading

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  1. Question: [Monday 11th Adar 2, 5782]

Every year I have this question. I have a habit of momentarily falling asleep, or snoozing, which is beyond my control, during the Megillah reading. Do I fulfill my obligation? It usually only lasts a few seconds and I then fully wake up. What you suggest I do?



If a listener to the Megillah reading, who is not simultaneously verbalizing the words to himself from a Kosher Megillah, began dozing off during the reading, then he does not fulfill his obligation if he missed even one word or letter during his dozing. In such a case, one is to quickly read from the words that he missed until he catches up to the Megillah reader, and then resume his listening. If one slept too much to catch up, then he needs to join another Megillah reading and rehear the Megillah reading from the area that was missed and onwards [if he did not have Hesech Hadaas from the reading, otherwise he must rehear from the beginning]. If, however, one was reading from a Kosher Megillah when he dozed off, then so long as he still verbalized the words, he fulfills his obligation even if he slightly dozed off, so long as he did not actually fall asleep.

My suggestion: In order to prevent yourself from falling asleep, you should stand up during the reading, and make sure to look along in a chumash, or a Kosher Megillah if available. You can also drink a caffeinated tea or coffee for this sake, if you know yourself to habitually doze off during the reading. [This allowance to drink a tea or coffee would apply even prior to the night reading, after nightfall.]

Explanation: The accepted law is that if one missed even one word or one letter of the reading, then he does not fulfill his obligation. Thus, the question is raised as to how we view the subject of falling asleep in dozing off. Is it considered that one missed the word due to his lack of consciousness even though he physically heard it, or do we say that since he physically heard it, therefore it is valid. So, in this law there is a difference between a reader of the Megillah who fell asleep, versus a listener of the Megillah who fell asleep.

Regarding the reader [from a Kosher Megillah] who fell asleep, there is a difference between one who fell asleep versus one who simply dozed off in a “half sleep” mode, as commonly occurs to listeners during a speech and the like. If the reader began dozing off during his reading, then so long as the words were clearly verbalized, then he and his listeners fulfill their obligation. If, however, the reader actually fell asleep, then the reading is invalid, and he must repeat the reading.

However, by a listener, if he began dozing off during the reading, then he does not fulfill his obligation even if he merely dozed off. The definition of a “doze” in this respect is one who is only “half asleep” and is hence able to answer a question if he is asked, and although he is unable to give any intellectual argument to his answer, if he is told the argument he will immediately remember it. The reason for the invalidation by a listener in contrast to a reader is because certainly the listener missed some of the words of the reader. However, a reader who is dozing off fulfills his obligation if he continued saying the words properly, as this proves he was awake enough to consciously say the words. Alternatively, the reason is because the listener is unable to intend to fulfill his obligation while he is dozing off, and hence even if he still hears the words he does not fulfill his obligation. However the reader fulfills his obligation even if he dozed off in middle as the fact that he continued reading shows his ability to have intention.

Sources: See regarding the invalidation of one who dozed off or slept during the reading: Michaber 690:12; Mishneh Megillah 17a and Gemara 18b; Yerushalmi Megillah 2:2; Shibulei Haleket 198; Mordechai Remez 791;  P”M 690 M”Z 8; M”B 690:41; Kaf Hachaim 690:72; See regarding the definition of dozing versus sleeping: Megillah 18b; Taz 690:8; M”B 690:39; Biur Halacha 690 “Karah”; Kaf Hachaim 690:68; See regarding the invalidation of one who missed even one word: M”A 690:4 and 7 and 15; Beis Yosef 692; Ran and Rashba 467; Peri Chadash; P”M 690 A”A 15; Chayeh Adam 154:16; M”B 690:5 [majority of Poskim] and 690:19 [according to some Poskim] and 690:48 and 692:9 [plainly rules is not Yotzei]; See Biur Halacha 690 “Ein Midakdikin”; Levush brought in Kaf Hachaim 689:7; 692:22; Kaf Hachaim 690:12 and 15-16 and 36 and 82; Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule the reading is valid even if the reader or listener missed many words. [There are opinions in the Talmud who hold one is only required to hear the Megillah starting from Ish Yehudi. [Shaar Hatziyon 690:5] The Riaz [brought in Shiltei Giborim; Kneses Hagedola; M”A 690:4; P”M 690 M”Z 4] rules that the reading is valid even if the reader or listener missed many words, so long as the following words or letters were read: Viyiomei Hapurim Haeilu Lo Yavru; Umatanos Laevyonim.] The M”A ibid negates this opinion. [Kaf Hachaim 690:16; See Biur Halacha 690 “Ein Midakdikin”]; See regarding how to make up a missed word, that one must read until he catches up to the reader: Michaber 690:6; See regarding drinking prior to hearing the Megillah: See Michaber and Rama 692:4; Kitzur SHU”A 141:8 regarding the allowance to drink coffee after the fast; We do not find in the Poskim an explicit prohibition against drinking and that one must fast until he hears Megillah; See Darkei Chaim Veshalom 716 that one may drink tea or coffee before Shofar and that so is the custom of some of Anash [Rav Zalmin Shimon Dworkin ruled one may drink before Shofar, and so ruled to me Rav Avraham Osdaba, as well as Rav Tuvia Bloy.] However, see Misgeres Hashulchan 141:6 who limits this ruling of the Kitzur SHU”A to a case of great need, and seemingly he is likewise referring to drinking coffee.

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