Women’s Megilla Reading

  • by: Aryeh A. Frimer*
  • Submitted on August 18, 2003

This article appears in Traditions and Celebrations for the Bat Mitzvah edited by Ora Wiskind Elper.[1]
Published by Urim Publications and MaTaN: The Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, 2003.

I. Talmudic Sources

Jewish law generally frees women from those positive biblical commandments which, like sukka, shofar and lulav, are not continual obligations but, rather, time-determined. Such commandments are known in the halakhic literature as mitsvot asei she-ha-zeman geramman.[2] There are exceptions to this rule, such as the obligations of Shabbat,[3] hakhel, simha (rejoicing on the holidays) and eating matsa – which are binding on women like men.[4] Each exception, however, is based on a specific verse or derived via exegesis.

The consensus of authorities from the period of the rishonim[5]is that this exemption from time-determined commandments applies not only to Biblically ordained mitsvot, but to those of rabbinic origin, as well.[6] The rationale for this position is that, in establishing and defining the character of new ordinances, the rabbis generally followed the Torah’s lead (kol de-takun rabbanan, ke-ein de-oraita takun).[7] Nevertheless, there are several instances of time-determined rabbinic innovations where the rabbis felt it important to obligate women. Thus, women are rabbinically commanded in private prayer because it is “a request for mercy,”[8] which women require from the Almighty no less than men. Similarly, they are required to light Hanukka candles (neirot Hanukka)[9] and drink the four cups of wine at the Passover seder (arba kosot),[10] because “they [women], too, were involved in the same miracle [of salvation] (she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes).” Consequently, women must thank and praise the Lord as do their male counterparts.

The question of women’s rabbinic obligation of reading Megillat Esther appears four times in the Talmudic literature:

(1) Said R. Joshua ben Levi: Women are obligated in reading the Book of Esther on Purim (mikra Megilla) for they, too, were involved in the miracle.[11]
(2) Bar Kappara said: One must read the Megilla before women and minors, for they, too, were involved in the doubt [i.e., danger] (she-af otam hayu ba-safek). R. Joshua ben Levi acted accordingly – he gathered his sons and the members of his household and read [the Megilla] before them.[12]
(3) ‘All are obligated in the reading of the Megilla;’[13] ‘All are empowered (kesheirin) to read the Megilla’[14] – [‘All’] to include what? To include women. And this is in accordance with the opinion of R. Joshua ben Levi – for R. Joshua ben Levi said: Women are obligated in the reading of the Megilla.[15]
(4) All are obligated in the reading of the Megilla: Priests, Levites, Israelites…All are obligated and can assist the masses (ha-rabim, to be understood as “others” or “the community”)in fulfilling their obligation. A tumtum (one whose sex is undetermined because the genitalia are covered) and an androgonus (hermaphrodite) are obligated, but cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation.…Women…are exempt and cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation.[16]

II. Rishonim

In their attempt to apply the above sources to the question of women and mikra Megilla, the rishonim divide themselves into three schools:

(1) The “Equal Obligation” School: Most rishonim[17] maintain that the first three sources, particularly that from Arakhin (source #3), establish that women are obligated to read Megillat Esther and, therefore, should also be empowered to read it for others. The connection between obligation and the ability to assist others in fulfilling their obligation is based on the mishnaic dictum: “Anyone who is not obligated, cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation.”[18] This latter ruling readily leads to the converse conclusion, namely, that “one who is obligated, can assist others in fulfilling their obligation.”[19] Indeed, Rashi in his commentary to Arakhin 3a writes “[All]…to include women – that they are obligated in reading the Megilla and can assist the men in fulfilling their obligation.”[20]

We note, of course, that this conclusion would appear to be contradicted by the last sentence of the Tosefta in Megilla (source #4), which exempts women from the obligation of mikra Megilla, and further indicates that they cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation. This first “equal obligation” school of rishonim maintains that since the Talmud in Arakhin[21]rejects the conclusion of the Tosefta in Megilla, the latter source is to be set aside as being neither authoritative nor normative halakha.

(2) The “Kavod haTsibbur” School: The second school of rishonim maintain that fundamentally women share equal obligation with men and should, therefore, also be empowered to read it for them. However, for external considerations, they are enjoined from doing so.[22] The external reason most commonly cited by this school is kevod ha-tsibbur[23] (maintenance of the honor/dignity of the community) or zila milta[24] (maintenance of propriety/modesty within the community), based on analogy to keriat haTorah.[25] Thus, Tosafot[26] write:

…because were are dealing with a community, it would be a breach of propriety(zila be-hu milta) were a women to assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation. Thus, women are obligated in Megilla reading; yet, Ba’al Halakhot Gedolot (Behag) rules that women cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their Megilla obligation.

Some rishonim cite as an external factor kol be-isha erva (that the singing voice of a woman is sexually distracting).[27] As far as the Tosefta is concerned, this school maintains that the text is corrupted. The last sentence which reads “Women…are exempt and cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation” should either be deleted[28] or emended to read: “Women are obligated but cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation.”[29]

(3) The “Lesser Obligation” School: The third school, also attributed primarily to Behag,[30] makes a distinction in the nature of a woman’s obligation: men are obligated to read the Megilla; women, however, have a lesser obligation, that is, to only hear the reading of the Megilla.[31] This distinction in obligation bears direct halakhic repercussions with regard to the question of whether women can read the Megilla for men. As a rule, one Jew can assist another in fulfilling his/her obligations only if the former has an obligation which is equal to or greater than that of the latter.[32] Thus, Rosh[33] writes:

And Ba’al haHalakhot ruled that women are only obligated to hear the Megilla; however, her reading [of the Megilla] cannot assist the men in fulfilling their obligation. For the men are obligated to read [and do not fulfill their obligation] until they hear the Megilla read by men, who are obligated in reading like them – and hearing [the reading] from women is not equivalent [i.e., is of a lower level of obligation] to the men’s reading for themselves…And according to Halakhot Gedolot and Tosefta the statement in Arakhin: ‘All are empowered to read the Megilla…to include women’ needs to be explained [as follows]: not that women are empowered to read for men, but [rather they are empowered to read] only for women. [And the significance of this statement is] that one should not suggest that women cannot fulfill their obligation until they hear an important [i.e., high level obligation] reading of men. [Arakhin] teaches us that a women can indeed assist her fellow [woman in fulfilling her obligation].

As far as the Tosefta is concerned, this school maintains that the last sentence which reads “Women…are exempt and cannot assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation” should be understood to mean “Women are exempt [from the obligation to read the Megilla – though they are obligated to hear it, as indicated by R. Joshua ben Levi] and cannot assist the masses [of men] in fulfilling their obligation”

We would like to reiterate that, as presented above, there are two distinct traditions as to the position of Behag. Both agree that women cannot read Megillat Esther for men; however the rationales for this are fundamentally different. Tosafot in Sukka[34] places Behag in the Second School according to whom women are obligated equally with men – but cannot read for them because of a side consideration of zila milta. Tosafot in Arakhin and Rosh,[35] on the other hand, place Behag in the Third School maintaining that women’s obligation is on a lower level than that of men – and, hence, women cannot read for them either. Both positions, however, would agree that women can indeed read for other women in accordance with the statement in Arakhin: “All are empowered to read the Megilla…to include women.”[36]

Korban Netanel, in his commentary on Rosh,[37] suggests that the two traditions in Behag can be unified. As indicated by Tosafot in Arakhin and Rosh, Behag maintains that women have a lesser obligation than men and, hence, cannot read Megilla for them. The seemingly contradictory statement of Tosafot in Sukka – according towhich women cannot read for the community because of the side consideration of zila be-hu milta – is in fact not referring to men (for that possibility is already excluded because of women’s lesser obligation). Rather it is referring to the impropriety of having a woman read for a community of women! Thus, while “a woman can indeed assist her fellow [woman]” (as Rosh himself states above[38]), according to Korban Netanel, Tosafot in Sukka is teaching us that it is improper (zila be-hu milta) for her to do so for a group of women.

This novel suggestion of Korban Netanel runs counter to the understanding of Magen Avraham,[39] Ateret Zahav,[40] and Arukh haShulhan[41] that zila be-hu milta clearly refers to the case of a woman reading for men. More importantly, however, the Tosafot haRosh[42] – the version of the Tosafot in Sukka which was used by Rosh – reads as follows: “Alternatively, zila be-hu milta for women to assist men in fulfilling their obligation.” Thus, it is clear from this reading that zila be-hu milta invoked by Tosafot in Sukka refers to a woman assisting men – not a woman for a group of women, as suggested by Korban Netanel. We will return to the opinion of the Korban Netanel later, but it would seem, for the time being at least, that his unified interpretation of the position of Behag is problematic.

III. Shulkhan Arukh and Posekim

We turn now to the codification of the above discussion of a woman’s obligation in mikra Megilla as found in the Shulkhan Arukh. R. Joseph Caro (Mehaber) writes as follows:[43]

(1) All are obligated in the reading of the Megilla: men, women and freed slaves. Children, too, are educated to read it.

(2) Both one who reads [the Megilla] and one who hears it read by another have fulfilled their obligation – provided one hears it from one who is obligated to read it…. And there are those who maintain that women cannot assist men in fulfilling their obligation.

To this R. Moses Isserles (Rema)[44] comments:

Gloss: And there are those who maintain that, if a woman reads for herself, she should recite the benediction “…li-shmoa [to hear] Megilla” – for she is not obligated to read it.

