Reading the Megillah Early

(OH 692:4)

If more scud missiles are fired at Israel and “Haga” decrees that it is forbidden to hold public gatherings on Purim eve, what shall we do about reading the megillah?

In time of emergency it is permissible to read the megillah before sunset beginning from “pelag haminhah” which is one-and-one-quarter “hours” before sunset (one “hour” = one twelfth of the daylight). Thus it will be possible to recite the ma’ariv service and read the megillah beginning at 4:28 p.m. and still arrive home before dark.

The reasons for this ruling are as follows: According to the Talmud (Megillah 4a) and the Shulhan Arukh (Orah Haim 687:1) the megillah must read at night. But this law was already relaxed in the Middle Ages. When some people had trouble fasting on Ta’anit Esther rabbis in Provence and Germany (the Ra’avad and R. Yisrael Isserlein) allowed them to read the megillah early. If this was allowed “b’sheat hadehak” (in an emergency) for a few people who had trouble fasting, it is certainly allowed in a time of emergency for the entire State of Israel! And indeed, Rabbi Ovadiah Yossef came to the same conclusion in Adar 5707 (1947) when the mandatory government imposed an all-night curfew on Jerusalem under penalty of being shot on sight.

Let us conclude with a prayer: As god saved us from Amalek in the days of Mordechai and Esther, so may He save us from the Amalek of our time and may we be privileged “to observe the days of Purim at their proper time as decreed by Mordechai the Jew and Esther the Queen” (Esther 9:31).

Rabbi David Golinkin
Approved Unanimously 5751