Listening to the Megillah via Artificial Means

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: Does one fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the reading of the Megillah by hearing it read over a loudspeaker?

Discussion: Certain Poskim did rule that it is acceptable to hear the reading of the Megillah over a loudspeaker. However, this was based on the assumption that a loudspeaker actually conveys the reader’s natural voice, with added artificial amplification.176 But, as many subsequent Poskim noted, a loudspeaker in fact does not amplify the original sound. Instead, the microphone converts the original sound into an electrical signal. This signal travels to the speaker, which then produces a sound similar to the original. Therefore, one who hears a loudspeaker is not hearing the original voice but is rather listening to a new, completely artificial sound. Therefore, the consensus of many Poskim is that hearing the Megillah by means of a loudspeaker does not fulfill one’s obligation.177 Now, some Poskim suggest that although the sound emanating from the loudspeaker is not the voice of the reader, nevertheless, since that sound is created by the reader’s natural voice as he speaks, it is perhaps considered as a projection of the reader’s voice.178 Yet, even these Poskim did not say so conclusively, and they ruled that it should not be done in practice.179 Thus, one should not listen to the reading of the Megillah by way of a loudspeaker. If one did, he must listen to the Megillah again. However, he should not recite the berachah over the repeated Megillah reading, considering the possibility that his first hearing – over the loudspeaker – may have fulfilled the obligation.180

Question: What if one is sitting close enough to the reader to actually hear his voice naturally?

Discussion: Some Poskim rule that one fulfills his obligation in this case.181 However, others disagree.182 They argue that even in this case one does not fulfill the obligation, since he is hearing a valid and invalid voice simultaneously and cannot be sure that he heard the entire Megillah from a valid voice.183

Question: Should one answer Amen to a berachah heard over a loudspeaker?

Discussion: Yes. Even according to the Poskim’s consensus that a recitation heard over a loudspeaker is not considered to have been validly heard – which means that one cannot fulfill his obligation through a berachah heard over a loudspeaker – one may still answer Amen to such a berachah. This is because one can answer Amen even to a berachah that he did not hear at all, provided that he knows which berachah it is, and does not intend to fulfill his obligation with that berachah.184 Thus, in the case of a loudspeaker as well, since one knows precisely which berachah was recited, he may answer Amen even though he is not considered to have heard the berachah.

Some Poskim permit answering Amen only if one is present in the place where the berachah is recited, or is at least close enough to hear the people present answering Amen – but not if one hears a berachah recited over the radio or the like.185 Other Poskim allow one to answer Amen even to a berachah heard over the radio since, after all, one is answering at the precise moment that the berachah is concluded and knows which berachah it is.186

Question: Can one fulfill his obligation by hearing the Megillah read over the telephone, radio, or over a live computer connection?

Discussion: The halachah regarding any of these mediums is the same as regarding a loudspeaker. Therefore, every effort should be made to attend a live Megillah-reading. If this is impossible, then if one has a kosher Megillah, he should read the Megillah himself. If one has a kosher Megillah but does not know how to read it properly, he can listen to the Megillah reading over the telephone, radio, or computer, and read along from his Megillah. These options are valid according to all opinions.

In the absence of any such option, one should listen to the remote Megillah-reading in reliance on the Poskim who permit it.187 He should not recite the berachos on reading the Megillah, rather he should listen to the berachos recited by the reader.

Question: Can one fulfill the obligation by listening to a recording of the Megillah reading?

Discussion: All Poskim agree that one does not fulfill his obligation by listening to a recording.188 However, here as well, if one has a kosher Megillah, he can listen to the recording and read along with it.

Question: Is there a problem with listening to the Megillah while wearing a hearing-aid?

Discussion: Essentially, a hearing aid works exactly like a loudspeaker. The sound that enters the hearing aid is converted into an electric signal, and a speaker then produces a completely new sound. Therefore, a number of Poskim rule that hearing the Megillah by means of a hearing-aid is no better than hearing it by means of a loudspeaker189 (see above, page 616).

In practice, if a person who wears a hearing-aid could hear clearly without the hearing-aid by sitting closely to the reader, that is the best option. Alternatively, if he has a kosher Megillah, he can read the Megillah himself, or read along while listening to someone else’s reading. In all of these cases he fulfills his obligation according to all opinions.190 If none of these options are feasible, he should listen to the Megillah-reading using his hearing-aid, in reliance on the lenient opinions. In such a case, he should be sure to listen to someone else’s recitation of the berachos rather than recite them himself.

