The laws of reading Megillah


Summary of the laws of reading Megillah:

  • Who is obligated in the Megillah reading? Every Jew is obligated in the Megillah reading. This obligation includes women. Children [boys and girls, who have reached the age of Chinuch], are educated to hear the Megillah once by night and once by day.
  • When is it read? One is obligated to read [or hear] the Megillah both on the night of Purim and again the next day. One may fulfill his obligation of reading the Megillah at night, anytime throughout the night of Purim. One may begin reading the Megillah at night starting from nightfall [Tzeis Hakochavim]. In a time of need one may read the Megillah starting from Plag Hamincha of Erev Purim [1 hour 15 Zmaniyos minutes before sunset]. It may be read anytime throughout the night up until dawn [Alos Hashachar]. One may fulfill his obligation of reading the Megillah at day, anytime throughout the day of Purim. One may begin reading the Megillah during the day starting from sunrise. Initially one is to hear Megillah after Davening Shachris, as was the institution of the Sages. It may be read throughout the day up until sunset. If one read the Megila before sunrise, then if it was past Alos one has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation. One who has not heard the Megillah by the time sunset has arrived is to read the Megillah, without the blessings, up until nightfall.
  • Reading the Megillah in the local Shul with the congregation: One is to strive to arrange a Minyan for Megillah reading. One is to join the local Shul’s Minyan for Megillah reading even if a Minyan is available in someone’s house and the like. One is to bring his entire family, wife and children, to the Minyan.
  • Unrolling the Megillah and folding it like a letter prior to the reading: The Megillah is to be unrolled and folded into three parts, like a letter, prior to beginning the blessings over the Megillah. It is to remain completely folded until the reading is complete. The Chabad custom is to begin rolling it back up only after the after blessing has concluded. This applies to both the Baal Korei and as well to any of the listeners that have a Kosher Megillah. One must beware that the unrolled Megillah does not touch the floor in the process.
  • The Blessings: Three blessings are made prior to the reading both by night and day. The blessings are Al Mikra Megillah, 2. Sheasah Nissim 3. Shehechiyanu [both by night and day]. Upon reciting the blessing of Shehechiyanu by the day reading, it is proper to have in mind to include also the mitzvah of eating the festive meal and Mishloach Manos, and according to some also Matanos Laevyonim. After completing the reading, if there is a Minyan, the custom is to roll up the Megillah and then say the blessing of Harav Es Riveinu. The Chabad custom is to say this blessing before rolling up the Megillah. The after blessing of Harav Es Riveinu is not recited if a Minyan is not present. After the Megillah reading and final blessing, one needs to say the paragraph of Shoshanas Yaakov.
  • By a reading in which only woman are fulfilling their obligation, the wording of the first blessing is Lishmoa Megillah .לשמוע מגילה
  • Reading the Megillah for others after fulfilling one’s obligation: If one already heard the Megillah reading, he may still read the Megillah and recite the blessings on behalf of others. Nevertheless, if the person who is listening to the reading is able to say the blessings himself or herself, then it is best they do so rather than one say it for them. When reading the Megillah for only women listeners, each woman is to say the blessing to herself prior to the reading, or have one woman say it aloud for everyone to hear and fulfill their obligation. If the women are unable to recite the blessing, the Baal Korei may do so for them. By a reading in which only woman are fulfilling their obligation, the wording of the first blessing is .לשמוע מגילה Upon saying the blessings one should have in mind to fulfill the obligation of the congregation. Likewise, the congregation should have in mind to fulfill their obligation of hearing the Megillah. One may read the Megillah for others even if a Minyan is not present. However the blessing of Harav Es Riveinu is only recited if there is a Minyan present.
  • Is the Megillah read sitting or standing? By a public reading, the reader must stand out of honor for the congregation. The listeners are not required to stand during the Megillah reading. The blessings must be recited in a standing position.
  • Refraining from talking during the reading: Once the blessing has been recited, it is forbidden to speak from that point and on until the reading is completed and the final blessing is recited. This applies for both the reader and the listener.
  • One who missed a word or part of the reading? The reader must read every word of the Megillah. If he skipped a verse, or even one word, or even one letter, he and the congregation do not fulfill their obligation. The same applies for the listener; if he did not hear even one word, or even one letter, he has not fulfilled his obligation. [One must thus repeat the reading. Nevertheless one is not to repeat the blessing prior to the reading.] Some Poskim rule that if one was thinking of other matters while hearing the words then it is considered as if he did not hear those words. One who reads the Megillah in the wrong order does not fulfill his obligation. Thus if one skipped a [letter, word or] verse and continued reading, he must go back to the skipped verse [word or letter] and read the rest of the Megillah from that point until the end.
  • Following along in a Kosher Megillah or Chumash: It is best for every person who can afford it, to purchase a Kosher Megillah and read along silently with the reader. Those that are reading along in a Kosher Megillah together with the Baal Korei are to verbalize the words silently. One who does not have a Kosher Megillah available is to read along in a Chumash or printed Megillah. One who is following along in a non-Kosher Megillah, or in a Chumash, is not to verbalize the words, and is rather to follow the reading silently in his thoughts. If one missed a word from the Chazan he must verbally read that missed word. He must continue reading the missed word until he catches up to the Chazan’s reading, in which case he is to stop verbalizing the words and listen to the reading.
  • How to read: The Megillah is to be read straight from beginning to end without interval. One is not to delay more than one breath between each verse. However one is to delay slightly between each chapter.
  • Correct pronunciation of the reading: It is not necessary to be particular in the pronunciation of the words. However if the mistake changes the meaning of the word, he must repeat that word in the correct pronunciation. If there is no one available that knows the Taamim, but there is someone who knows the punctuation, then the Megillah is to be read without Taamim, with a blessing. If they do not want to read the Megillah without the Taamim they can appoint another person to read quietly from a Chumash with the correct Taamim, and have the reader repeat the words with the correct Taamim. If there is no one available that knows the correct punctuation, the Megillah is to be read without a blessing. In such a case one can appoint another person to read quietly from a Chumash to the reader of the Megillah, and the reader repeats the words with the correct punctuation. [In such a case a blessing is recited on the reading.] Nevertheless, in such a case the reader of the Chumash is to repeat the reading for himself from a Kosher Megillah. [Alternatively, someone is to read along in a Chumash and correct the reader in all cases of mispronunciation and in such a case a blessing may be recited.]
  • Stomping and noise making by the name of Haman: It has become the custom to bang and make noise when Haman’s name is read in Shul. The custom of stomping the feet by Haman was seen done by the Rebbe Rayatz.