The first view cited by the Mehaber, appearing in paragraph 1 and the beginning of paragraph 2, reflects the opinion of the “equal obligation” school of Rashi (see section II.1). According to this first opinion, women are obligated equally with men in mikra Megilla and, hence, can read for them. The second view, cited by R. Caro at the end of paragraph 2, would seem to be the view of Behag who prohibits women to read for men – though it is not clear which of the two traditions (see section II.2 vs. II.3) is being referred to.[45] Finally, the third view, cited by Rema in his gloss, is based on the “lesser obligation” school attributed to Behag, according to which a women’s obligation is only to hear the Megilla (see section II.3).

These rulings of the Mehaber and Rema raise several practical issues discussed below.

A. Can Women Read Megillat Esther for Men?

As a general rule, Sefardic practice follows the ruling of R. Caro (the Mehaber), whereas Ashkenazic practice follows the opinion of Rema. Regarding the former, we need to determine which of the two opinions, cited by R. Caro in the Shulkhan Arukh, actually reflects the Mehaber’s own position. Some scholars[46] have argued that R. Caro sides with the more stringent second opinion of Behag, which prohibits women from reading for men – though, as already noted above, it is not clear which of the two traditions in Behag is being referred to. R. Ovadiah Yosef,[47] on the other hand, is one of the leading proponents of the opinion that Rashi’s position (section II.1) is presented first as the primary view (stam); this is then followed by Behag’s view – merely as a dissenting minority position (yesh omrim).[48] In such a case, maintains R. Yosef, the Mehaber would seem to be ruling with the former – more lenient – opinion and, hence, would allow women to read for men. In practice, however, and in deference to the second opinion, R. Yosef only allows Sefardic women to read for Sefardic men be-she’at ha-dehak – when no suitable male is available.[49] We note that the scholars of the second “kevod ha-tsibbur” school would agree with this latter ruling, since the consensus of posekim is that kevod ha-tsibbur can be set aside be-she’at ha-dehak.[50]

By contrast, the view of Rema in his gloss would seem to be rather clear: women, whose obligation in mikra Megilla is a lesser one than that of men, cannot read the Megilla for the latter.[51] In a case where there is no male available to read for a man, the posekim rule that a woman should read for him (without berakhot) so that he will fulfill his obligation at least according to the first two schools. If at some later hour on Purim a capable male becomes available, the Megilla should be heard again.[52]

Nevertheless, there are those who have recently suggested, that even according to the Behag, women can in practice read for men at the nighttime reading of the Megilla.[53] In support of this position, these authors cite the writings of the early 20th Century Lithuanian scholar R. Hanokh Henikh Agus, in his renowned work “Marheshet,” and several others who adopt a similar view.[54] In their attempt to explain the Behag’s distinction between the obligation of men and women, many scholars have proposed that the obligation of Megilla reading is actually composed of two facets. All agree that the first of these is pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle) – an obligation in which men and women share equally. Various suggestions have been put forward as to the second, e.g., zekhirat Amalek (remembering to destroy Amalek), keriat haHallel (equivalent to reciting Hallel), or talmud Torah (learning the laws of the Holiday). Since women are not obligated in the second facet, they cannot assist men in fulfilling their Megilla obligation – which involves both facets. The school of the Marheshet notes, however, that the second facet in each case is only applicable during the day. Hence, regarding the Megilla reading at night, men and women are equally obligated in only one facet (pirsumei nisa). Women can, therefore, read for men at that time.

Several basic arguments seriously undermine reliance on this lenient approach in practice.[55] Firstly, the explanations of the Marheshet and others may have been stated only in theory, but not in practice (halakha le-ma’ase).[56] In this regard it is important to distinguish between two very different categories of halachic scholarly activity. The first is hiddush – the development and/or advocacy of a novel or creative position; the second is psak – the halakhic decision making process. When one paskens, one must be cognizant of and take into account all the varying positions of the leading halakhic authorities throughout the generations.[57] We note as well, that to consciously adopt one particular approach simply because it yields the desired result, without grappling with the argument and the standings of the other halachic positions, is foreign to the halachic process and may lack intellectual integrity.[58]

Secondly, the suggestion that women can read Megilla for men at night was never mentioned or even hinted to by any of the rishonim or the codes – this despite their extensive discussion of the topic of women reading for men under various conditions. The omission of such a major and obvious point surely indicates its rejection.[59]

Furthermore, the position of Marheshet and his colleagues resulted as an offshoot of a possible explanation of Behag – yet many other explanations are possible and have been proposed.[60]

Finally, the position of the Marheshet has been explicitly rejected by many posekim.[61]

B. Can Women Read Megillat Esther for Women?

We have cited previously[62] the Talmud’s statement in Arakhin:[63]

‘All are obligated in the reading of the Megilla;’ ‘All are empowered (kesheirin) to read the Megilla’ – [‘All’] to include what? To include women.

As noted above, the Rishonim who discuss women’s obligation in mikra Megilla indicate that this statement empowers women to read for men, according to the school of Rashi,[64] or at least for women, according to the schools of Behag.[65] Nevertheless, two major hurdles stand in the way of women’s Megilla readings for women. The first is the aforementioned Korban Netanel[66], who argues that it is a breach of propriety (zila milta) for a woman to read Megilla for a group of women. The view of Korban Netanel is cited approvingly in the noted halakhic woks Mishna Berura[67] and Kaf haHayyim.[68]

The second ruling is that of Magen Avraham[69]who, based on the kabbalistic Midrash Ne’elam Rut, indicatesthat it is preferable that women not read for themselves but hear the Megilla from men. Mishna Berura cites this view of Magen Avraham.[70]. Many contemporary authors also cite Korban Netanel, Magen Avraham or both of these stringent opinions, at least le-khathila.[71]

Despite the stature of the scholars in the above “stringent school,” a large number of posekim (the “lenient school”) have permitted women’s Megilla readings,[72] the rulings of both Korban Netanel and Magen Avraham notwithstanding. Regarding the Korban Netanel, the “lenient school” scholars note that authorities of the stature of Magen Avraham, Ateret Zahav, and Arukh haShulhan[73] do not view a women’s reading of the Megilla as unseemly. Even more importantly the scholars of this school, as well as many others,[74] argue that Korban Netanel erred in his understanding of the ba’alei haTosafot, who were in fact discussing the impropriety of a woman’s reading of the Megilla for men. Neither Mishna Berura nor Kaf haHayyim were aware of the reading in the relatively recently discovered[75] manuscript of Tosafot haRosh[76] which confirms that Korban Netanel erred.

The ruling of Magen Avraham,[77] based on Midrash Ne’elam Rut, is also quite surprising since it flies in the face of the above cited Talmudic statement in Arakhin: “All are empowered (kesheirin) to read the Megilla.” Although, as noted above, Mishna Berura cites Magen Avraham, he takes serious issue with him in Sha’ar haTsiyyun.[78] Indeed, Midrash Ne’elam Rut is not accepted as normative halakha by the above the “lenient-school” decisors,as well as many other posekim.[79]

C. What Benediction (Berakha) Should Women Recite before Reading Megillat Esther?

The rabbis instituted the benediction “…al mikra Megilla” to be recited prior to the reading the Megilla.[80] Since according to the “equal obligation” and “kavod ha-tsibbur” schools (see secs. II.1 and II.2 above) women share equally with men in the obligation of mikra Megilla, there is no logical reason to distinguish between the genders in the preliminary berakha. The above ruling of Rema indicates, however, that according to the “lesser obligation” school, which maintains that a woman’s obligation is to hear the Megilla and not to read it – a woman should recite a different benediction, namely, “…li-shmoa [to hear] Megilla.” The origin of Rema’s ruling is an innovation of R. Eliezer ben Yoel haLevi (Ra’avya, d. 1224).[81] This ruling, however, has been subject to serious challenge by R. Hezekiah de Silva (Pri Hadash)[82] and R. Elijah Kramer of Vilna (Gra).[83] The latter maintain that there is no justification to change the berakha from what originally appears in Hazal, Geonim and other Rishonim without any gender distinction.

The issue of what Ashkenazi women should do in practice is also a matter of major dispute among the modern posekim. Some cite the Rema’s ruling as is: “…li-shmoa Megilla,”[84] while others cite the ruling of Rema with the variant text “…li-shmoa mikra Megilla.”[85] Yet a third group of scholars rule like the Pri Hadash and Gra that women like men should say “…al mikra Megilla.”[86] What’s more, R. Moshe Sternbuch argues that if a woman recites “…li-shmoa Megilla” – she may well be reciting a brakha le-vatalla. A number of decisors have ruled that, even according to the view of the Rema, be-di-avad (ex post facto) all would agree that “…al mikra Megilla” is valid.[87] Finally, R. Chaim Sonnenfeld is of the opinion that either of the benedictions is appropriate. To prevent confusion and error, he advises, therefore, that “…al mikra Megilla” should be preferred since that is the text which appears in all the siddurim and printed texts.

In light of the strong preference of some posekim to recite “…al mikra Megilla,” and the sense of others that this formulation is valid be-di-avad according to all, it would seem that the best course of action is to recite “…al mikra Megilla.” Indeed, R. Yosef[88] and others[89] indicate that this is the prevalent custom.

