Women and the Mitzvos of Purim

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: Should a woman go to shul to hear the public Megillah-reading, or can she hear it from her husband at home?

Discussion: Some Poskim state that, if possible, a woman should go to shul to hear the megillah-reading. Even if a minyan could be organized at home, it is better to attend the public reading in shul.116 However, others rule that there is no need for a woman to attend the public Megillah reading if someone will read the Megillah for her at home.117

Note: Women are obligated to hear every word of the megillah being read. Therefore, if the women cannot hear the megillah-reading clearly in shul, they should rather ask a man to read for them at home.118 However, if the reading is generally audible and clear, but there is concern that they might miss some individual words in the course of the Megillah, they can simply read those words by themselves from a Chumash. A woman who does so should read enough to pull slightly ahead of the reader, so as to ensure that when reading the words that she missed, she does not miss the reader’s continuation.

Question: Can a woman read the Megillah for herself, or for another woman?

Discussion: It is better to hear the Megillah read by a man.119 However, if this is not possible, a woman may read the Megillah for herself,120 or even for another woman.121

Some hold that it is only acceptable for a woman to read for another woman if the reader has not yet heard the Megillah herself, and is thus reading it now for herself as well.122 However, many Poskim allow a woman to read for another, even if she has already fulfilled her obligation.123

A woman may not read the Megillah for multiple women.124

Question: Can a woman read the Megillah for a man?

Discussion: A woman may not read the Megillah for a man.125 If a man did hear the Megillah read by a woman, he must hear the Megillah again, but without reciting the berachos.126

Question: Are there differences between the berachos recited for a woman’s reading of the Megillah and for a man’s reading?

Discussion: There are two differences – one regarding the berachah recited before the reading, and one regarding the berachah recited afterwards. At a man’s reading of the Megillah, the first berachah recited before the reading is על מקרא מגילה – “upon reading the Megillah.” At a woman’s reading, the accepted halachah is that the wording of the berachah is changed to לשמוע מקרא מגילה – “to hear the reading of the Megillah.”127 The reason for this difference is that for a man, the essential obligation is to read the Megillah.128 Therefore, the appropriate wording of the berachah is indeed “upon reading…” In contrast, for a woman, the essential obligation is merely to hear, not to actually read. Therefore, for a woman, the appropriate wording is “to hear…”129 (The other two berachos recited before the Megillah – שעשה נסים and שהחיינו – are recited as usual.)

Accordingly, if a woman reads the Megillah for herself, she recites לשמוע מקרא מגילה. If a man reads for a woman (or for a number of women), then if he is actually fulfilling his own obligation through this reading, he recites the usual berachah of על מקרא מגילה. But if he has already read or heard the Megillah, and is now reading it only for women, the berachah of לשמוע מקרא מגילה is recited. Some opinions hold that the reader should recite the beracha of “lishmo’ah mikra megillah” for the women.130 Other opinions prefer that the women themselves recite the beracha in this case.131

The other difference is regarding the berachah recited after the Megillah (הרב את ריבנו). This berachah is recited only when the Megillah is read in the presence of a minyan of ten adult men.132 Accordingly, it is not recited at a women’s reading – even if it is read for many women in shul –unless there are ten adult men present.

Question: Must women send mishlo’ach manos?

Discussion: Yes.133 Woman are obligated in all of the mitzvos of Purim day, since they too were part of the miracle of Purim.134 In the case of a married woman, her obligation can essentially be fulfilled through her husband sending mishlo’ach manos on her behalf.135 Yet, it is proper for her to make a point of giving her own mishlo’ach manos or to be expressly included in a mishlo’ach manos sent by her husband, or by the family in general, which has double the required amount (such that there is enough for both the husband and wife to fulfill the obligation).136

Note: A woman should not send mishlo’ach manos to a man, nor should a man send to a woman.137

Question: Must a woman give matanos la’evyonim?

Discussion: Yes.138 In the case of a married woman, here as well, while her husband can essentially give the matanos la’evyonim on her behalf without her involvement, it is proper for her to be involved in the manner described above regarding mishlo’ach manos.139

Question: Can a woman send matanos la’evyonim to a man? Can a man send to a woman?

