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Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh| 5765
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Question: Last Purim, we read the Megilla in someone’s house and split it up among readers (=bk). The last bk came quite late, after we had already started. The question arose whether, assuming that bk did not fulfill his mitzva with part of the Megilla (he read it again at home later), he was able to be motzi us (enable us to fulfill our mitzva).
Answer: After discussing whether the late arriver was able to be motzi you, we will get into a discussion on proper procedure in such cases, which will apparently surprise you.
One indeed does not fulfill his mitzva of reading the Megilla by starting in the middle and finishing up later (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 690:6). Yet one can be motzi others even if he is not need fulfilling the mitzva at that time (Rosh Hashana 29a). He only needs to be such a person who is obligated in the mitzva generally. We do find opinions that if a person reads the Megilla with ear plugs, he cannot be motzi others, because reading the Megilla without hearing it is an incomplete reading (Avnei Nezer, OC 439). One can ask whether the same is true for reading out of order, which would mean that your bk did not perform a genuine reading that could be motzi others. However, the assumption of the poskim who discuss the following matter is that there is not a problem being yotzei b’dieved (after the fact) with the section read by your bk who read only part of the Megilla at that time.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 140:1) rules that if a bk for a regular Torah reading is unable to complete the aliyah, the one who replaces him must return to the beginning of the aliyah. This is because, otherwise, the beracha of the first bk does not go on the p’sukim read by the second and vice versa (Mishna Berura 140:2; see ibid.:5 regarding the situation that the bk does not make the berachot). The Magen Avraham (692:2) says that for the same reason, when one cannot complete the Megilla reading, the second bk must return to the beginning of the Megilla. The majority of poskim, led by the Eliya Rabba (692:3), argue with the Magen Avraham for various reasons, including that the nature of the berachot on the Torah are more personal to the one making them and were instituted as a “bookends” for the Torah reading. In contrast, the beracha before the Megilla readingis simply a birkat hamitzva for the whole public. Therefore, just as when one gets stuck in the middle of blowing shofar, he can be replaced without returning to the beginning, so too here. The Sh’vut Ya’akov (I, 42) makes a distinction that is very pertinent to our case. He says that the Magen Avraham is correct in the case that the bk who takes over was not present for the beracha to begin the Megilla reading. The Chatam Sofer (on Magen Avraham, ibid.) agrees with the Magen Avraham’s ruling, but not because of the berachot, but because it is an affront to the wholeness of the Megilla to have it broken up among bks. Torah reading is different in this regard, because it was specifically instituted to be broken up into multiple aliyot, whereas the Megilla was not.
Despite all of these foreboding opinions, we should point out two things. The Magen Avraham’s concern, in its various forms, does not disqualify the reading after the fact. (Even if one makes no berachot, he fulfills the mitzva). Secondly, the accepted opinion is that when one bk needs to be replaced, another can continue even if he came in the middle of the Megilla reading (Sha’arei Ephrayim 6:3; Kaf Hachayim 692:12). However, one needs to consider when it is justified to set up l’chatchila a questionable situation which the poskim discuss as a b’dieved, at best. (From the information you left us, it is clear that you live in a place where minyanim with b’rov am hadrat melech (the King is glorified when He is praised in mass gatherings) and bks capable of reading the whole Megilla exist).
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