Question: If someone has one hearing aid and one functional ear, how should he listen to the Megillah?

Discussion: According to the approach that hearing the Megillah through a hearing-aid is not valid, it is similarly invalid to hear it with one hearing aid and one healthy ear. This is because one will then be hearing a valid and invalid reading simultaneously, which is similarly invalid (see above, page 616).191

Therefore, if possible, one should remove the hearing-aid and listen with the single good ear. If one cannot do so, he should follow the directives provided for hearing the Megillah with a hearing-aid.

Question: Does a person who hears the Megillah by means of a cochlear implant fulfill his obligation? Is a cochlear implant better than a loudspeaker or a hearing-aid?

Discussion: As explained above, a hearing aid operates in the same way as a loudspeaker, receiving the sound in a microphone, and then projecting an amplified reproduction of that sound into the wearer’s ear. A cochlear implant begins the process in the same way, first receiving the sound waves in a microphone, and then converting them into an electric signal. The implant then bypasses the middle ear completely, and runs the electric signal directly into the auditory nerve. In this way, even people who are totally deaf are able to “hear.” Thus, on the one hand, the cochlear implant is similar to the hearing aid – both receive the sound waves and pass on an artificial signal to the wearer, such that in both cases the wearer is not hearing the original sound. On the other hand, a cochlear implant cannot be removed, and therefore it may be considered a more integral part of the wearer’s body than a regular hearing-aid. In addition, a cochlear implant does not produce an artificial sound which is then heard by the ear, rather it sends a signal directly to the auditory nerve. Therefore, there is room to argue that it is to be viewed as a replacement of the wearer’s natural ear, which “hears” the natural voice of the person reading the Megillah.

In practice, some Poskim opinions rule that a cochlear implant is no better than a loudspeaker. According to this approach, hearing the Megillah via a cochlear implant does not fulfill one’s obligation.192

Others rule that a cochlear implant is not similar to a loudspeaker; since the natural voice of the reader is received by the microphone and translated directly into a signal for the auditory nerve, the implant is viewed as an integral part of the wearer’s hearing process, and not as a foreign object conveying an artificial sound.193

Thus, there are sufficient grounds for a person wearing a cochlear implant to consider his hearing of the Megillah valid. Yet, it would be commendable to either read along from a kosher Megillah, or to read it himself after hearing it in shul.194

176 See Responsa of R’ Asher Weiss quoted in Ozen Avdecha, p. 73-74.

177 Minchas Shlomo I:9; Minchas Yitzchak I:37, III:38; Yechaveh Da’at II:68, III:54; Moadim Uzemanim VI:105); R’ Asher Weiss ibid.

178 Chazon Ish, quoted in Minchas Shlomo ibid.; Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim, II:108; see also Shevet Halevi V:84.

179 See Igros Moshe and Shevet Halevi ibid.

180 Shevet Halevi ibid.

181 Yechaveh Da’at III:54.

182 Moadim Uzemanim VI:105; R’ Asher Weiss (ibid., p. 80).

183 See Shulchan Aruch 690:4.

184 Shulchan Aruch and Rema, Orach Chaim 124:8.

185 Minchas Shlomo ibid.; Moadim Uzmanim ibid.

186 Yechaveh Da’at II:68, III:54.

187 Hilchos Chag Bechag, Chapter 7, note 13*.

188 Minchas Shlomo ibid.

189 Minchas Shlomo ibid.; R’ Asher Weiss ibid.

190 He fulfills his obligation through his own reading even if he would not have been able to hear it naturally; see Sha’arei Teshuvah 689, note 2.

191 R’ Asher Weiss (ibid., p. 80-81).

192 R’ Asher Weiss (quoted in Ozen Avdecha p. 74).

193 R’ Shmuel Wosner (quoted in Ozen Avdecha p. 72). See also Responsa of R’ Moshe Sternbuch quoted there, who rules that one fulfills one’s obligation by hearing via a cochlear implant, while he rules stringently regarding a loudspeaker or telephone.

194 Ya’ir Li Ozen, p. 5.