The Laws of Purim - The Month of Adar and the Reading of the Megilla

  • Rav David Brofsky

the laws of THE FESTIVALS




In memory of Yissachar Dov Shmuel bar Yakov Yehuda Illoway

and Leah Ruth Illoway bat Natan Naso Jacobs




Shiur #14: The Laws of Purim

Rav David Brofsky




This week, we begin our study of the laws of Purim.  The upcoming shiurim will address the laws and customs relevant to the month of Adar and the reading of the Megilla.  We will discuss the proper time for reading the Megilla, and the quandary faced by one who travels to or from a walled city, such a Jerusalem, on or before Purim.  Finally, we will study the other mitzvot of Purim, such as mishloach manot, matanot la-evyonim, and the issue of intoxication on Purim. 


The Month of Adar


The Talmud (Ta'anit 29a) teaches:


Our sages taught: Just as our joy is reduced when the month of Av begins, so is our joy increased when the month of Adar begins.  R. Papa said: Therefore, a Jew who is involved in litigation with a non-Jew should avoid him during Av, for it is a time of ill omen for him.  And he should attempt to meet him in court in Adar, for it is a time of good omen for him. 


Some Rishonim (see, for example, Ritva to Ta'anit 29a) raised the question of how this comment may be reconciled with the well-known principle that "ein mazal le-Yisrael" (Shabbat 156a) – the Jewish experience is not determined by astrological forces.  Some interpret R. Papa’s comment to mean that the months of Adar and Av are subject to different terms of Divine providence.  Others simply minimize the theological importance of these statements, reducing the phrase "ill omen" to a description of the rabbinic legislation, as opposed to an astrological reference.


We might suggest viewing our behavior during these two months as reflecting different aspects of our relationship with God.  During Adar, we express our confidence in our special relationship with the Almighty, which we commemorate on the holiday Purim and which at times grants us Divine shelter and protection.  During Av, however, we express the reality of our particularly precarious existence and our being unworthy of Divine protection, which we feel most intensely on Tisha Be-Av.


Interestingly, the Rambam, as well as the Shulchan Arukh, omit this passage in their presentation of the laws of Purim.


The Arba Parshiyot - the Four Special Torah Readings


Parashat Shekalim - and the Zekher Le-machtzit Ha-shekel


The Mishna (Megilla 29a) and Tosefta (Megilla 3:1-3) enumerate the four Torah sections read during the months of Adar and Nissan:


If Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbat, we read Parashat Shekalim.  If it falls during the week, then we read Shekalim on the Shabbat preceding it... On the second [week of the month of Adar we read Parashat] Zakhor, on the third [week we read Parashat] Para Aduma, and on the fourth "ha-chodesh."


The Talmud (Megilla 30b, Rashi) records a debate between R. Ami and R. Yirmiya as to whether these sections are read in place of the regular Torah reading, or only as the maftir section added onto the scheduled reading.  Halakha follows the second view (Rambam, Hilkhot Tefilla 13:22; Shulchan Arukh O.C. 685).  According to our custom (Shulchan Arukh 282:4), that the maftir is read in addition to the seven aliyot of the parasha, these four sections are read as the maftir on these four Shabbatot. 


Before Purim, as the Mishna teaches, we read Parashat Shekalim and Parashat Zakhor.  Parashat Shekalim (Shemot 30:11-16), according to Shmuel (Megilla 29b), is read in commemoration of the machatzit ha-shekel, the half-shekel that was annually donated for the sacrificial service.  The verses note the uniformity of the donation (“the wealthy shall not add, nor shall the impoverished detract” – Shemot 30:15), as well the “atonement” it provided (“to atone for your souls” – ibid.).  Apparently, the equal participation of all Jews in the communal sacrifices emphasizes the unity of the Jewish people and their shared aspiration to serve God, which ultimately renders them worthy of Divine forgiveness. 


Why do we read this parasha before Purim?