D. Do Women Count for a Minyan for the Reading of Megillat Esther?

In normal years when neither Purim nor Shushan Purim fall on Shabbat, a minyan is advisable for mikra Megilla because of pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle), although it is not a prerequisite to fulfillment.[90] A minyan, however, is required for the berakhaha-Rav et Riveinu” said following the Megilla reading.[91] In addition, when the fifteenth of Adar falls on Shabbat (known as Purim meshulash), Jerusalemites read on the fourteenth; numerous posekim posit that, since this reading is not on its normally designated date, a minyan is an absolute requirement.[92] Many leading aharonim[93]maintain that ten women alone indeed do constitute a proper minyan for both the reading of the Megilla (in a regular year and even on Purim meshulash) and the reciting of the ha-rav et riveinu benediction.[94]

It is important to distinguish in this regard between public prayer (tefilla be-tsibbur) rituals, e.g., the recitation of kaddish, kedusha, bareku, and hazarat ha-shats – where women do not count towards a minyan, and Megilla reading where the consensus of leading aharonim is that they do. Tefilla be-tsibbur ceremonies are essentially communal obligations which become incumbent once a community of ten is established; since women lack the obligation of public prayer they cannot count towards the requisite minyan. In contradistinction, the obligation of Megilla is essentially a personal one in which women are obligated. Furthermore, the purpose of the minyan is not to create the obligation, but to enhance the element of pirsumei nisa.[95]

E. Are Women’s Megilla Readings Advisable?

The last, and perhaps most difficult, issue to tackle is whether women’s Megilla readings are advisable. Clearly many contemporary women need venues of personal religious expression. Where this can be clearly done within the halakhic guidelines, women desiring this expression should be encouraged to do so.[96]

However, this should not be done at the expense of the community. There is after all a clear sense in the halakhic literature that the Megilla reading should be carried out in a large group for two reasons. One is the general consideration of “beRov am hadrat Melekh” – “In the multitude of people is the King’s glory.”[97] From this passage, the rabbis derived that it is preferable to perform commandments and rituals together with or in the presence of large numbers of people.[98] A second consideration, more particular to Purim and Megilla reading, is pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle) – which also leads the codifiers to the conclusion that it is preferable to read and hear the Megilla in the presence of large numbers of people.[99] Clearly, breaking off from the community at large to organize a women’s Megilla reading contravenes the spirit of these guidelines.

It is true that many noted halakhicists rule that women, unlike men, are not required to hear a public reading of the Megilla – arguing that women are obligated in neither be-rov am hadrat melekh nor in pirsumei nisa.[100] Indeed, it is a prevalent custom worldwide[101] for men to read for their wives and daughters at home, or to have a second Megilla reading for women; yet no provisions are made to have a minyan of ten men present. Nevertheless, many posekim dissent suggesting that women like men need to be concerned with both be-rov am and pirsumei nisa.[102]

Unity and togetherness is the message of Purim, argues R. Jonathan Eybeschutz.[103] The weakness of the Jews at the time of Mordechai and Esther is clearly delineated by none other than Haman, who refers to them as: “…a nation – dispersed and divided…” (Esther 3:8). Esther’s antidote was “Go gather all the Jews” (Esther 4:16). Little wonder, then, that “beRov am hadrat Melekh” carries such weight in the practice of this day of joy.

In this light, a balanced approach would seem to be the correct one. Thus, it would certainly seem preferable that women should not break off from the general community unnecessarily for the sole purpose of organizing there own special reading of the Megilla.[104] However, where a second Megilla reading is held anyway for the women (as is often the case Purim morning), there is then excellent grounds for having a women’s Megilla reading for the women.[105] Additionally, such readings may well be encouraged in educational settings such as women’s ulpanot and midrashot. As a rule, the local rabbinic leadership should be involved in such halakha le-ma’ase evaluations and determinations.

[*]Rabbi Aryeh A. Frimer is the Ethel and David Resnick Professor of Active Oxygen Chemistry at Bar Ilan University. The author wishes to express heartfelt thanks to Prof. Dov I. Frimer for reviewing the manuscript and for his many valuable and insightful comments. This paper is dedicated to the memory of our son Yaakov Yehudah Frimer z”l.


