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To Read or Not to Read…The Rabbis Say Yes!!!

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

To Read of Not to Read;


The Babylonian Talmud and Rashi Say Yes!!!


© 2013 by Rabbi Pamela Frydman


This Responsa was written at the request of Women of the Wall who gather in costume at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and read Megillat Esther on Purim. It is published on their website at http://womenofthewall.org.il/2013/02/to-read/.


In Mishnah Megillah[1] chapter 2, section 4 (see also Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah 19b), it states: “All are qualified to read the megillah except a deaf person, an imbecile and a minor. Rabbi Judah declares a minor is qualified.”


In the Gemara (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah 4a), it states, “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (also) said: Women are under obligation to read the megillah, since they also profited by the miracle then wrought.”


There is a halakhik principle, which is derived from Mishnah Rosh Hashanah chapter 3, section 8, that a person who is obligated to perform a mitzvah may fulfill the obligation of others who are also obligated to perform that mitzvah.


Rashi, in his commentary on Arakhin (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 3a) takes the position that women are obligated to read the megillah and they are fit to read the megillah and they may, through their reading of the megillah, fulfill the obligation of men to hear it. Rashi bases his position on Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 3:8 cited above.


In the Shulkhan Arukh (OH 689:1-2), it states that women are obligated to read megillah the same as men.


Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva and Dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in New York, writes:[2]


“The Gemara states[3] that the phrase “all” is meant to include women, with the implicit conclusion that women have the same obligation in megillah as men, and can read for men.”


Rabbi Linzer goes on to write, “Rashi, Rambam, and many rishonim rule accordingly. Tosafot, however, quotes Hilkhot Gedolot who quotes a Tosefta that states that women are exempt. Rather than rejecting the Tosefta, it is reconciled with our Gemara to mean that women are exempt from reading the megilah, but are obligated to hear it. Thus, our Gemara which says they are obligated and can read, only means that they are obligated to hear, and can only read for other women with a similar level of obligation. This leads some Rishonim to even suggest an alterante brakha for women (lishmo’ah megillah).


“Shulkhan Arukh (OH 689:1-2) rules that women are obligated the same as men, but he does note the dissenting opinion.


“Rema rules like Tosafot, that woman cannot discharge men’s obligation, and even quotes the opinion that they must make a different brakha.”


Rabbi David Golinkin, President and Professor of Jewish Law at Machon Schechter[4] in Jerusalem, writes:[5]


“…Indeed, many if not most Orthodox rabbis do not allow women to read the Megillah in public or only allow them to read the Megillah for other women. However, if one follows the general rules of Jewish law it is clear that the Babylonian Talmud takes precedence over the Tosefta and the Yerushalmi (see Entziklopedia Talmudit, s.v Halakhah, Vol. 9, col. 247, note 108 and col. 250, note 147).


Indeed, this is exactly what the Or Zarua and the Meiri state explicitly regarding our topic. The Or Zarua (Part II, parag. 368, fol. 77d) says that since the baraita in the Tosefta is not mentioned in our Talmud, we do not rely on it, and it seems to me that the main thing is as Rashi explained: to include women who are obligated to read the Megillah and fit to fulfill the obligation of men.


The Meiri states (in his commentary to Megillah, p. 21):


And the main thing is not to push aside an explicit Talmudic passage in our hands by a baraita (i.e. the Tosefta) or by the Western Talmud (i.e. the Yerushalmi) and how much the more so by logic, but let us rely on the well-known principle that "all who are obligated in something fulfill the obligation of the public".


Therefore, it is clear that according to the Babylonian Talmud and a large number of early authorities, women are required to read the Megillah and can therefore read the Megillah in public for a congregation which includes men. This is not some modern innovation but the most authoritative halakhic opinion on this topic. Furthermore, it also stands to reason as three of the Rishonim state that women may be counted in the minyan for the Megillah reading.”[6]


Based upon these and other sources, Women of the Wall gather on Shushan Purim to read Megillat Esther at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem.








[1] All references to “Megillah” in this article refer to the Megillah of Esther read on Purim.


[2] “Arakhin 3 – Women & Megillah, Women & Zimmun, Minors & Zimmun” by Rabbi Dov Linzer, The Daily Daf, Thoughts and Insights on the Daf Yomi, January 16, 2012. <http://www.the-daf.com/talmud-conceptual/arakhin-3-women-megillah-women-zimmun-minors-zimmun/>


[3] Rabbi Linzer is referring to Mishnah 2:4 cited above.


[4] Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Israel


[5] “May Women Read the Megillah in Public?” by Rabbi Golinkin, Responsa in a Moment, Volume 6, Issue No. 4, March 2012. <http://www.schechter.edu/responsa.aspx?ID=64>


[6] Rabbi Golinkin dedicated this Responsa to the memory of his Mother Blume Devorah bat Esther z”l on the occasion of her shloshim, 28 Shevat 5772.

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