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Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh | 5770

Ask the Rabbi: kosher megillot

Question: I know that some people bring kosher megillot to read from while listening to the reading. Is that important to do? Also, whether one uses a printed text or a klaf (megilla scroll), should he read along with the ba’al korei?  
Answer: We will explore basic sources and logic not only to understand but also to better apply the halachot. As the matter depends on the individual person’s abilities and circumstances, one who understands the issues will be able to apply it best to his case.
The gemara (Megilla 18b) deals with an apparent contradiction: one baraita says that even if the klaf is missing text, one can read the missing parts by heart; another baraita says that an illegible megilla is pasul,in which case, using it is like reading by heart, which is invalid (ibid. 17a). The gemara answers that it depends if the majority of the klaf is problematic or proper. We see from here that reading a minority of the Megilla without a kosher klaf is valid. However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 690:3) says that this is only b’di’eved (i.e., one who already read it so, need not repeat it, or, if he has no other megilla, he can use that one – Mishna Berura ad loc.:8).
One who hears the reading from a ba’al korei reading from a kosher megilla, with the requisite intent and concentration (see Mishna Berura 690:48) fulfills the mitzva. What, though, does one do if he does not hear properly enough (see a machloket on the parameters in Shulchan Aruch ibid.:14 and Biur Halacha, ad loc.) of the reading that would disqualify everyone if the ba’al korei left it out? If he has his own megilla but did not read along, can he read himself just what he missed, or does all the reading need to be done by one reader? The Rama (ad loc.:4) says that since many in the congregation do not use kosher megillot, the ba’al korei must repeat the four p’sukim recited by all, since their reading is like reciting by heart. The implication is that for those with a proper klaf, this would be unnecessary, as the ba’al korei’srecital of most of the Megilla along with the congregation’s reading of the four p’sukim is fine. Actually, one who reads from a non-klaf can also make up by reciting that which is missing (see Mishna Berura 690:16), but since this is valid only b’di’eved (as reading a minority by heart), this should be avoided.
Before we apply our findings, we will see one more issue. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) is concerned that one who reads along with the ba’al korei may cause others or even himself to concentrate on his own reading at the expense of the ba’al korei’s reading,at least for some words. This is particularly problematic if the individual reads from a printed megilla. 
The Pri Megadim (689, EA 11, accepted by the Mishna Berura 689:19) says that it is good to read along from a kosher megilla because it is so noisy that one will surely miss words. Although one could always read those words only when necessary, it is hard to identify the problem and react in time. Doing so without a klaf would be valid only b’di’eved, and only if he concentrated on the ba’al korei most of the time.
On the other hand, there are disadvantages to following with a klaf. Many a person will make serious mistakes in his reading, and when focused on his own reading, he may not sufficiently connect to the ba’al korei’s proficient reading. There also is a fascinating machloket Acharonim (see Teshuvot V’Hanhagot II, 173) if when one reads for himself from his klaf, he hasthe preferred status of reading with a minyan (see also Pri Megadim, ibid.).
We suggest as follows. If your shul is quiet (enough) thatyou can concentrate on the ba’al korei, read along only when you or the ba’al korei misses something. If your leining skills are good, it certainly pays that it is from a kosher megilla. If you are likely to not hear a lot, read along the whole text (very quietly), preferably from a kosher klaf. If your reading is mediocre or less, use a printed megilla with vowels and read along only the parts you miss.
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