May a woman read the Megillah on Purim on behalf of herself or others?

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May a woman read the Megillah on Purim on behalf of herself or others?[1]

The subject of whether a woman is valid to read the Megillah is subject to the following debate: On the one hand she is obligated in the Mitzvah, and hence should be able to read it on behalf of others as is always the rule regarding Mitzvos that one is obligated in. On the other hand, perhaps women are not commanded in the Mitzvah of reading the Megillah, but simply of hearing it read. Now, just as we have conflicting arguments to validate or invalidate the reading of women, so too we find conflicting sources in the Talmud regarding their status.[2] Practically, there is a four-way debate in the Poskim on this matter, with some Poskim[3] invalidating women all together, and other Poskim[4] validating women in all cases. Other Poskim[5] differentiate between a woman reading on behalf of men versus on behalf of women, while others[6] differentiate between reading for a group of people versus reading in private. No matter what the outcome, in all cases, all agree that a woman can only be valid to read the Megillah if she has a Kosher Megillah available and knows how the to read the words with the proper pronunciation.[7]

Reading on behalf of men:[8]

In general, we rule that whoever is obligated in a Mitzvah can be Motzi others in that Mitzvah.[9] However, there are Poskim[10] who rule that although women are obligated to hear the Megillah reading just like men, nevertheless, they cannot read the Megillah on behalf of men.[11] [Practically this is the final ruling, and thus women are initially invalid to read Megillah on behalf of men.[12] This applies even when a woman is reading for a single man and not in a public forum.[13] In the event that a woman read the Megillah for a man, or group of men, then the men are to hear it a second time without a blessing.[14] If the only person who knows how to read Hebrew[15] is a woman, then she may read it without a blessing on behalf of men.[16] If however a male reader later becomes available, the listener must re-hear the Megillah without a blessing.[17]]

Reading on behalf of other women or on behalf of oneself:

From the letter of the law, a woman may read the Megillah on behalf of herself and on behalf of another woman.[18] [See Q&A regarding if she may read even if she was already Yotzei.] However, some Poskim[19] rule that she may not read the Megillah on behalf of a group of women, as she cannot be Motzi a group. Practically, initially women are not to read the Megillah at all, not even on behalf of themselves, and are rather to hear the reading from a man.[20] However, if men are not available to read the Megillah on behalf of a woman, or group of women, then a woman may read it on behalf of herself, and on behalf of another woman [and even on behalf of a group of women[21]], from a Kosher Megillah, with a blessing, with proper pronunciation.[22] If however a male reader later becomes available, she should re-hear the Megillah.[23]

The blessing: When a woman reads the Megillah she is to recite the first blessing using the words “Lishmoa Megillah”. See Halacha 8 for the full details on this subject! The blessing may only to be said if she will be able to read the Megillah with proper pronunciation.

 

Summary:

Initially, a woman is to hear the Megillah from a man and is not to read it on her behalf, or on behalf of others. If, however, there are no men available to read the Megillah, then she is to read the Megillah with a blessing on behalf of herself. She may be Motzi another woman, or even a group of women, with her reading. In a time of need that the men present do not know to read Hebrew, she may read the Megillah even on behalf of other men, although without a blessing. In all the above cases, if a man later becomes available to read the Megillah, those who were Yotzei from a woman’s reading should re-hear the Megillah reading from a man, without a blessing.

Q&A

May a woman read the Megillah on behalf of male children?[24]

No.

May a woman who already heard Megillah read it again on behalf of another?[25]

It is best for a woman who already heard the Megillah not to read the Megillah on behalf of another woman who was not yet Yotzei.[26] However, if there is no one else available, then a woman who was already Yotzei may read it for her with a blessing.[27]

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[1] See 689:2; Nitei Gavriel 34:1-2; 9-10

[2] See Megillah 19b and Erechin 2b which imply she is a valid reader, versus Tosefta Megillah 2:4 which implies she is an invalid reader

[3] See Lechatchila opinion brought in B.

[4] See other opinions brought in footnotes in A.

[5] See Poskim brought in A and B

[6] See Poskim brought in B

[7] See Michaber 690:14

[8] Michaber 689:2

[9] See Michaber ibid; 271:2; Admur 271:6 regarding Kiddush; See Q&A regarding if a woman may read for others after she already fulfilled her obligation

[10] Yeish Omrim in Michaber ibid; Yeish Omrim in Rama 689:2-3 [as explained in M”A 689:7 and 9]; Tosefta Megillah 2:4 “Women are exempt from reading the Megillah” [brought in Biur Hagr”a 689:3 and P”M 689 A”A 2 and Machatzis Hashekel 689]; Tosafus Sukkah 38a [brought in M”A 271:2]; Smag and Reiam [brought in M”A 689:5]; Bahag Hilchos Megillah [brought in Tosafus ibid and P”M 689 A”A 2]; Mordechai 779 in name of Ravaya 529; Opinion in Rosh Megillah 1:4 and so is his implied ruling as writes Beis Yosef 689

