Can you please share your thoughts on megillah reading over Zoom and associated issues. Specifically:
Is one yotzei the mitzvah if they hear it read over Zoom? Must they follow, read along, and recite every word from a chumash? While there is no requirement for a minyan for keriat HaMegillah, do considerations of hearing it over Zoom change if there is a minyan present at the place of the reading?
Do all readers have to be physically present in the same place or could some read via Zoom from their home?
If readers reading remotely is acceptable, must every reader read from a klaf or is reading from a chumash acceptable as long as majority of megillah is read from a klaf?
How much are these issues of lekhatchilah vs. bedieved? Would considerations be different for those who plan on attending shul (which is taking place outdoors) but weather is bad on Purim vs. those who would not come to shul even if weather was okay?
Depending on answers to the above, for those not at shul is there a preferred alternative to keriat HaMegillah such as reciting Hallel or reading the entire megillah from a chumash?
Regarding being yotzei over Zoom – I wrote about this last year in a piece for the Lindenbaum Center. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in that teshuva:”For megillah – One may rely on those Achronim who rule that a person fulfills his or her obligation. This is based on the position that an electronically reproduced sound that is heard immediately as the person is speaking is considered to be the speaker’s own voice. This is because Halakha would focus on the fact that this voice is experienced as the speaker’s own, regardless of the fact that it has been reproduced. If one has a strong internet connection, it would be better to use FaceTime or Zoom, as seeing the person who is speaking makes one experience it even more as hearing from the person directly. For Zakhor – Ideally the shul can arrange for this to be read in a minyan – without aliyot or berakhot – after Shabbat so that those in quarantine can phone in or Zoom in. Alternatively, once the quarantine is over, the person could read it him- or herself directly from a Torah scroll, or have someone do it for them. Another option is to phone into the reading of the Torah on Purim morning, although this is less than ideal.” As to the other parts of the question: No, there is no obligation to read along in a chumash, and I can’t see how that makes things better – it doesn’t count as a keriah. If one has a megillah and reads along inside of the megillah, that would be best, as that constitutes a real reading of the megillah (even if what enables him to do it is that he is listening via Zoom). In general, I advise someone who is in a place where no one knows how to read the megillah, but where he will have access to a megillah, to listen in on headphones to someone reading it and to read along while looking inside. Ah – the benefits of having a chag with no issur melakhah. Regarding the possibility that a gathering of 10 helps for Zoom fulfillment of the mitzvah – I cannot understand how any possible problem with Zoom as a form of listening should be made better by the presence of 10 people in the location where the megillah is being read. Regarding the general need for 10 people and being a part of 10 via Zoom – See Shulchan Arukh OC 690:18 – who rules that a community should try to read the megillah in a gathering of 10 people where possible. See also the discussion of the poskim there, that there is also an obligation / preference for an individual to join into the 10 people from the perspective of ברוב עם and פירסומי ניסא. So as far as being part of the 10 people – I would say that assuming one is yotzei over Zoom, that s/he could combine to be considered part of the group of 10 people if there is such a group present where the megillah is being read. I’ve written elsewhere that while I don’t believe that one can create a minyan over Zoom, I do believe that if you have a minyan in one location, then you can be מצטרף to a minyan over Zoom. That would be an even easier argument here, where reading the megillah is not a davar shebikdushah (obviously – since one fulfills the mitzvah without 10 people present), so we are really talking about a concept of a tzibur/rabim and not minyan. See on this point the Biur Halakha (690:18), who discusses a case where one is at home and lives right next to a shul and can hear it being read clearly whether he should still go to shul. The argument that he should go to shul to hear is based on ברוב עם which is about physically gathering together. However, adding to the פירסומי ניסא can be done from within one’s home since the miracle is further publicized by his hearing of it, even if doing so from home. I believe that the same would be true about Zoom – this would not add to ברוב עם but would contribute to פירסומי ניסא. Evidence that we are not talking about a standard minyan is the fact that Rema (Shulchan Arukh OC 690:18) raises the question of whether women can count as part of the 10 – since it is about rabim and not minyan. This latter concept does not require the same cohesion as a minyan, and one could certainly connect to it via Zoom. One could even argue that it can be created over Zoom – even if every one of the 10 is in a different place. This question is relevant also to the 10 for sheva berakhot, which I hope to write about separately.
