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Mar 2, 2009

Interesting Psak from Rav Ovadia Yosef: Women can read and write Megillat Esther

I remember, without too many details, that when a womens' minyan started in Chicago many years ago, they met with fierce opposition by some of the local rabbis. One of the issues was that even if most of the time such a minyan is not problematic, there are times where it is inappropriate, such as women reading the megilla if I remember correctly, and therefore it is better such a minyan not be held at all. So that in those problematic situations we don't end up with women doing something they should not be doing.

Rav Ovadia Yosef, in his weekly motzei shabbos shiur, spoke about women reading the megilla, and about women writing megillas. It is a surprising psak, considering how liberal it is, and it seems out of charachter. Regardless, it is interesting.

If you have the patience to listen to the shiur, I recommend it. Rav Ovadia throws in some anecdotes and it is an interesting shiur. It is difficult to understand, as Rav Ovadia always is, but you can make out most of it if you listen carefully. I consider it important to listen to, because the source where I first saw it menioned, Haaretz, is not reliable in quoting properly (out of context, etc) halachic commentary, and when possible it is best to get it from the source.

Rav Ovadia talks about the women reading the megilla at about 10 minutes in to the shiur, and about writing the megilla about 26 minutes in.

Rav Ovadia stresses that while a woman could lein from the megilla, it is preferable that she not. However, in a situation where there is no man available who can read, such as maybe in a small settlement, a woman can definitely read and be motzi others, including men, their obligation. Rav Ovadia says they can read because they have the same obligation as men, and they were part of the miracle.

What about listening to the voice of women? Reading, even with the cantillations, is not comparable to singing and is ok.

About writing the megilla, Rav Ovadia says because they can read they can also write it. It is clear that there is no problem with them writing a megilla. If they have parnassa problems, they should write megillas, Rav Ovadia says! A different problem is who would buy it...

Rav Ovadia relates that it used to be common in some places, such as in Yemen, for women to write tanachs and megillas. He relates an anecdote of a tanach written by a woman - he says she signed at the bottom a note that she wrote the megilla and apologizes for any mistakes. She says she wrote it while she was pregnant, and was having contractions at the time, so she might have made some mistakes.

Again, as always, do not rely on anything quoted here for an actual halachic decision. Contact your own rabbi if you have any questions.

MOI wrote about it earlier, and the comments are sure to be diverse on this topic...


  1. See the post by Professor Jeffrey Woolf at My Obiter Dicta for a different view.

  2. what word did he use for contractions?

  3. This is by no means a new psak, as the Arutz Sheva article on this points out.

    Here's the Yalkut Yosef (written by Rav Ovadia's son) on this:

    י"א שאע"פ שהנשים חייבות במקרא מגילה, אינן מוציאות את האנשים ידי חובתם. ויש חולקים ואומרים שהנשים יכולות להוציא את האנשים ידי חובה. ואע"פ שהעיקר כדעה אחרונה, נכון לחוש לסברא ראשונה, אלא אם כן בשעת הדחק. ומכל מקום אין לאסור בזה משום "קול באשה ערוה". ע"כ

    There are plenty of footnotes on this too.

  4. Rafi, the issue for Ashkenaz rests solely on kvod hatzibur; it stated plainly in the Gemara that women have the same chiyuv has men, so I don't know how they would get around it.

  5. It is not "aliba d'kulay alma" that women have the same obligation. the chayay adam, for example in klal 155:11 says that wheras men have a chiyuv in kriah - women only have a chiyuv in shmiyah - therefore l'chatchilah they shouldn't even read for themselves.

  6. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is a "liberal" psak. In terms of t'fillin, there is a g'zeirat hakatuv that only those who are obligated to wear them may also write them. Rav Ovadia's logic is that those who are obligated to read a megillah are also allowed to write it (nothing liberal there). So allowing women to write is just a natural outcome of that logic.

    I wonder what he would say about men reading from a megillah written by a man, according to those who say that a woman's obligation is not the same as that of a man.

  7. RAFI:

    thanks for clarifying. (i thought i heard him say צרירים)

  8. GILAD:

    "women only have a chiyuv in shmiyah - therefore l'chatchilah they shouldn't even read for themselves."

    i think there's a מחלוקת to this effect whether women should be saying לקרא or לשמוע in the ברכה

  9. Thanks for sharing... we are Ashkenazim and don't follow haRav Ovadia (although on our Moshav, many of the Mizrahim do... especially his psaq on tevilla) but it's interesting -- surprising, really -- that he referred to this issue at all. Chag Sameach.


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