Other Opinions: Some Poskim that it is valid for women to read the Megillah on behalf of men and to be Motzi them. [Implication of first and Stam opinion brought in the Michaber ibid that whoever is Chayav is Motzi; Implication of Megillah 19b and Erechin 2b “Everyone is Kosher to read”; Rashi Erechin ibid “Women are obligated in reading Megillah and they may read for even men and be Motzi them”; Implication of Rambam, as explains Maggid Mishneh Megillah 1:2 and Biur Hagra 689; Opinion in Rosh Megillah 1:4; Opinion in  M”A 689:7, 8 and 9; Biur Hagra ibid that so rules 1st opinion in Michaber ibid and so rules Rambam who omitted the law of Androganus, and Kol Bo, and Tosafus Megillah 4a; Rashi, brought in Machatzis Hashekel 689 and P”M 689 A”A 2; M”B in Shaar Hatziyon 689:16 that the main opinion is like the first opinion; Kaf Hachaim 689:12; Michaber 271:2 and Admur 271:6 regarding Kiddush that a woman is Motzi a man]

[11] The reason: The reason for this is because: 1) The reading the Megillah is similar to Kerias Hatorah of which women are invalid to read due to Kavod Hatzibur. [M”A 689:5 in name of Smag and Reim; M”B 689:7; Kaf Hachaim 689:13] Alternatively, they are invalid to read for the public because “Zeilu Behu Milsa,” that doing so is belittling to the Mitzvah. [Tosafus ibid, brought in M”A 271:2; See Admur 271:6 regarding Kiddush] 2) Alternatively the reason is because women were never obligated in reading the Megillah but simply in hearing it, and thus she is not considered obligated in the Mitzvah of reading, and can’t be Motzi a man who is of higher obligation status then she. [Taz 271:2 based on Rama ibid that for this reason they say Lishmoa Megillah; Bahag ibid “They are not Motzi men being that they are not obligated to read”; Biur HaGr”a ibid; Rosh Yosef Megillah 4a; Machatzis Hashekel 689:7; Nesiv Chaim 271; M”B ibid; Kaf Hachaim ibid;] 3) Alternatively the reason is because a woman’s voice is considered an Erva, and is hence forbidden for men to hear. [Kol Bo 45; Orchos Chaim brought in Kaf Hachaim ibid; Omitted from Taz and M”A ibid; See Maharash Engel 3:45; Chavalim Beni’imim 36]

[12] Poskim ibid; Taz 271:2 that so rules Michaber ibid and so should be initially followed; Bach 271; Rashal, brought in Taz ibid; Levush 689; Peri Chadash 689; Elya Raba 689:2; P”M 689 A”A 4; Teshuvos Bad 408; Derech Hachaim 3; Kaf Hachaim 689:14; See Admur 271:6 that even by Kiddush “Ein Morin Kein”

[13] M”A 689:5 in name of Reiam

The reason: As although the main reason of invalidation is because of Kavod Hatzibur, nevertheless once their reading was invalidated the Sages did not differentiate in their decree and hence invalidated it in all scenarios. [M”A ibid] Certainly, according to the second and third reason recorded above by the Poskim, they are invalid to read for even a single man.  

[14] Ben Ish Chaiy Tetzaveh 2; Kaf Hachaim 689:14; See P”M 689 A”A 6; However, see Taz ibid who implies that Bedieved one is Yotzei

[15] However, if there is a man present who is able to read Hebrew, then it is better for him to read it and have the woman correct his pronunciation than for him to be Yotzei from her, even though she knows how to read the Megillah fluently. [So seems Pashut from Poskim]

[16] Implication of Taz ibid “Therefore it is certainly initially improper for a woman to read for men” thus implying that Bedieved or in a time of need she may read; Beis Oved 689:4; Kaf Hachaim 689:16; M”B in Shaar Hatziyon 689:16 that the main opinion is like the first opinion

The reason: On the one hand, we suspect for the Poskim who rule a woman may be Motzi a man and hence we rule that she should read for him. Nonetheless, a blessing may not be said due to Safek Brachos, as we suspect for the Yeish Omrim who rule it is an invalid reading.

Opinion of Admur: See Admur ibid that even by Kiddush we rule that one should not direct women to say Kiddush on behalf of men, even though she is for certain Motzi him, and this would imply that certainly in this case where her ability to be Motzi is under question, we should rule that we should not tell her to read for a man. Nonetheless, seemingly the ruling there of Admur is only initially, however, if in truth there is no one else available to read for him, then certainly she may do so.