The Chabad custom is to only “strike Haman” in those areas that the name Haman is written together with a description, such as Haggagi [the descendant of Agag] or Hara [the wicked]. During the stomping, the Chazan is to remain silent and not continue the reading of the Megillah. Due to the noise level made during the recitation of Haman, each person is to read one or two verses to himself from a Megillah or Chumash, just in case the Chazan has already continued reading and one is unable to hear.

  • The following verses are repeated out loud by the congregation: It is accustomed for the congregation to read four verses of redemption aloud. These four verses are: Ish Yehudi; Umordechai Yatza; Layehudim Haysa Ora; Ki Mordechai Hayehudi. The Chazan must repeat these verses aloud after the congregation concludes their recitation.
  • Raising the voice by Balayla Hahu: The reader is to raise his voice when he reads the words Balayla Hahu.
  • The ten sons of Haman: One must read the ten sons of Haman in a single breath. The custom is for the congregation to first read the ten sons to themselves and then have the Chazan repeat it. The reader must be careful upon reading the words in one breath, that he verbalizes every single word of “Vies” from within the Megillah and not from memory. Furthermore, each word of Vies is to be read from the word written corresponding to that son’s name, and he is not to read it from one of the former or latter words of “Vies”.
  • Lahraog/Lifneihem: In the Megillah [8:11] we read “Laharog ule’abeid” and repeat “Vileharog ule’abeid”. In [9:2] we read “V’ish lo omad bifneihem” and then repeat “V’ish lo omad lifneihem”.
  • Shaking the Megillah: The Megillah is rustled at the mention of the words “Ha’igeres hazos” [9:26] and again at “Igeres haPurim hazos hasheinis” [ 9:29].
  • Elongating the Vav of Vayzasa: One must elongate the pronunciation of the Vav.
  • Reading each word from the Kosher Megillah: The reader must [initially] read the entire Megillah [i.e. every word] from a Kosher Megillah. Initially the Megillah used for the reading must be complete and not have any words [or even letters] missing or unreadable. Nonetheless, in the event that words are missing, the Megillah remains Kosher if all the following conditions are met:
  1. The Megillah is not missing the first or last verse.
  2. The missing words do not omit an entire episode of the Megillah.
  3. The missing words or letters do not exceed half of the Megillah.
  4. It is not missing the ten sons of Haman.
  • Touching a Megillah? The widespread custom is to allow people to touch and hold the Megillah directly without washing hands. Nevertheless, it is proper for every person to be stringent upon himself and avoid touching the parchment of a Kosher Megillah anytime, unless he washes his hands beforehand, or holds onto it using a cloth. Some Poskim rule that if one touched the parchment of a Kosher Megillah during a meal of bread, then he must re-wash his hands. Others however rule it is not necessary. Practically it is proper to be stringent in this matter to avoid touching the parchment of a Megillah during a meal.
  • Does not have a Kosher Megillah: If a Kosher Megillah is not available then one is to read the Megillah from a Chumash without a blessing.

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