Notes and References
[1]. For recent reviews on the question of Women’s Megilla Readings, see: R. Alfred S. Cohen, “Women and the Reading of the Megilla,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, 30 (Sukkot 5756, Fall 1995), pp. 25-41; R. Ariel Pikar, “Keri’at ha-Megilla Al Yedei Isha Lifnei Nashim,” Tehumin “Women and the Reading of the Megilla,” XVIII (5758), pp. 361-368; R. Avraham Weiss, “Women and the Reading of the Megilla,” The Torah u-Madda Journal, VIII (1998-1999), pp. 295-317; R. Aaron Cohen, “Women Reading the Megillah for Men: A Rejoinder,” The Torah u-Madda Journal, IX (2000), pp. 248-263; R. Chaim Jachter, Gray Matter (2000), “May Women Read the Megilla,” pp. 224-233. The subject was first treated by us in: Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer,“Women’s Prayer Services: Theory and Practice. Part 1 – Theory,” Tradition, 32:2, pp. 5-118 (Winter 1998). – available online at: http://mail-jewish.org/Womens_Prayer_Service.doc
[2]. See Mishna, Kiddushin 1:7; Tosefta Kiddushin 1:10; BT Kiddushin 34a; Encyclopedia Talmudit, II,“Isha,” pp. 244-246.
[3]. Berakhot 20b.
[4]. Kiddushin 34a.
[5]. The period of the rishonim (the “earlier” scholars) is generally viewed as beginning from the middle of the 11th century (the time of R. Isaac Alfasi) until the 16th century (just prior to the time of R. Joseph Caro and R. Moses Isserles). The period of aharonim (the “later” scholars) is today generally considered to start from the time of R. Joseph Caro and R. Moses Isserles and to continue down to the modern period. The 19th and 20th century scholars are often referred to as the aharonei ha-ahronim.
[6]. Inter alia: Tosefot, Berakhot 20b, s.v. “beTefilla;” Tosefot, Pesahim 108b, s.v. “sheaf.” R. Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi), Berakhot 20b s.v. “veHayyavin beTefilla” seems to dissent. See: Encyclopedia Talmudit, II,“Isha,” p. 247; R. Isaac Arieli, Einayyim laMishpat, Berakhot 20b, s.v. “de-Rahamei ninhu
[7]. Pesahim 30b and 116b; Yoma 31a; Yevamot 11a; Gittin 64b and 65a; Avoda Zara 34a.
[8]. Berakhot 20b and Tosefot ad loc. s.v.beTefilla.
[9]. Shabbat 23a.
[10]. Pesahim 108a.
[11]. Megilla 4a.
[12]. Jerusalem Talmud, Megilla 2:4 (73b). See Tosafot, Pesahim 108b, s.v. “Af hen” who maintains that the Babylonian Talmud’s formulation “she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes” is equivalent to the Jerusalem Talmud’s statement “she-af otam hayu ba-safek.”
[13]. Based on Tosefta (Lieberman), Megilla 2:7; see source #4 below.
[14]. Based on Mishna, Megilla 2:4; Megilla 19b.
[15]. Arakhin 2b-3a.
[16]. Tosefta (Lieberman), Megilla 2:7.
[17]. See, for example: Rashi, Arakhin 3a, s.v.leAtuyei nashim;” R. Moses ben Maimon (Rambam), Mishnah Torah, Hilkhot Megilla 1:1 (see Magid Mishne and Haggahot Maimoniyot ad loc. and Shiltei Gibborim to Rif Megilla 4a); R. Isaac of Vienna, Or Zarua, II, sec. 368;R. Solomon ben Aderet (Rashba), Megilla 4a; R. Menahem haMeiri, Bet haBehira, Berakhot 47b and Megilla 4a; R. David ben Levi, Sefer haMikhtam, Megilla Nikret; R. Nissim (Ran), on Rif Megilla 4a; R. Isaiah ben Eliah the later, Piskei Riaz (Machon haTalmud haYerushalmi, Jerusalem, 5731) Megilla Chap. 2, 3:2 – cited in Shiltei Gibborim, to Rif Megilla 4a; R. Joseph Haviva, Nimukei Yosef, Megilla 4a, s.vshe-Af;”. See also R. Ovadiah Yosef, Resp. Yehave Da’at, III, sec 51; Sha’ar haTsiyyun, O.H., sec. 689, sec. 2, note 16. The following cite both the views of Rashi and Behag without taking a stand themselves: Hiddushei haRan (authorship unclear), Megilla 4a; R. Asher ben Jehiel (Rosh), Megilla (4a), Chap. 1, sec 4; R. Eliezer ben Samuel of Metz, Sefer Yereim, “Amud Vav, Issurim Na’asim veAdam Na’ase Ra laShamyim veLo laBeriyot.
[18]. “Kol she-eino mehuyav ba-davar, eino motsi et ha-rabim yedei hovatam.” Mishna, Rosh haShana 3:8.
[19]. “Kol ha-mehuyav [or ha-hayav] ba-davar, motsi et ha-rabim yedei hovatam.” This implication can be derived from the Talmudic statement in Berakhot 20b that if women are biblically obligated in birkat ha-mazon, they can assist the masses in fulfilling their obligation [“le-afukei rabim yedei hovatam”]. It is, however, clearly delineated in the Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot 3:3 [“Im haya hayyav afilu im yatsa motsi”] and various rishonim and aharonim; see, for example: R. Joseph ben Meir ibn Migash, Resp. R”i mi-Gash, sec. 86; Sefer haOra, I, sec. 44, Din Pat haTsenuma be-Ke’ara; Rosh, Berakhot, Chap. 7, sec. 21 and Rosh haShana, Chap. 3, sec. 12; R. Isaac ben Aba Mari, Sefer haIttur, Aseret haDibrot, Hilkhot Shofar, p. 99a; R. Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne, Sefer haEshkol (Albeck), Hilkhot Seuda, p. 24b, s.v.veKhol ha-berakhot;”R. Simeon ben Tsemah Duran, Resp Tashbets, I, sec. 131; R. Yeruham, Toldot haAdam, Netiv 13, part 1, p. 103, column 2, s.v. “haHelek haRishon;” R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, O.H. sec. 124, no. 2; R. Yihye ben Joseph Tsalah (Maharits), Resp. Peulat Tsaddik, III, sec. 184, s.v.u-miKol makom;” R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Resp. Tsits Eliezer, VII, sec. 1, “Kuntres Katan le-Maftir,” Chap. 1, s.v.u-beSefer haManhig,” Chap. 2, s.v.ve-Davar ze,” and Chap. 5 s.v.veHitbonanti ve-ra’iti.”
[20]. Rashi, Arakhin 3a, s.v.leAtuyei nashim – she-hayyavot be-mikra Megilla u-kesheirot likrota u-le-hotsi zekharim yedei hovatam.”
[21]. Supra at note 15.
[22]. Behag according to Tosafot, Sukka 38a, s.v.be-Emet Amru;” R. Moses of Coucy, Sefer Mitsvot Gadol (Semag), Divrei Soferim, Aseh, no. 4; Meiri, Megilla 4a, s.v. “Nashim;” R. Yom Tov ben Abraham Ashvilli (Ritva), Megilla 4a, s.vshe-Af hen;” Tur, O.H. 689; R. Isaac of Corbeil, Sefer Mitsvot Katan (Semak), Yom Shlishi, no. 299.
[23]. R. Moses of Coucy, Sefer Mitsvot Gadol (Semag), Divrei Soferim, Aseh, no. 4; Ritva, Megilla 4a, s.v “she-Af hen.”
[24]. Behag according to Tosafot, Sukka 38a, s.v. “be-Emet Amru.” It has yet to be determined whether or not kevod ha-tsibbur and zila milta are synonymous terms. R. Chaim Zalman Dimitrovsky in his comments to Rashba, Megilla 4a, note 431 suggests that they are. See also the related comments of R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik in R. Zvi Joseph Reichman, Reshimot Shiurim [New York: 4749], Sukka 38a, p. 184, s.v.Beram le-fi haTosafot;Otsar Mefarshei haTalmud, Sukka, II, 38a, p. 345, s.v. “I nami mishum” and note 56. On the other hand, from Mishnah Berurah, sec. 271, no. 4, it would seem that zila milta is a propriety/modesty issue.
[25]. The invocation of the term “kavod ha-tsibbur”presumes a valid comparison between public Megilla reading and public Torah reading – in which women’s participation has been ruled out because of kavod ha-tsibbur; see Megilla 23a. Clearly, the rishonim of the first school reject this suggestion. Indeed, this comparison is not at all self-evident, particularly since women are obligated in mikra Megilla, but exempted from keriat haTorah. In addition, keriat ha-Megilla is essentially a private obligation which can be preformed in private, in the absence of a minyan; keriat haTorah, on the other hand, is a communal obligation requiring a minyan. See: R. Moses ben Nahman (Ramban, Nahmanides) Milhamot haShem, Megilla 5a; Ran ad. loc. Further analysis of kevod ha-tsibbur is beyond the scope of this paper.
[26]. Tosafot, supra, note 24.
[27]. Based on Berakhot 24a. This reason is attributed to R. Isaac ben Aba Mari, Asseret haDibrot, cited by: R. Meir haMe’ili of Narvonna, Sefer haMe’orot, Megilla 19b; R. Aaron ben Jacob of Lunel, Orhot Hayyim, Hilkhot Megilla uPurim, sec. 2; Kol Bo, Megilla 103; R. David ben Levi of Narvonna, Sefer haMikhtam, Megilla 4a. This reason is also given in Auerbach’s edition of R. Abraham Av Bet-Din, Sefer haEshkol, Hilkhot Hanukka u-Purim, sec. 9. Various aharonim concur with the stringent view of Asseret haDibrot, invoking “kol be-isha erva” in regard to the question of women chanting the Torah or Megilla; see: R. Hayyim Palagi, Ruah Hayyim, O.H., sec. 75, no. 2; R. Hayyim Palagi, Yefeh Lev, VI, O.H., sec. 282; Resp. Atsei Hayyim, I, sec. 7 (cited in R. Abraham Yaffe Schlesinger, Resp. Be’er Sarim, sec. 55); R. Shlomo Yosef Elyashiv, cited in R. Abraham-Sofer Abraham, Nishmat Avraham, V, Y.D.,sec. 195, p. 76-77; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, cited in R. Abraham-Sofer Abraham, Nishmat Avraham, V, Y.D.,sec. 195, p. 76-77 – see also Halikhot Shlomo, I, Hilkhot Tefilla, Chap. 20, sec. 11, note 20; R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Resp. Tsits Eliezer, sec. 36, nos. 2 and 3; R. Nathan Gestetner, Resp. leHorot Natan, I, E.H., sec. 60 and V, O.H., sec 5; R. Efraim Greenblatt, Resp. Rivevot Efrayyim, I, sec. 449. See also R. Azriel Hildesheimer, Resp. R. Azriel, O.H., sec. 128.
