Megillah Reading By Microphone

QUESTION

Canada

At the school where I work, the Megillah reading will be conducted with a microphone, as it always has been. I am unable to change this practice, at least for this year.

What is the Rosh Yeshiva’s position on reading the Megillah with a microphone? Can one rely on the poskim who permit it?

For those attending a Megillah reading with a microphone, should they seek out another reading later not read with a microphone? Alternatively, can those standing close to the reader assume they are hearing it from the reader directly?

ANSWER

You are correct that there is a debate among the poskim re the use of a microphone for mitzvot like Megillah reading (see Iggrot Moshe 2:108; 4:126, Minhat Elazar 2:72, R’ Tzi Pesach Frank quoted in Minhat Yitzkhak 2:113, Tzitz Eliezer 8:11, Minhat Shlomo 1:9). While my usual conservative approach would lead me to advise shuls and schools to avoid using a microphone, my actual position is strongly in favor of it in most cases, as I will explain.

First, the svara (reasoning) is compelling. Halakha is based on how we experience reality, not on what we know is happening invisibly via sound waves. For example, when we talk to someone over the telephone, we perceive it as hearing directly from the person, not as hearing an electronically reproduced voice. This is the point Rav Moshe made in his teshuva.

More importantly, this pesak is crucial for accessibility. This starts with hearing aids, which are essentially the same as a microphone. We should not assume that people with hearing aids are not fulfilling their obligation or suggest that they remove their aids and strain to hear. Additionally, many people who are hard of hearing would not be able to fully hear the Megillah without a microphone.

Therefore, while the community is adopting a debated position to benefit individuals, my view is that it is a bedieved to not provide maximal access to all members. Ensuring full participation and membership reflects a communal value that, in my opinion, is lekhatchilah, which is of greater importance than avoiding microphones for the entire community in deference to those poskim who prohibit it. However, for a small group, such as a class or a small minyan where everyone can hear without a microphone, it would be different and I would not permit the use of a microphone barring any other mitigating factors.

Even for those hesitant to fully embrace my position, note that microphones are primarily used for the night reading, which is less obligatory than the day reading (see for example, Arukh HaShulchan OC 687:2-3). Therefore, even for the more conservative, I would encourage using the microphone at night.

Of course, on an individual level, if someone wants to be stringent and hear the Megillah again at home, they are welcome to do so.

P.S. What I wrote was assuming the experience is one of hearing the person’s voice. If this is not the case, that would be different. For example, I was asked about using a megaphone. One must assess whether it sounds like the person is speaking through the megaphone, which amplifies their voice but still preserves its authenticity, or if it sounds like a new, reproduced voice. Based on my experience, I am strongly inclined to say that the former is true, and therefore halachically acceptable. However, this is the critical question that must be asked. If the voice is altered, such as through a synthesizer that changes its sound, it would not be acceptable.

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