Some (Rashi, Megilla 29a) associate this reading with the Mishna’s comment (Shekalim 1:1) that on the first of Adar, the High Court "announced" the mitzva of the half-shekel.  Starting from Nissan, sacrifices must be purchased from new donations, and the half-shekel donation thus commenced each year on Rosh Chodesh Adar to ensure the availability of new funds by Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  Rashi apparently believed that the reading of Parashat Shekalim predates the destruction of the Beit Ha-mikdash, and served as a public announcement to bring the machatzit ha-shekel. 


The Mishna Berura (685:2) cites the Levush (Rabbi Mordechai Yoffe, 1530 - 1612) as explaining that we read Parashat Shekalim in fulfillment of the verse, "and we will offer our lips [in place of] bulls" (Hosea 14:3).  In other words, the Rabbis instituted the reading of Parashat Shekalim after the destruction of the Temple as a commemoration of the machatzit ha-shekel, so that we can fulfill this mitzva, on some level, through this reading. 


Similarly, the Sefer Ha-Chinukh (105) explains that the reading of Parashat Shekalim serves to remind us of the mitzva of machatzit ha-shekel which we unfortunately can no longer observe, due to the absence of the Mikdash.


While the poskim cited above do not draw any connection between Parashat Shekalim and Purim, the Talmud (Megilla 13b) indeed points to such a connection:


It was revealed and clear before the Holy One Blessed be He that in the future Haman would exact shekalim from Israel; He therefore preceded their shekalim to his, as it says, “and they would announce the shekalim… on the first of Adar…”


The Yerushalmi similarly suggests that the merit of the Jews’ communal participation in the sacrificial service, through the donation of the machatzit ha-shekel, protected them from Haman’s edict, which included a payment of money ("eshkol"- Ester 3:9) to the royal treasury. 


Rabbi Moshe Alshich (Safed, 1508-1593), in his Torah commentary (Shemot 30:11), explains that the commandment to donate specifically a half-shekel (as opposed to a complete shekel) demonstrates how all members of the nation combine to comprise a single, organic whole.  No Jew can feel complete as a lone individual, separated from the nation; it is only when each person participates with the rest of Am Yisrael by contributing his share that he – and the nation – become whole. 


This insight might perhaps shed light on the Yerushalmi’s comment cited above.  The unity of the Jewish people, as demonstrated through the machatzit ha-shekel donation, counters Haman's accusation that the Jews are “a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples" (Ester 3:8).  When each member of the Jewish people recognizes that he is but a “half,” one part of the greater whole, thus engendering a sense of unity among the nation, they then become worthy of forgiveness and immune to Haman’s plans.  As the Yerushalmi (Megilla 1:5) adds, "Therefore, we precede and read the section regarding shekalim…"   The Rabbis instituted that we remember, and internalize, the true reason behind the salvation from Haman, in preparation for our festive observance of Purim. 


Zekher Le-machatzit Ha-shekel


Besides reading the section of Shekalim, it is also customary before Purim to donate money to charity zekher le-machatzit ha-shekel (in commemoration of the machatzit ha-shekel).  The Mordekhai (1240–1298) records a custom to donate three “half coins” before Purim, corresponding to the three instances of the word "teruma" (donation) in the Shekalim section in the Torah.  (See also Masekhet Sofrim 21:3.)  Although this custom is not mentioned by other Rishonim, the Rema (694:1) writes, "Some say that before Purim one should give a half of the current currency of that time and place, in commemoration of the machatzit ha-shekel."


In order to understand some of the details pertinent to this custom, let us briefly review the laws of the machatzit ha-shekel donation.


The Rambam (Hilkhot Shekalim 1:1, 8) writes:


There is a positive commandment for each Jewish male to give half of a shekel, each year… [and this mitzva] applies only during the time of the Temple.  And during the time of the Temple, the shekalim are given in Israel as well as in the Diaspora, and when the Temple is destroyed, [the mitzva] does not apply even in the land of Israel.


(Incidentally, historical and archeological evidence testifies to the observance of this commandment, in Israel and abroad, during the Second Temple period.)


The Rambam later rules (Hilkhot Shekalim 1:7), in accordance with the Mishna (Shekalim 1:3), that women and children are exempt from the obligation of machatzit ha-shekel.  R. Ovadya Bartenura (1:3) explains that "children" in this context refers to males under twenty years old.  By contrast, R. Yom-Tov Lipman Heller, in his Tosafot Yom Tov (1:4), and the Ramban (Shemot 30:12), rule that this obligation is no different than any other commandment, in which a male becomes obligated already at the age of thirteen. 