On the other hand, many posekim maintain that the position of the Asseret haDibrot (Ba’al haIttur) does not reflect normative halakha. More specifically, women chanting the Torah or Megilla with the appropriate notes (ta’amei ha-mikra) is not included in the prohibition of kol be-isha erva. See: R. Jacob Hayyim Sofer, Kaf haHayyim, sec. 689, no. 2; Resp. Divrei Heifets, cited by Sdei Hemed, Klalim, Ma’arekhet kuf, klal 42; R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, Resp. Seridei Eish, II, sec. 8; R. Nahum Tsvi Kornmehl, Resp. Tiferet Tsvi, II, sec. 7; R. Samuel haLevi Wosner, Resp. Shevet haLevi, III, sec. 14 – who indicates that most rishonim are lenient by keriah de-mitsvah; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yehave Da’at, III, sec. 51, note, and IV, sec. 15, end of note; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Resp. Yabia Omer, VIII, O.H., sec. 22, no. 10 and IX, O.H., sec. 98, no. 9, and sec. 108, no. 74; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Me’or Yisrael, I, Megilla 4a, s.v. “beTosfot d”h Nashim,” p. 251, and Megilla 23a, s.v. “Tanu Rabbanan, haKol,” p. 279;R. Ovadiah Yosef, Halikhot Olam, II, Ekev, sec. 2, note 2, p. 74; R. Ovadiah Yosef, MeShiurei Maran haRishon leTsiyyon, Rabbeinu Ovadiah Yosef Shelita, I, Gilyon 19, va-Yeira 5756, sec. 2, p. 73. R. Isaac Yosef, Yalkut Yosef, V, Dinei Keriat Megilla, sec. 12 and notes 19 and 22, and VII, sec. 23, no. 11, end of note 16; R. Isaac Yosef, Yalkut Yosef, Otsar Dinim la-Isha ve-laBat, sec. 24, no. 6; R. Simeon Hirari, “Kol be-Isha Erva ve-Nashim bi-Keriat Megilla, Or Torah, Adar 5731, sec 123, pp. 289-292 and Nisan 5731, sec. 148, pp. 339-343 – see especially p. 341 s.v.u-le-Or;”and R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, Resp. Bnai Vanim, II, sec. 10 and III, sec. 1; Yehuda Herzl Henkin, unpublished responsum to R. Abraham-Sofer Abraham, 24 Menahem Av 5761 (regarding Nishmat Avraham, V, Y.D.,sec. 195, p. 76-77).
[28]. Semag, supra, note 23. This is also clear from Rosh, Megilla, Chap. 1, sec. 4, where he brings proof to status of women from the Tosefta’s ruling on tum-tum and androgonus.
[29]. See: Meiri, Rashba and Ran (R. Nissim ben Reuben) to Megilla 4a.
[30]. Behag, Halakhot Gedolot, Hilkhot Megilla, s.v. “haKol hayyavin.” Cited by: Tosafot, Arakhin 3a, s.v.leAtuyei;” Rosh and Ran, supra, note 17; R. Eliezer ben R. Yoel haLevi (Ra’avya), Megilla, sec. 569; R. Mordechai ben Hillel (Mordechai), Megilla 4a. (See: R. Chaim Zalman Dimitrovsky in his comments to Rashba, Megilla 4a, note 431 who indicates that there were two distinct formulations of the position of the Behag.) A similar view is maintained by other rishonim: R. Hananel ben Hushiel, Megilla 4a s.v.ve-Amar”; R. Elazar of Worms, Rokei’ah, Hilkhot Purim, no. 36; Ba’al haIttur, Aseret haDibrot, Hilkhot Megilla, s.v.Mi kore,” p. 226; R. Simha of Speyer, Haggahot Maimoniyot, Hilkhot Megilla, 1:1; R. Eliezer ben Yoel haLevi (Ra’avya), Sefer Ra’avya, II, Hilkhot Megilla, sec. 569.
[31]. The first and second schools argued that as a result of “she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes,” there is no longer any difference between men and women and both genders share the maximal obligation. The third school notes that mikra Megilla is a time-determined rabbinic commandment, in which women should not have been obligated at all; as a result, perhaps the obligation placed upon them because of “she-af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes” assumes a minimal form. Interestingly, such analysis with regard to neirot Hanukka and arba kosot is absent in the halakhic literature. Indeed, there is no dissenting opinion to the ruling that a woman can light Hanukka candles for the men of the home; see: Shabbat 23a; O.H., sec. 675, no. 3; Encyclopedia Talmudit, XVI, Hanukka, p. 248 note 106. This may result from the fact that there is no simple way to divide the obligation into minimal and maximal forms.
[32]. See, for example, Berakhot 20b “le-afukey rabim yedei hovatam.”
[33]. R. Asher ben Jehiel (Rosh), supra, note 17.
[34]. Supra, note 24
[35]. Supra, note 30.
[36]. Supra, note 15.
[37]. R. Nathanel Weil, Korban Netanel, Rosh, Megilla (4a), Chap. 1, sec. 4, notes mem and samekh.
[38]. Supra, note 17.
[39]. R. Abraham Gombiner, Magen Avraham, O.H., sec 271, no.2 – as noted by Korban Netanel himself.
[40]. R. Menahem Mendel Auerbach, Ateret Zahav, O.H., sec. 689, no. 2, s.v. “sheNashim.”
[41]. R. Jehiel Mikhel Epstein, Arukh haShulkhan, O.H., sec.271, no. 5, and sec. 689, end of no. 5.
[42]. Tosafot haRosh, Sukka 38a, s.v. “be-Emet Amru.”
[43]. R. Joseph Caro, Shulkhan Arukh, O.H., sec. 689, parag. 1-2. “Mehaber” literally means “the author [of the Shulkhan Arukh].”
[44]. R. Moses Isserles, Mapah to Shulkhan Arukh, O.H., sec. 689, parag 2.
[45]. This point is a dispute between Magen Avraham note 5 and Be’ur haGra s.v “veYeah omrim she-haNashim,” both ad. loc. See also Mishnah Berurah note 7.
[46]. R. Yosef Hayyim al-Hakham, Ben Ish Hai, Shana Rishona, Tetsave, no. 2; R. Yaakov Hayyim Sofer, Kaf haHayyim, O.H. sec. 689, no. 14; R. Isaac Ben-Shushan, Toldot Yitshak, sec. 12, no. 2; R. Haim David Halevi, Mekor Hayyim haShalem, IV, sec. 232, no. 5 and note 22; R. Mordechai Eliyahu, cited by R. Moshe Harari, Mikraei Kodesh: Hilkhot Purim, Chap. 6, no. 8, note 28, p. 115. See also the comments of R. Aaron Cohen, supra note 1, endnote 10 therein.
[47]. R. Ovadiah Yosef, Resp. Yehaveh Da’at, III, sec. 51, p. 159 and IV, sec. 34, note 2, p. 162. R. Ovadiah Yosef, Me’or Yisrael, I, Megilla 4a, s.v.Tosafot d”h Nashim.” R. Ovadiah Yosef, Halikhot Olam, I, Tetsave – Hilkhot Purim, sec. 2, note 2, p. 225. See also MiShiurei Maran haRishon leTsiyyon Rabbeinu Ovadiah Yosef Shelita, I, Gilyon 19, vaYera 5756, sec. 2, where R. Ovadiah Yosef permits a woman to read Megilla for a man (when absolutely necessary and only according to Sephardic usage), concluding: “And this is not, perish the thought, a Reform innovation, since this is the law and the halakha.” See also: R. Yitshak Yosef, Yalkut Yosef, V, pp. 287-289 and R. David Yosef, Torat haMo’adim, Hilkhot Purim veHodesh Adar, sec. 5, no. 9, p. 138.
[48]. For a discussion of stam ve-ahar kakh yesh omrim, see: R. Ben Tsiyyon Abba Shaul, Or le-Tsiyyon, II, Teshuvot, pp. 5-10; Yalkut Yosef, IX, pp. 5-44.
[49]. See references in note 47 supra
[50]. For documentation of this point, see: Aryeh A. Frimer, “Ma’amad haIsha beHalakha – Nashim uMinyan,” Or haMizrah 34:1, 2 (Tishrei 5746), pp. 69-86 – page 73, note 29. This was confirmed recently by R. Shlomo Fischer in a conversation with R. Meir Schweiger.
[51]. See discussion at note 33 supra. Apropos, R. Yosef Adler (Personal communication, March 10, 1996) recalls that R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav, often commented on his difficulty in accepting the view of Behag. Nonetheless, the Rav acknowledged that since Rema cites Halakhot Gedolot’s ruling approvingly, it has become normative halakha. Consequently, women could not read Megilla for Ashkenazic men. Interestingly, though, in the Winter of 1977, our sister-in-law, Mrs. Sabina Frimer, asked the Rav whether she could read the Megilla for her grandmother and home-bound grandfather – since no one else was available to do so. The Rav responded that it would be preferable to find a male to read for them, but if she were not successful, be-she’at ha-dehak, she could read for them herself. The Ravalso suggested that the grandfather should make the berakhot.
[52]. Kaf haHayyim, O.H., sec. 689, note v12 and 14; R. Shaul Yisraeli and R. Mordechai Eliyahu, cited in R. Moshe Harari, Mikraei KodeshPurim, chap. 6, note 28.
[53]. R. Moshe HaLevi Steinberg, Hilkhot Nashim, sec. 15, no. 2; R. Avraham Weiss, “Women and the Reading of the Megilla,” Torah u-Madda Journal, 8 (1998-1999), pp. 295-397; R. Daniel Landes, “The Reading of the Megilla on Purim Night,” at http://www.pardes.org.il/articles/purim1.html.
[54]. R. Hanokh Henikh Agus, Marheshet, I, sec 22, no. 9; R. Tsvi Pesah Frank, Mikraei Kodesh, Purim, sec. 29; R. Samuel Grunberger, Hedvat Hashem, be-Inyanei Purim, sec. 5, no. 3; R. Simcha Elberg, “Im Isha Motsi’a Ish beKeriat haMegilla,” HaPardes 51:6 (Adar 5737) sec. 40, p. 9 – reprinted in R. Simcha Elberg, Shalmei Simha, I, sec. 62; R. Simcha Elberg, “be-Din Im Isha Motsi’a Ish beKeriat haMegilla,” HaPardes 63:6 (Adar 5749) sec. 31, p. 4 – reprinted in R. Simcha Elberg, Shalmei Simha, V, sec. 44; R. Moshe Shternbuch, Mo’adim uZemanim, VII, addenda toII, sec. 171; R. Zevulun Sacks, “Keri’at haMegilla al Yedei Nashim,” Tehumin, XVIII, pp. 357-369 – see last section. For a review see: R. David Aurbach, Halikhot Beitah, sec. 24, no. 12, note 23.
[55]. See the excellent and lengthy discussion of these points by R. Aaron Cohen, “Women Reading Megillah for Men: A Rejoinder,” The Torah U-Madda Journal, 9 (2000), pp. 248-263.
[56]. See, R. Shlomo Zevin, Sefarim veSoferim, p. 181 who includes this discussion of R. Agus among the “teshuvot ha-ma’asiyot” (practical responsa) in the Marheshet. R. Aaron Cohen, supra, note 55 and R. Chaim Jachter, infra, note 59 maintain otherwise.
[57]. See R. Yitshak Herzog, Resp. Heikhal Yitshak, E.H., II, sec. 43, no. 3, who notes that we do not generally implement intricate and creative pilpul style explanations against the consensus of the traditionally accepted authorities.
[58]. See Dov I. Frimer, “Letter to the Editor,” Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2002, p. 5. See also R. Aharon Lichtenstein, “The Human and Social Factor in Halakha,” Tradition 36:1 (2002) who writes: “Commiseration is acknowledged as a legitimate factor stimulating the posek’s quest for a solution, but it is barred as a component of the halakhic process proper, once that has been set in motion” (p. 11, top).