Discussion: As opposed to mishlo’ach manos, matanos la’evyonim may be sent by a man to a woman and vice versa.140

Question: Is it permissible for a man to dress up as a woman, or vice versa, on Purim?

Discussion: In general, it is severely prohibited for a man to dress up as a woman, or vice versa – it is an actual Torah prohibition. Some opinions maintain that this prohibition does not apply to dressing up in jest – as is done on Purim – since one is not truly trying to masquerade as a woman. However, others forbid it even in this case. Considering that the question is one of a true Torah prohibition, the consensus of the Poskim is that it may not be done.141

Question: Can a little girl dress up as a boy?

Discussion: No. The halachah is the same for children in this regard.142

Question: Are women encouraged to drink on Purim, as men are?

Discussion: No. It is forbidden for women to drink excessively, or to become intoxicated.143

116 Darkei Moshe, 690; see Shulchan Aruch 689:6 with Mishnah Berurah, note 16, and Beiur Halachah ad loc.; R’ Asher Weiss (Olas Re’iyah, 83).

117 See Mishnah Berurah 689, note 1; Chelkas Yaakov, Orach Chaim 232; R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Ve’aleihu Lo Yibol, p. 247); Ashrei Ha’Ish 43:30.

118 Shulchan Aruch 689:1 with Mishnah Berurah note 1.

119 Magen Avraham 689, note 6.

120 Mishnah Berurah 689, note 8 with Sha’ar Hatziyun note 16.

121 Mishnah Berurah, ibid., note 7.

122 See Beiur Halachah 689, ד"ה ונשים.

123 Halichos Beisah, Pesach Habayis 17; Hilchos Chag Bechag, 7:3.

124 Sha’ar Hatziyun, ibid., note 15.

125 Shulchan Aruch 689:2; Hilchos Chag Bechag, Chapter 7, note 3.

126 Halichos Bas Yisrael, Chapter 22, note 14. See, further, Yismach Yisrael, 10:4, with notes 63-66.

127 See Shulchan Aruch and Rema 689:2; and see Mishnah Berurah there, note 8, and Chayei Adam 155:11.

128 Although one can fulfill the obligation also by listening to someone else’s reading, that is because by listening to the Megillah, it is as though one has read it himself (שומע כעונה); see Sukkah 38b.

129 That is to say, even if the woman is actually reading the Megillah, the fulfillment of the mitzvah is in the hearing, not in the reading.

130 Mishnah Berurah 692, note 11.

131 Minchas Yitzchak, III:53. He states further (ibid., 54:38) that each woman should recite her own berachah on the Megillah reading, rather than have one woman making the berachah for all of them. However, many other Poskim disagree, including R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shalmei Moed p. 273), R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Halichos Vehanhagos, p. 19), Luach Eretz Yisrael, and R’ Shmuel Kamenestky (Kovetz Hilchos Purim 12:7).

132 Rema, 692:1. See, further, Hilchos Chag Bechag 12:4, note 5; Halichos Bas Yisrael 22:14, with note 36.

133 Rema 695:4. See, further, Hilchos Chag Bechag, Chapter 13, note 16.

134 Mishnah Berurah, 695, note 25.

135 Mishnah Berurah, 695, note 25; Halichos Beisah, Chapter 24, note 55. Cf. Aruch Hashulchan, 694:2; Shevet Halevi, IX:147.

136 Magen Avraham 695, note 14; Mishnah Berurah ibid.; Halichos Shlomo, 19:17; Kovetz Halachos, 15:16.

137 Rema (ibid.). However, if her husband sends mishlo’ach manos on her behalf, it may be sent even to a man (see Halichos Beisah Chapter 24 note 55).

138 Mishnah Berurah, 695 note 25.

139 Magen Avraham 695, note 14; Mishnah Berurah ibid.

140 Rema ibid.

141 Mishnah Berurah, 696, note 30.

142 Yechaveh Da’at, V:50; R’ Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (Balaylah Hahu, pg. 22).

143 Hilchos Chag Bechag, 15:1, with note 1; Moadim Uzemanim, II:190.