The Acharonim discuss a number of issues related to the commemoration of machatzit ha-shekel observed nowadays, at least some of which appear to depend upon the extent to which this custom is modeled after the original mitzva. 


For example, the Magen Avraham (3) cites those who obligate women and minors in zekher le-machatzit ha-shekel, and questions the basis and rationale for such a position.  R.  Baruch Ha-levi Epstein (1860-1942), author of the Torah Temima, explains that the half-shekel donation served different roles in different contexts. During Benei Yisrael’s sojourn in the wilderness, the donation served to count the males eligible for military service.  By contrast, the custom to give charity before Purim simply commemorates the miracles of Purim, which women and children certainly experienced no less than men, and they are therefore included in this commemoration.  Furthermore, R. Yaakov Chayyim Sofer (1870-1939) explains in his Kaf Ha-chayim (695:24) that women and children participate in this custom despite their exemption from the original machatzit ha-shekel obligation, because this mitzva serves “to atone for their souls," and women and children also require atonement. 


Regarding the age from which one should give the machatzit ha-shekel, the Rema writes that "only one who is twenty years old must give."  As we have seen, however, some authorities rule that this obligation begins at the age of thirteen, just like other mitzvot. 


The Mishna Berura (5) records that it is customary to give the machatzit ha-shekel even on behalf of one's children, and for pregnant women to donate on behalf of the unborn child. 


As for the amount that one is required to donate, the Kaf Ha-chayim (794:20) writes that ideally, one who has the financial means should give an amount corresponding to the amount of the original machatzit ha-shekel, namely, three dram, or approximately nine grams of pure silver.  The Rema (694:1), however, codifies the practice recorded in the Mordekhai, which we cited earlier:


Some say that before Purim one should give a half of the current currency in that time and place, in commemoration of the machatzit ha-shekel.  Since the word "teruma" ("donation") appears three times in the parasha, one should give three [coins].


Must one give specifically "half coins"?  Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, in his Tzitz Eliezer (13:72), rules that one who forgot to prepare "half coins" may give his donation together with another person, or simply give "whole coins," intending that the halves should serve to fulfill the custom of zekher le-machatzit ha-shekel and the rest should simply count as tzedaka. 


The Kaf Ha-Chayim (794:23), as well as the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, 1720-1797), as recorded in  Ma'aseh Rav (233), dispute the Rema’s ruling that one must donate three half coins, and maintain that one may simply give one half coin.  Furthermore, some Acharonim (Kaf Ha-chayim, Tzitz Eliezer, Minchat Elazar 1:30) emphasize that the zekher le-machatzit ha-shekel is merely a custom, and it is sufficient to give any sum of charity, and even bills or checks. 


Regarding the proper time to fulfill this custom, the Mishna (Masekhet Sofrim 21:3) writes that one should give the donation before Shabbat Zakhor (the Shabbat before Purim).  The Rema (694:1), however, writes, "Some give it on the eve of Purim, before reciting mincha, and that is the custom in these lands." The Magen Avraham (2) records that it was customary to fulfill this minhag on Purim morning, before the Megilla reading. 


To whom should the zekher le-machatzit ha-shekel funds be given? Masekhet Sofrim (21:3) teaches that the funds should be used "to provide water and food for our impoverished brethren."  Others (see R. Ovadya Yosef's Yechaveh Da'at 1:86) insist that they should be used to support Torah learning. 


The Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 249) discusses the obligation, or according to some, the custom, of setting aside a percentage of one's income for tzedaka, known as "ma'aser kesafim."  Generally, one should not use these funds to pay one's debts or obligations, and therefore the Magen Avraham (1) writes that one should not use one's ma'aser kesafim funds to fulfill the custom of zekher le-machatzit ha-shekel.  We will discuss this issue in greater depth when we study the laws of matanot la-evyonim. 