[59]. See: R. Isaac Ben-Shushan, Toldot Yitshak, sec. 12, no. 2; R. Tsvi Shapira, Tsivyon haAmudim to Sefer Mitsvot Katan, V, sec. 148, end of note 9; R. Chaim Jachter, Gray Matter (2000), “May Women Read the Megilla,” p. 227, note 8.
[60]. For example, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik himself gave many different explanations to the Behag. See: Mesorah, 12 (Tammuz, 5756), p. 14; R. Michal Zalman Shurkin, Harerei Kedem, sec. 174, p. 200; R. Zvi Joseph Reichman, Reshimot Shiurim (New York, 5749), Sukka 38a, pp. 184-5.
[61]. For a variety of reasons, R. Pesah Eliyahu Falk, Resp. Mahaze Eliyahu, sec. 22, R. Isaac Leibis, Resp. Beit Avi, V, sec. 47, R. Isaac Ben-Shushan, Toldot Yitshak, sec. 12, R. Yehuda Lavi ben-David, Shevet miYehuda, Part 1, p. 155, and R. David Auerbach, Halikhot Beitah, sec. 24, note 23, subsec. 15 all explicitly disagree with the position of Marheshet. Moreover, Marheshet’s assumption that Megilla reading is in lieu of Hallel, is disputed by R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, sec. 693, no. 4, and by R. Moshe Shternbuch, Resp. Teshuvot veHanhagot, IV, sec. 177, no. 2. His assumption that there is pirsumei nisa at night is disputed by R. Joseph Rosen (“The Rogatchover”), Tsafnat Panei’ah, M.T., Hilkhot Megilla, 1:1. Similarly, his distinction between day and night with regard to the recitation of Hallel is in disagreement with the position of R. Samuel Eliezer Edels (Maharsha), Hiddushei Aggadot, Megilla 14b (cited by R. David Yosef, supra, note 47, p. 136). Marheshet’s suggestion that women are freed from the obligation of zekhirat Amalek is also the subject of major disagreement; see: Encyclopedia Talmudit,XII,“Zekhirat Ma’ase Amalek,” sec. 3 (p.222); Resp. Yabia Omer, VIII, sec. 54; Resp. Yehave Da’at,I, sec. 84; Halikhot Beita, sec. 9, no. 5, note 8; Halikhot Bat Yisrael, sec. 22, no. 1, notes 1-4; Hilkhot Hag beHag: Purim, sec. 3, no. 3 note 8 and end of addendum to sec. 3, no. 2 note 7, p. 214; Nitei Gavriel—Dinei uMinhagei Purim, sec.4, no. 4, notes 5-8, and no. 10, note 14. R. Aryeh Pomeronchik, Emek Berakha, vaYelekh beTokh haEmek (collection at end of volume), Keriat Megilla, no. 3 takes the opposite position – that it may be possible for women to read for men but only at the day reading. Thus, the statements of R. Daniel Landes, supra note 53: “This is conclusively demonstrated by R. Hanoch Henech Agus…” and “Thus…it is incontestable that women may fulfill the obligation for men…” (emphasis mine) – are unfounded.
[62]. Text at note 15, supra.
[63]. Arakhin 2b-3a.
[64]. See, for example, quote from Rashi at note 20.
[65]. See, for example, quote from Rosh at note 33.
[66]. Supra, note 37.
[67]. R. Israel Meir haKohenKagan, Mishna Berura, O.H., sec. 689, no. 2, Sha’ar haTsiyyun note 15.
[68]. Kaf haHayyim, O.H. ibid., no. 17.
[69]. Magen Avraham, O.H. sec.689, no. 6
[70]. Mishna Berura, O.H. sec. 689, no. 8 and Sha’ar haTsiyyun no. 16.
[71]. Both of the past Chief Rabbis of Israel have published opinions against women’s Megilla readings: Former Sefardi Chief Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu is quoted by R. Moses Harari, Mikra’ei KodeshHilkhot Purim, chap. 6, parag. 8, note 30. Former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Abraham Kahana Shapira is quoted by his assistant R. Zalman Koitner, in a letter distributed by a group called “Women of Efrat for the Achdut of Halakhah” and published in the newspaper Yom ha-Shishi, 15 Adar 5791 (March 1, 1991), p. 8. R. Shapira’s letter indicates that although “…halakhically, a woman can read for other women”, nevertheless “one should not change the prevalent custom” which has followed the more stringent ruling of the Mishnah Berurah (Korban Netanel). R. Menashe Klein, Mishneh Halakhot, Mahadurah Tanyana, vol. 1, O.H. sec 550 and R. Efraim Greenblatt, Resp. Rivevot Efrayyim, VII, 548, no. 3, also dissent. As mentioned below in notes 72c and 105, the Rav (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) preferred that women be machmir in order to be yotzei kol ha-de’ot. See also: R. Yoel Schwartz, Adar u-Furim, sec. 8, no.3.A.1; R. Tsvi Cohen, Purim veHodesh Adar, Sec. 10, no. 17; Nitei Gavriel, Dinei uMinhagei Purim, sec. 13, no. 1, p. 65; R. Isaac Ben-Shushan, Toldot Yitshak, sec. 12.
[72]. (a) Published responsa: Beersheba Chief Rabbi Elijah Katz, haEshel (Bita’on haMoetsa haDatit Be’er Sheva), XIII (Nissan 5736), pp. 41, 42 and 48, reprinted in Resp. Be’er Eliyahu, O.H., sec. 282 – see also Letter to the Editor, Shirah Leibowitz Schmidt, Tradition, 33:2 (Spring 1999), p. 80-82; Ma’ale Adumim Chief Rabbis Joshua Katz and Mordechai Nagari, Ma’alot, no. 185, Parshat Tetsave 5756, Halakha Sedura, sec. B, no. 5 and conversation with Dov I. Frimer, March 23, 1996—this ruling was reprinted the following year as well in Ma’alot, Parshat VaYikra 5757, Halakha Sedura; R. Raphael Evers, Resp. vaShav veRafa, O.H., sec. 31;R. Ariel Pikar, Tehumin 18 (5758), pp. 361-368; R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, “Mahu Kevod haTsibbur,” HaDarom 55 (Elul 5746), pp. 33-41 (see especially top of page 37)—expanded and revised in Resp. Benei Vanim, II, no. 10; R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, Tsibbur Nashim biKri’at haMegilla, Keshot, 4 (Adar II/Nisan 5755), sec. 14, pp. 8-10—reprinted in Resp. Benei Vanim, III, sec. 7; R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, Equality Lost: Essays in Torah, Halacha and Jewish Thought (Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 1999), pp. 54-65; R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, “Keriat haMegilla al Yedei Nashim – haMahloket eina be-Halakha,” HaTsofe, 14 Adar 5759 (March 2, 1999), p. 9; R. Gedaliah Felder, cited by R. Henkin in HaDarom, ibid. In a conversation with Aryeh A. Frimer, April 29, 1992, R. Henkin reaffirmed the accuracy of this citation, despite its omission in the revised Benei Vanim presentation of this responsum.
(b) Similar opinions have been orally expressed by (in alphabetical order): R. Moshe Feinstein, as reported to R. Chaim Spring by R. Mordechai Tendler, October 1985; R. David Cohen, conversation with R. Shael I. Frimer, March 1979, and to Aryeh A. Frimer, March 1980; R. David Feinstein, conversation with Aryeh A. Frimer and Noach Dear, March 26, 1991, and to Aryeh A. Frimer, Dov I. Frimer and Noach Dear, March 19, 1995; and R. Levi Yitzchak haLevi Horowitz, The Bostoner Rebbi, conversation with Mr. Noach Dear, March 1990—however, on April 13th, 1997, the Rebbi’s gabbai, Nesanel Peterman, wrote the following: “Since the Rebbi considered this issue in the early 1990’s, the whole question of women’s ‘rights’ has become more complex and the Rebbi would like to consider the wider issues further.”
(c) R. Aharon Lichtenstein, conversation with R. Chaim Brovender, March 1992 and February 1994, and to Dov I. Frimer, October 21, 1992 and February 19, 1994, also permits a women’s Megilla reading. Nevertheless, R. Lichtenstein does advise Jerusalemite women not to hold such a reading when the fifteenth of Adar falls on Shabbat (known as Purim me-shulash). In such an instance, Jerusalemites read on the fourteenth, and, as noted below (see section III.D), many posekim maintain that since this reading is not on its normally designated date, a minyan is an absolute requirement. (In all other years, a minyan is advisable but not a prerequisite to fulfillment.) While most authorities agree that ten women do constitute a minyan for mikra Megilla even on Purim meshulash, a minority dissent (see infra, end of note 93). R. Lichtenstein maintains, therefore, that it is best to be stringent so as to be sure that one’s obligation has been fulfilled. R. Lichtenstein noted that his father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”), preferred that women be machmir for the same reasons (to be yotzei kol ha-dei’ot lekhathila) every year. Hence, the Rav preferred that women did not have their own service for mikra Megilla at all; see note 105, infra.
(d) R. Ahron Soloveichik, in a taped conversation with Dov I. Frimer, July 8, 1997, ruled that in those communities, such as in Israel, where there is already an established custom to have a second Megilla reading for women, it is irrelevant whether the reader is male or female. Elsewhere, where such a minhag is not so common, a special women’s Megilla reading should not be permitted (for hashkafic and public policy reasons). Should the local rabbi be afraid, however, that a rift in the community might result, he should refrain from taking any position whatsoever on the matter. Similarly, Rabbi Jacob Ariel maintains that while basically women can read for other women they should not specifically break off from the rest of the community to do so (because of “pirsumei nisa”) unless necessary or in an instance where a separate reading for women will take place anyway; see: Rabbi Jacob Ariel, Resp. beOhalah shel Torah, II, O.H., sec. 105 and his comments in Moshe Stern, Megillat haAtasma’ut, Mekor Rishon, 7 Adar 5761 (March 2, 2001) p. 16-17.
