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Question: If someone heard Megillat Esther in shul and later reads it at home for his wife and family, must he recite the blessings?




The Gaon Rabbi Ovadia Yosef answers a similar question in his responsa Yechaveh Da’at (Orach Chayim Vol.1, 84). He quotes the Gemara (Megillah 4a): “R. Yehoshua b. Levi says: Women are under the obligation to read the megillah since they were included in that miracle.” Rashi (s.v. She’af hen”) explains that women were covered by Haman’s decree, as the megillah states: “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, both young and old, little children and women” (Esther 3:13). Tosafot remarks, citing the Rashbam, that miracles of salvation occurred several times in our history through women: Esther (Purim), Yehudit (Chanukah), and the righteous women of the generation of the Exodus (Pesach).

  1. Ovadia Yosef adds that the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 2:5) relates that R. Yehoshua b. Levi would gather the members of his household around him and read the megillah for them (even though women are usually exempt from time-bound precepts). He also states that according to most poskim, one is required to recite the blessings when reading the megillah for women, noting that the Rema writes that women should say “lishmoa megillah” instead of “al mikra megillah.” The Pri Chadash (Orach Chayyim 689), though, disagrees with the Rema and rules that when one reads for women, one should say “al mikra megillah.” The Vilna Gaon (ad loc.) argues similarly. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef notes that a number of halachic authorities, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, rule like the Pri Chadash and Vilna Gaon.
  2. David Amar, a student of R. Hayim (Ibn) Attar, posits in his Tefilla LeDavid (85b) that when reading the megillah for women, no blessing should be recited because it is unrealistic to expect that they will not be distracted during the course of the reading, even if only for a few words, with the result that the reader will have uttered the blessings in vain. R. Ovadia Yosef cites several authorities who support this opinion, but points out that the Gemara (Megillah 18a) explains the mishnaic statement (17a), “If one who does not understand Hebrew heard it read in Hebrew, he has performed his obligation,” to refer to women and unschooled people, and it is obvious that the blessings were recited in this case.

We should note that Ravina (ibid.) does not think that a perfect understanding of Hebrew is necessary to fulfill one’s obligation of reading/hearing the megillah since nobody knows exactly, for example, what “ha’achashtranim bnei ha’ramachim” (Esther 8:10) means. Nonetheless, we recite the blessings and perform the mitzvah of reading the megillah and proclaiming the miracle (pirsumei nissa). Rashi explains that even if those who listen do not understand, they inquire and are told, and thus the miracle is proclaimed and publicized.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef remarks that, as explained by the Pri Chadash, the established custom in Jerusalem is to recite the blessing “al mikra megillah” when reading for women. He concludes by saying that now that women are literate and understand all that is written in the megillah, it would not be right to deprive them of the blessings preceding the megillah.

Regarding the blessing at the conclusion of the reading of the Megillah, “harav et riveinu,” it should be recited only in the presence of a minyan, for it is in essence a prayer of thanksgiving (not directly related to the mitzvah of reading the megillah). That is the ruling of most poskim, and that is what should be done, in particular since we follow the principle of “safek berachot le’hakel” (in cases of doubt we opt for leniency in the matter of berachot). Instead of this berachah, Rav Yosef suggests to say, in accordance with Tosafot (Megillah 7b s.v. “Ad delo yada”), who quotes the Yerushalmi, “Cursed be Haman, blessed be Mordechai, cursed be Zeresh, blessed be Esther, cursed be all the wicked, and blessed be all the Jews.”

He concludes his responsum with a beautiful prayer that I’d like to share: “May Hashem, who wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time, perform for us acts of salvation, gather our exiles from the four corners of the earth, and hasten the era of miracles and wonders. And may ‘these days of Purim not disappear from among the Jews, nor their remembrance perish from their seed,’ as stated in Megillaht Esther (9:28).”

Indeed, we hope that the message of Purim will keep reverberating in our hearts as we approach Passover, the Festival of Freedom, which is so intimately linked with the theme of geulah, the ultimate redemption.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.