Parashat Zakhor


The second of the "four parshiyot," Parashat Zakhor, is read on the Shabbat before Purim.  Through this reading, which recounts Amalek’s attack against Benei Yisrael in the wilderness, we fulfill the command of "zekhirat Amalek" – remembering Amalek’s hostilities:


REMEMBER what Amalek did to you along the way as you left Egypt; how he confronted you along the way, and smote the hindmost among you, all that were enfeebled, when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.  Therefore, it shall be that when the Lord your God gives you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens; you shall not forget. (Devarim 25:17-19)


The Torah here issues three commandments relevant to Amalek: to REMEMBER, NOT TO FORGOT, and to ERASE the memory of Amalek. 


What is the relationship between the mitzva to remember Amalek, and the mitzva to eradicate Amalek?


On the one hand, one might view the mitzva to remember, and the commandment not to forget Amalek, as part of the larger objective of waging war against this nation.  Indeed, the Rambam (Sefer Ha-mitzvot, mitzvat asei 189; see also Hilkhot Melakhim 5:5) writes:


We are commanded to remember that which Amalek did to us… and that we should repeat this from time to time and our souls should be aroused through its recitation to fight against them and we should encourage the nation to hate them…


On the other hand, one might view the commandment to remember Amalek as conveying and expressing independent, broader religious messages, not necessarily directly related to war.  For example, we might, we might note that the Torah introduces this mitzva immediately following the admonition to refrain from using or even owning false weights (Devarim 25:13-16):


You shall not have in you bag diverse weights, a large and a small.  You shall not have in your house diverse measures, a large and a small.  You shall have a perfect and just weight; you shall have a perfect and just measure, so that your days upon the land which the Lord your God gives you shall be prolonged.  For all that do such things, even all that act dishonestly, are an abomination unto the Lord your God.


The juxtaposition of these two parshiyot may imply a more universal message, rather than the specific commandment to destroy the nation of Amalek.


            R. Soloveitchik (cited in Harerei Kedem 1:185) suggested that this issue, whether the mitzva to remember Amalek is related to and even dependent upon the mitzva to eradicate them, may affect a number of halakhic questions, including whether women are obligated in the obligation zekhirat amalek, and which parasha one may read to fulfill the mitzva, as we shall see later. 


How and When to Fulfill the Mitzva of Zekhirat Amalek:


Interestingly, the Gemara does not discuss when and how we are to fulfill this mitzva.  Regarding the proper time to fulfill this mitzva, the Sefer Ha-chinukh (603) writes:


Regarding this zekhira, in one's heart and mouth, we don’t know of a set time in the year, or a day… it is sufficient to remember this once a year, or once every two or three years.


R. Yosef Ben Moshe Babad (1801–1874), in his Minchat Chinukh commentary to the Sefer Ha-Chinukh (603), infers from the Chinukh’s comments that one may fulfill this obligation (on the level of mi-deorayta – Torah law), by remembering Amalek once during a person’s lifetime.


The Chatam Sofer (E.H. 1:119) suggests that one should fulfill this mitzva once each year.  He notes the Gemara’s discussion (Berakhot 58b) concerning the berakha of "mechayei ha-meitim," which one recites upon seeing someone whom he hadn't seen in twelve months.  The Gemara asserts that certain memories are forgotten after twelve months have passed, and the Chatam Sofer thus concludes that perpetuating the memory of Amalek requires recalling the event at least once every year.  He then questions whether during a leap year one should read Parashat Zakhor in the first month of Adar, in order that twelve full months shouldn't pass without remembering Amalek.  He concludes that the Gemara refers not to twelve months, but rather to the experiences of a full yearly cycle, which cause one to forget, and during a leap year, this occurs only after thirteen months. 


Others (see Sefer Chareidim, mitzvat asei 84:21), noting that earlier poskim make no mention of a specific time for this mitzva (Rambam, Sefer Ha-mitzvot, mitzvat asei 189), classify zekhirat amalek is a mitzva temidit – a mitzva which must be fulfilled each day. Indeed, the Shela Ha-kadosh recommends reading Parashat Zakhor every day.


In any event, it appears that the Rabbis established the observance of this mitzva annually on Shabbat Zakhor, through the reading of Parashat Zakhor. 