(e) R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabia Omer, VIII, O.H., sec. 56, end of no. 4 writes: “…the custom of women who make a minyan by themselves for mikra Megilla…should be encouraged.” Indeed, his son R. David Yosef, Torat ha-Moadim: Hilkhot u-Minhagei Purim ve-Hodesh Adar, sec. 5., note 9, p. 139, s.v ve-ha-Rema, indicates that despite the rulings of Magen Avraham and Korban Netanel, Ashkenazi (and certainly Sefardi) women can read for women.
[73]. Supra, notes 39-41.
[74]. Thus, R. Jacob Zev Kahana, Resp. Toledot Ya’akov, sec. 5; R. Jehiel Michel Tucazinsky, Lu’ah Erets Yisrael, Purim dePrazim; and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, cited in Halikhot Beita, Petah haBayyit, sec. 25—all maintain that one woman may make berakhot for many others. (We note, however, that R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, as recorded in a personal written communication from his nephew, R. Yitshak Mordechai Rubin, to R. Asher Viner (Kislev 5794), was nevertheless unwilling to permit a women’s Megilla reading, though he does not state why.) Similarly, in Kiryat Sanz, it is the wont of the Alter Rebbetsin to recite kiddusha rabba for the women. (Shira Schmidt, personal communication, January 19, 2001). Rabbi Isaac Liebis, Resp. Beit Avi, V, sec. 15 indicates that the ruling of the Shulhan Arukh, O.H., 199, sec. 7, that women can make a zimmun for themselves also speaks against the position of Korban Netanel. The following posekim also set aside the view of Korban Netanel: R. Tsvi Shapira Tsivyon haAmudim to Sefer Mitsvot Katan, V, sec. 148, note 9; R. Gavriel Zinner, Nitei Gavriel—Dinei uMinhagei Purim, sec. 13, no. 9, note 14; R. Simha Israel Blum, “beInyan Keriat haMegilla leNashim,” Sefat haOhel (Nisan 5743), sec. 15, p. 98; R. Zvi Kohen, Purim veHodesh Adar, sec. 10, no. 17; R. Haim David Halevi, Mekor Hayyim liBnot Yisrael, sec. 34, nos. 6 and 7; and R. Moses Mordechai Karp, Zer Aharon—Inyanei Purim (Jerusalem: Oraysa, 5749), sec. 21, no. 7, who writes: “All the posekim have stated simply that a woman can read for other women, and it would seem so even for many women.” See also R. Karp’s Hilkhot Hag beHag: Purim,sec.7, no. 3, note 7, p. 60, where he states: “See the Sha’ar haTsiyyun, who writes in the name of Korban Netanel that a woman should not read for many women because of zila milta.This does not seem to be the view of other posekim.” These four authors indicate, however, that because of Midrash Ne’elam, a women’s Megilla reading is not preferred; it is, nevertheless, permitted if necessary. See also R. Ben-Tsiyon Lichtman, Benei Tsiyyon, IV, O.H. sec.271, no. 3, s.v. “veRa’iti,” who disagrees with Korban Netanel’s understanding of Tosafot, though his stance on a women’s Megilla reading is unknown. See also the critique appearing in Tehilla leYonah (Machon Be’er haTorah, Lakewood NJ, 5759), Megilla 4a, s.v.Ulam beKorban Netanel,” p. 23.
[75]. Discovered by R. Solomon Aaron Wertheimer and first published in Jerusalem 1903.
[76]. See text at note 37.
[77]. Magen Avraham, O.H. sec.689, no. 6
[78]. Mishna Berura, O.H. sec. 689, no. 8 and Sha’ar haTsiyyun no. 16.
[79]. Arukh haShulhan, O.H. sec.689, no. 5; former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, cited by R. Moses Harari, Mikra’ei Kodesh—Hilkhot Purim, 6:8, note 29; several other posekim cited by R. Nahman Kahana, Orhot Hayyim, O.H. sec.689, no. 2, note 6.
[80]. Masekhet Soferim, 14:1; Shulkhan Arukh, O.H., sec. 692, no. 1.
[81]. Ra’avya, Megilla, end of sec. 569; “And it would seem to me that women should recite the benediction ‘al mishma Megilla’ even if they read it themselves;” cited in Mordekhai, Megilla, no. 779.
[82]. R. Hezekiah de Silva, Pri Hadash, O.H., sec. 689, end of note 2; see also “Likutim” at end of commentary.
[83]. R. Elijah Kramer of Vilna, Ma’aseh Rav, Hilkhot Purim,sec. 246 (in some editions it is sec. 237, in others 243); R. Issacher Ber of Vilna, Peulat Sakhir, to Ma’aseh Rav, indicates that from the analysis of the Turei Even in his commentary on Megilla 4a, one can deduce that he too agrees that the Berakha should be “…al mikra Megilla.”
[84]. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited by R. Nahum Stepansky, veAleihu Lo Yibol, I, O.H., sec. 433; R. Jehiel Abraham Zilber, Berur Halakha, Mahadura Tanyana, O.H., sec. 689. R. Gabriel Zinner, Nitei Gavriel – Dinei Purim, sec. 13, no. 5; R. Yehoshuah Yeshayahu Neuwirth, Madrikh Hilkhati leAhayot beVatei Holim, Chap. 10, Purim, no. 3; R. Jehiel Michel Tuketchinsky, Luah Erets Yisrael, Purim; R, Haim David Halevi, Mekor Hayyim leBenot Yisrael, sec. 34, no. 8; R. Moshe Harari, Mikraei Kodesh- Purim, sec. 9, no. 9..
[85]. R. Abraham Danzig, sec. 155, no. 11 – cited by Mishna Berura, sec. 689, note 8 – note however, that in sec. 692, note 11, Mishna Berura uses the Rema’s formulation li-shmoa Megilla; Arukh haShulhan, O.H., sec. 692, no. 7; R. Isaac Ben-Shushan, Toldot Yitshak, sec. 12, no. 4;R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Resp. Tsits Eliezer, XIX, sec. 67, no. 2; R. Tsvi Cohen, Purim veHodesh Adar, Chap. 10, no. 48; R. Yoel Schwartz, Adar uPurim, sec. 8.3.4
[86]. R. Dov Ber Karasik, Pithei Olam uMatamei haShulhan, O.H., 692, sec, 2, note 7; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Resp. Yabia Omer, I, O.H., sec. 44 and VIII, O.H., sec. 22, no. 27; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Halikhot Olam, I, Tetsave – Hilkhot Purim, sec. 1, note 1, p. 224; Resp Yehave Da’at, I, sec. 88; R. David Yosef, Yalkut Yosef, V, Dinei Keriat haMegilla, sec. 7, p. 284; R. Moshe Sternbuch, Moadim uZemanim, II, sec. 171; R. Moshe Sternbuch, Teshuvot veHanhagot, III, sec. 228 – at the end he cites that this is also the opinion of R. Aryeh Pomeronchik.
[87]. See: R. Gabriel Zinner, Nitei Gavriel – Dinei Purim, sec. 13, no. 2; R. Dov Eisenberg, “A Guide for the Jewish Woman and Girl,” Fourth Edition (Brooklyn, NY, 1986), Halachos Pertaining to Purim, p. 123, note 18. The latter notes as proof that when men are listening to the Megilla as well, “…al mikra Megilla” is recited and both genders fulfill their berakha obligation.
[88]. Supra, note 86.
[89]. Rabbi Shimon Golan, Hilkhot Purim (Moetsa Datit Efrat, 5760), p. 4, sec. 8.
[90]. Shulhan Arukh, O.H. 690:18 and Rema ad loc.
[91]. Rema, O.H. sec.692, no. 1, maintains that a minyan is always required to recite the “HaRav et riveinu” blessing that follows the Megilla reading. For further discussion, see Birur Halakha, sec. 690, no. 18 and sec. 692, no. 1; R. Jacob Hayyim Sofer, Kaf haHayyim sec. 690, no. 124; Yehave Da’at, I, sec. 88 and sec. 90, no. 2; Yalkut Yosef,V, Hilkhot Mikra Megilla, no. 39, note 70, p. 300. There are, however, many dissenting opinions who permit the recitation of HaRav et riveinu even in the absence of a minyan; see, for example, Be’er Heitev,sec. 692, no. 4; Arukh haShulhan, O.H. sec.690, no. 25 and sec. 692, no. 5; R. Joseph Hayyim, Ben Ish Hai, Tetsave 13; R. Aaron Felder, Mo’adei Yeshurun, I, Laws of Purim, sec. 7, no. 9; R. Avraham David Horowitz, Resp. Kinyan Torah beHalakha, III, end of sec. 103. This is also the view of R. Moshe Feinstein, as quoted by R. Dovid Katz, “A Guide to Practical Halakha—Chanuka and Purim” (New York: Traditional Press, 1979), VIII, Laws of Purim, sec. 14, no. 15, p. 134, and former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, as quoted by R. Moses Harari, Mikra’ei Kodesh—Hilkhot Purim, sec. 9, no. 7, note 30. Although Arukh haShulhan, ibid., states that the common minhag is to recite HaRav et riveinu even in the absence of a minyan, apparently the Ashkenazic minhag in Israel is not so; see Lu’ah Dinim uMinhagim, Israeli Chief Rabbinate (5757), p. 60; Lu’ah Erets Yisrael, R. Jehiel Michel Tucazinsky (5757), p. 44. R. Isaac Ratsabi, Shulhan Arukh ha-meKutsar, III, sec. 122, nos. 9 and 11, indicates that according to Yemenite usage, HaRav et riveinu can be said privately.
[92]. Mishna Berura O.H. sec.690, note 61 and Sha’ar haTsiyyun ad loc. On whether Megilla reading on the fourteenth in walled cities (e.g., when the fifteenth falls on the Sabbath) is considered she-lo bi-zmano, see: R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yehave Da’at, I, sec. 90, no. 2 and IV, sec. 40; Resp. Yabia Omer VI, O.H., sec.46; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited by R. Nahum Stepansky, veAleihu Lo Yibol, I, O.H., sec. 425.