Reading for a group of men: Some Poskim rule that a woman can never be Motzi a group of people, whether men or women. [See list of Poskim brought in B] Accordingly, Piskeiy Teshuvos 689 footnote 7 concludes that she should never read the Megillah on behalf of a group of men.  Vetzaruch Iyun, as since there are opinions who rule a woman can read the Megillah for a group of men, why then should one not suspect for this opinion! Perhaps, however, this is due to the suspicion of Kol Isha. Vetzaruch Iyun, as majority of Poskim negate this worry.

[17] Beis Oved 689:4; Kaf Hachaim 689:16

[18] Implication of Michaber ibid, M”A ibid and Taz ibid that their entire invalidation is only towards men; Rama ibid who rules for women to say the blessing of Lishmoa Megillah; Bahag Hilchos Megillah “They are Motzi women but not men” [brought in P”M 689 A”A 2]; Mordechai 779 in explanation of Erechin 3a; Ateres Zekeinim 689 “They are Motzi other women”; Chayeh Adam; M”B 689:7 and Shaar Hatziyon 689:16 based on Rosh in beginning of Megillah, Gr”a, Peri Megadim and that the main opinion follows the first opinion in Michaber ibid and even according to the second opinion, she can be Motzi herself

The reason: Although she can’t be Motzi a man due to not being included in the Mitzvah of reading, she can be Motzi a woman, as they are of the same level obligation. [Bahag ibid; P”M ibid]

[19] M”B in Shaar Hatziyon 689:15; Karban Nesanel Megillah 1:4; Possible implication of Tosefta ibid and Tosafus Sukkah 38a and so rule Karban Nesanel ibid and Nesiv Chaim 271 in their understanding of Tosafus Sukkah 38a [however, to note that he quotes the Bahag, who explicitly permits reading for women]; See Kaf Hachaim 689:17; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 689 footnote 7 that this applies even in a time of need that no other men are available.

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule there is no issue with a woman reading on behalf of even a group of other women. [Implication of Michaber, M”A and Taz ibid; Bahag ibid, P”M ibid, Ateres Zekeinim ibid; Machatzis Hashekel 689:7; See M”A 271:2; Admur 271:6; Nitei Gavriel 34:9 footnote 14]

[20] M”A 689:6 in name of Midrash Hanelam; Elya Raba 689:3; Biur Hagr”a in name of Zohar Rus; Machazik Bracha 689:3 that so is custom; Ben Ish Chaiy Titzaveh 1; See Shaar Hatziyon 689:16

[21] Pashut from all Poskim brought in the other opinions in previous footnotes; Implication of Taz 271:2; Beis Oved 689:4; Kaf Hachaim 689:16; Nitei Gavriel ibid based on M”A and Admur ibid; However, see Piskeiy Teshuvos 689 footnote 7 that she may not read for a group of women even in a time of need that no other men are available. Vetzaruch Iyun as there are opinions who rule a woman can read the Megillah for a group of women and hence why should one not suspect for this opinion!

[22] Chayeh Adam 155:11; M”B 689:8; Kaf Hachaim 689:18

[23] Peri Megadim 689 A”A 6 as explained in Kaf Hachaim 689:18

[24] Elya Raba 689:8 in name of Amrakel unlike the simple implication from Olas Shabbos 689:3 [Kaf Hachaim 689:23]

[25] See the following Poskim regarding a debate if women are included in the Mitzvah of Areivus, and can hence be Motzi others if they were already Yotzei: Rosh and Rabbeinu Yona Barchos 20b [no Areivus]; Ritva Brachos 5:2 and Mordechai Megillah 797 [There is Areivus]; Admur 186:2; 263 KU”A 5; 271:3; 296:19; 608:4-5 [All these sources implies there is Areivus and she can be Motzi]; P”M 271 A”A 2; 689 A”A 4 [questionable]; Degul Merivava 271 and Tzlach Brachos 20b [No Areivus]; Rav Akiva Eiger 271 and Shut Rav Akiva Eiger 7 [There is Areivus]; M”B 271:5; 273:20; 675:9; 692:10-11 [All these sources implies there is Areivus and she can be Motzi]; Biur Halacha 689 “Venashim”; Kaf Hachaim 675:20 [Permitted]; The following Poskim all rule she is considered within Areivus: Chasam Sofer 271; Rosh Yosef Brachos ibid; Avnei Nezer 439; Shaar Hatziyon 271:9; Minchas Yitzchak 3:54; Har Tzvi 2:122; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 271:8 footnote 89 and 92 for the full list of Poskim on each side of the debate

[26] P”M 689 A”A 4; Biur Halacha 689 “Venashim”

The reason: Due to the debate of whether a woman is included in Areivus, it is best for one who was not yet Yotzei to read to herself than to have another woman who was already Yotzei read on her behalf.

[27] As so is the main ruling of Admur, M”B and Poskim ibid, that a woman can be Yotzei others even if she was already Yotzei

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