Assuming one is yotzei via Zoom, that it is considered like you are hearing directly from the person reading it, then it would be obvious to me that the readers can be in different places. It is no different than if I heard the first perek in one shul, and then walked next door and hear the second perek in another shul. I think there is an interesting and important question if one of the readers does not hear the whole megillah. Let’s say that he read the first perek, then had to attend to a family matter, which was such a large hefseik that he had to read it all again from the beginning – is that a problem now for all those who heard from him? They heard from a bar chiyuva, and although in general we say משיצא מוציא, that is when the person is doing the whole mitzvah. Here, however, he did not do the whole ma’aseh mitzvah. I have to give this more thought, but regardless, it is not about Zoom, it is a general question when people are dividing up the keriah.
This is the general question about how much must be read from a klaf. We rule (Shulchan Arukh OC 690:3) that one must read the majority from the klaf, and also that the klaf – to be considered a kosher sefer – has to be majority of the words written, plus not missing the beginning or the end, or a complete passage (not clear how to define that). See Biur Halakha (690:3) s.v. davka delo hishmit. So here, if we are talking about reading the minority without a megillah, that is in itself okay as long as the reading is in the context of a kosher megillah.For example, consider two cases: (1) a kosher megillah is on my lap, but I am not looking inside it, and read 40% be’al peh – definitely yotzei. (2) I read 60% from a kosher megillah, then put it away, took a walk, and read the remaining 40% as I was walking. Presumably, not good, even though the megillah I read from was kosher, since this 40% reading is not in the context of reading from a kosher megillah. So – the question is whether in our case it is considered reading from a kosher megillah for those people reading at home who don’t have a megillah at all. To me it would seem that it definitely should not work. This is like the case of putting it away and taking a walk, and reading a section without a megillah in front of you. How is it considered that it is a reading in the context of a kosher megillah because someone else read from a kosher megillah an earlier perek, if I don’t have access to that megillah at all? That being said – if I can look into a megillah via Zoom, that might be considered reading directly from, or at least in the context of, a megillah. If the case is one in which this Zoom access to the megillah is only for the minority of the reading, then we have a case where the majority was read from a klaf, so the only question is whether the minority, which can be read totally without looking inside, is considered to have been done in the context of reading from a kosher megillah. My inclination would be to say that is was fine. If the majority is read via looking at a megillah via Zoom – I need to give that case more thought, since here it is not just required that it be done in the context of a kosher megillah, but that it actually be considered like one was directly reading from the megillah itself. Since we would permit hearing via Zoom, this should logically be similar, but I need to give it more thought.
I think relying on Zoom is bedieved, but there are certainly plenty of shitot that it is fine, and we are talking about a mitzvah derabanan. So – if it is possible to hear it directly, or read it to oneself via listening in to a recording or the like – that would definitely be preferred. If it means braving bad weather, but we are talking about people for whom that is just unpleasant and an inconvenience, and nothing more, then I would say that they should be encouraged to come. I think we can all agree that this would be the case in a non-COVID era (let’s say the heating broke down in the shul), so although we have more normalized Zoom now, I would still say that there should be strong encouragement to come. That being said, I would not do this to the point of making anyone feel guilty, both because (1) there are strong positions to rely on AND because then it will make people who really can’t go feel like they are not really being yotzei and (2) I believe that halakhically, we might have moved to a place that, even post-COVID, the Zoom experience will be seen less of a bedieved than before – that we are more prepared to embrace now, due to our yearlong experience, that this is a form of direct participation.If one is doing it over Zoom, then I don’t think that having the readers in a different place adds a level of bedieved. It’s all the same pesak.
I do not feel that reading from a chumash has any halakhic weight. Saying Hallel (without a berakhah) does not count as megillah reading. Although the Meiri says that because of קריאתה זו היא הלולא that when there is no megillah one is obligated in Hallel (we do not rule this way), it does not work in the opposite direction.
I was asked for the source of b. If a person is actually moving from place to place, there could possibly be a concern of shinuy makom that would require a new berakhah, starting again, etc. But that is not the case when it comes to megillah. See Shulchan Arukh OC 432:2 by bedikat chameitz, who rules that to go from house to house does not require a new berakhah based on שינוי מקום since talking isn’t a hefseik and שינו מקום would be no worse (and similarly with megillah – talking is not a hefseik). Magen Avraham 589:4 also rules that to start tekiot in one place and end them in another is not a hefseik, since it is all one mitzvah. Megillah should be just the same. All of this is if you literally walk from place to place. If you stay in place and hear the beginning from house 1 near the shul and then chapter 2 from house 2, it is obvious you are yotzei, and hearing from Zooms from multiple places should be no different.