[93]. R. Mas’ud Raphael Alfasi, Resp. Mash’ha deRabvata, addenda at end of II, sec. 689; R. Joseph Hayyim, Resp. Rav Pe’alim, O.H. II, sec. 62; R. Moses Hayyim Lits Rosenbaum, Sha’arei Emet, Hilkhot Megilla, sec. 4, Hemdat Arye, sec. 4, no. 5; Hug haArets,sec. 3; R. Joseph Hayyim Sonnenfeld, Resp. Salmat Hayyim, I, sec. 101; R. Tsvi Pesah Frank, Mikra’ei Kodesh, Purim, sec. 35 and 50, note 3; R. Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, Hazon Ish, O.H. sec. 155, no. 2; R. Isaac Halberstadt, Shenei Sarei haKodesh, p. 16; Purim Meshulash, sec. 2, nos. 8 and 9 and addendum thereto; R. Hanoch Zundel Grossberg, Iggeret haPurim, first edition, sec. 7, no. 2, second edition, sec. 8, no. 3; Resp. Yabia Omer, VIII, O.H. sec. 23, no. 27 and sec. 56, end of no. 4; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Likkutei Kol Sinai, sec. 23, p. 47; Yalkut Yosef, V, Hilkhot Mikra Megilla, sec. 7, p. 284; Kitsur Shulhan Arukh Yalkut Yosef, O.H. sec.692, nos. 4 and 10; Resp. Tsits Eliezer XIII, sec. 73; Resp. Rivevot Efrayyim, VIII, sec. 274, no. 2; R. Moshe Shternbuch, Resp. Teshuvot veHanhagot, IV, sec. 177, no. 2; R. Joseph Shalom Elyashiv (personal written communication to Aryeh A. Frimer, 27 Adar 5754, March 10, 1994); Sefardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, cited in Lu’ah Dinim uMinhagim, Israeli Chief Rabbinate (5757), p. 122; R. Joel Schwartz, Adar uFurim, sec. 8, no. 5, par. 2 and 3 and note 11; Halikhot Beita, sec. 24, nos. 17-21 and notes 33, 34, 44 and 48; Hilkhot Hag beHag: Purim, sec. 8, no. 13 and 14, note 32 and addendum to sec. 8, no. 13, note 31, p. 218; Chief Rabbis of Ma’ale Adumim Joshua Katz and Mordechai Nagari, Ma’alot, no. 185, Parshat Tetsave 5756, Halakha Sedura, sec. B, no. 5 and conversation with Dov I. Frimer (March 23, 1996); R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, Tsibbur Nashim biKri’at haMegilla, Keshot, 4 (Adar II/Nisan 5755), sec 14, pp. 8-10, reprinted in Resp. Benei Vanim, III, sec. 7; R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, Equality Lost: Essays in Torah, Halacha and Jewish Thought (Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 1999), pp. 54-65; R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, “Keriat haMegilla al Yedei Nashim – haMahloket eina be-Halakha,” HaTsofe, 14 Adar 5759 (March 2, 1999), p. 9
Other posekim dissent; see R. Shlomo Kluger, Hokhmat Shelomo, O.H. sec.689, no. 5; Kaf haHayyim, O.H. sec.690, no. 120; Arukh haShulhan, O.H. sec.690, no. 25; Resp. Mishne Halakhot, Mahadura Tinyana, I, O.H. sec. 550; and R. Moshe Feinstein as quoted by R. Dovid Katz, “A Guide to Practical Halakha—Chanuka and Purim” (New York: Traditional Press, 1979), VIII, Laws of Purim, sec. 14, no. 15, p. 134; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited by R. Nahum Stepansky, veAleihu Lo Yibol, I, O.H., sec. 431. R. Raphael Evers, Resp. vaShav veRafa, O.H., sec. 31 suggests that the minhag is to be stringent. Surprisingly, in Halikhot Shlomo, Hilkhot Tefilla, chap. 23, Dvar Halakha, no. 3 and note 13, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach maintains that while women count towards a minyan for reading the Megilla on Purim meshulash, they do not recite “Ha-rav et riveinu.” This is also the position cited by R. Yeshayahu Shapira, Tseida laDerekh, (Jerusalem: Machon Zomet, 2001), Chap. 67, secs. A1, C1 and C2, pp. 157 and 158. Note, however, that both Arukh haShulhan and R. Feinstein, like many other leading posekim, maintain that the HaRav et riveinu benediction can be said even in the absence of a minyan; see infra,note 91.
[94]. It should be emphasized that the posekim of note 93 are referring to a women’s Megillah reading exclusively and no generalization can be made regarding women’s services. See: Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer, supra, note 1.
[95]. For documentation of the various points raised in this paragraph and an analysis of the issue of women and minyan, see: Aryeh A. Frimer, “Women and Minyan,” Tradition 23:4 (Summer 1988), pp. 54-77 – available online at: http://mail-jewish.org/Women_and_Minyan.doc; and Aryeh A. Frimer, “Ma’amad haIsha beHalakha – Nashim uMinyan,” Or haMizrah 34:1, 2 (Tishrei 5746), pp. 69-86.
[96]. R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabia Omer, VIII, O.H., sec. 56, end of no. 4 writes: “…the custom of women who make a minyan by themselves for mikra Megilla…should be encouraged.” See also R. Ahron Soloveichik, Od Yisrael Yosef Beni Hai, end of sec. 32, p. 100, who writes regarding the recitation of mourner’s kaddish by women: “Nowadays, when there are Jews fighting for equality for men and women in matters such as aliyyot, if Orthodox rabbis prevent women from saying kaddish when there is a possibility for allowing it, it will strengthen the influence of Reform and Conservative rabbis. It is therefore forbidden to prevent women from saying kaddish.”
[97]. Proverbs 14:28.
[98]. Encyclopedia Talmudit, IV, “BeRov Am Hadrat Melekh,” p. 195; R. Abraham Isaiah Pfoifer, Ishei Yisrael, sec. 8, no. 9.
[99]. See sources in note 100.
[100]. Magen Avraham, in his gloss to the statement of Shulhan Arukh, O.H. sec.689, no. 1, that “women, too, are obligated to hear the Megilla,” writes, “‘Women’—Therefore one must read the Megilla at home for the unmarried women.” To this, Be’er Heitev and Mishna Berura add: “In some places, the unmarried women go to the women’s section of the synagogue to hear the Megilla.” R. Menashe Klein, Resp. Mishne Halakhot, Mahadura Tinyana, I, O.H. sec. 550, understands from the above citations that it was not the obligation nor the wont of the unmarried women, and certainly of the married women, to hear a public reading of the Megilla. R. Mordechai Jacob Breisch, Resp. Helkat Yaakov, III, sec. 144 (O.H., sec. 232 in the 1992 edition) concurs. (See, however, Halikhot Beita, Petah haBayyit, no. 25, who suggest an alternate understanding of Magen Avraham).R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin, Tsibbur Nashim biKri’at haMegilla, Keshot, 4 (Adar II/Nisan 5755), sec 14, pp. 8-10, reprinted in Resp. Benei Vanim, III, sec. 7, suggests that this is the meaning of the cryptic suggestion of Behag, Halakhot Gedolot, Hilkhot Megilla, s.v. “haKol hayyavin”; cited in Rema, O.H. sec.689, no. 2, that women are obligated in hearing the Megilla [in private] and not in reading it [in public]. R. Mordechai Jacob Breisch, ibid., argues that women are obligated in neither be-rov am hadrat melekh nor in pirsumei nisa. A similar position is maintained by: R. Moses Sternbuch, Mo’adim uZemanim, II, sec. 173; R. Raphael Evers, Resp. vaShav veRafa, O.H., sec. 31;and R. David Auerbach, Halikhot Beita, Petah haBayyit, sec. 25. This also seems to be the view of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited by R. Nahum Stepansky, veAleihu Lo Yibol, I, O.H., sec. 431.
[101]. R. Sraya Devlitsky, Purim Meshulash, Chap. 2, note 20, for example, refers to these second Megilla readings for women as the “takana gedola” (important innovation) of Bnei Brak.
[102]. R. Israel David Harfeness, Resp. VaYvarekh David,I, O.H. sec. 82, and R. Gavriel Zinner, Nitei Gavriel—Dinei uMinhagei Purim, sec. 13, no. 3, note 6, maintain that women are obligated in be-rov am. At first blush, this would also seem to be the view of Hayyei Adam, kelal 155, no. 7, who writes, “. . . Even if one can gather a minyan in his home, it is still highly preferable (mitsvah min ha-muvhar) to go to the synagogue—he, his wife and his children—to hear the Megilla.” Similar language is found in Bah, O.H., end of sec. 687 and Ateret Zekenim. Nevertheless, one could well argue that Hayyei Adam, Bah and Ateret Zekenim maintain that children and certainly women contribute by their presence to the be-rov am hadrat melekh of others, though they themselves are not obligated therein. See R. Joshua M.M. Ehrenberg, Resp. Devar Yehoshua, I, sec. 96. Alternatively, these posekim may consider the presence of women and minors preferable because of pirsumei nisa (even in the absence of be-rov am).This is in fact the implication of Or Zaru’a, Hilkhot Megilla sec. 368, who states that one should be accompanied to the reading of the Megilla by his wife and children because of pirsumei nisa.
[103]. R. Jonathan Eybeschutz, Ya’arot Dvash, II, p. 37; reprinted in Perush Rabbenu Yehonatan (Machon Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, 5753), Shemot, Megillat Esther, 3:8.
[104]. See the related comments of R. Ahron Soloveichik and R. Jacob Ariel in note 72d, supra.
[105]. We have noted in note 72c above that R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik preferred that women not have their own Megilla reading [Conversations with R. David Gorelik, R. Jacob J. Schacter and R. Binyomin Walfish; see also: R. Jacob J. Schacter, “Facing the Truths of History,” The Torah U-Madda Journal, 8 (1998-1999), note 97, pp. 260-261]. Both R. Schacter and R. Walfish noted, however, that the Rav indicated that if necessary, there was room to be lenient. Consequently, R. Soloveitchik advised R. Walfish that where the women of a particular congregation insist on having their own Megilla reading, the rabbi should not object. Similarly, in a telephone conversation with R. Bertram Leff, R. Shmuel Goldin and Mr. Nathan Lewin (in 1980 or 1981), the Rav permitted a women’s Megilla reading by Mr. Lewin’s daughter, Alyza, for those women who were unable to attend the regular congregational, early morning, Purim minyan. R. Soloveitchik emphasized, however, that the women’s reading should not be held in shul, that the ba’alat keria could read only for women, and that this reading was not meant to replace the more preferred regular reading with a male minyan. See also: R. Bertram Leff, Tradition 33:1 (Fall 1998), pp. 135-136. The issue of motivation and public policy considerations is beyond the scope of this paper. The reader is referred to our discussion of these issues in Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer, note 1, supra.

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