In addition to the question of when we are to observe this mitzva of remembering, we must also address the question of how we observe this mitzva. The Talmud (Megilla 18a) teaches:


It says, "Zakhor" (Devarim 25:17).  Might this be fulfilled in one's heart? When it says, "you shall not forget" (ibid., verse 19) – “forgetting” refers to the heart! So what do I learn from [the commandment] to remember? With one's mouth. 


Clearly, then, the obligation to remember refers to not simply mental recollection, but rather a verbal recitation.


The Gemara does not specify whether one must read Parashat Zakhor from a proper sefer Torah, or merely recite the words.  Both the Rambam (Hilkhot Melakhim 5:5) and the Chinukh (603) make no mention of reading the text specifically from a Torah.  The Ramban (Devarim 25:17) also implies that one does not need to read the parasha from a text, but rather to "relate the story to our children..."  However, some Rishonim (see Tosafot, Megilla 17b s.v. kol and Berakhot 13a s.v be-lashon) rule that even on the level of Torah obligation, one must read Parashat Zakhor from a proper Torah scroll. 


The view requiring a Torah scroll for this mitzva does not necessarily require that the reading be conducted in the presence of a minyan.  The Rosh (Berakhot 7:20), however, describes Parashat Zakhor as a rare case in which a minyan is required on the level of Torah obligation.  (Usually, when a minyan is required, it is to fulfill an obligation enacted by the Sages.)  Rabbi Yisrael ben Petachyah Isserlein (1390-1460), in his Terumat Ha-deshen (108), rules (based upon the Rosh) that people in towns without a minyan should travel to communities with a minyan for Shabbat Zakhor.  He adds that the presence of a minyan is likely more central to the reading of Parashat Zakhor than to the reading of the Megilla!


The Magen Avraham (685) attempts to justify the practice of those who do not hear Parashat Zakhor in a minyan.  He explains that even if one must hear the reading from a sefer Torah and in the presence of a minyan, one need not fulfill this mitzva specifically on the Shabbat before Purim.  Therefore, it is preferable for one to travel to a place with a minyan for Purim, to hear the reading of the Megilla and the Purim Torah reading which tells the story of Amalek (Shemot 17:8-16).  This way, one fulfills both the mitzva of Megilla reading and the obligation to remember Amalek’s hostilities. 


The Mishna Berura (685:16), however, disagrees with the Magen Avraham, claiming that one cannot fulfill the obligation of zekhirat amalek through the reading of the story in Sefer Shemot, as the commandment to destroy Amalek does not appear in that parasha. 


            R. Soloveitchik (ibid.) explained that this debate may depend upon whether the relationship between the commandment to remember Amalek relates to the mitzva to destroy them.  If we acknowledge a link between these two obligations, then we would likely require reading the section in Devarim, which speaks of destroying Amalek. If, however, we view these two obligations as separate requirements, then even the section in Sefer Shemot would likely suffice for fulfilling this mitzva. 


            Similarly, R. Yitzchak of Karlin (1784-1852), in his Keren Ora commentary on the Talmud (Berakhot 3a s.v. ve-idi), explains that those who require the presence of a minyan view the mitzva to destroy Amalek as an obligation incumbent upon the community, rather than individuals. He also contends that a mitzva which must be fulfilled publicly, such as zekhirat amalek, cannot be required on a daily basis.  Hence, the Rabbis instituted that this section be read annually, rather than every day. 


            The Shulchan Arukh (685:7) summarizes this discussion as follows:


Some say that Parashat Zakhor and Parashat Para are Biblical obligations, and therefore, those who live in small villages who do not have a minyan should travel to a place with a minyan for these Shabbatot in order to hear these parshiyot, which constitute a Torah obligation.


The Rema adds:


One who is unable [to travel to a town with a minyan] should nevertheless read the parasha with its proper tune and notes.


The Acharonim note that both the reader and listener must have the proper intention to fulfill the mitzva.  The Taz (3) claims that this applies even to the berakhot recited before the reading, and that one who does not hear the berakhot does not fulfill the obligation. This raises the interesting question of the extent to which the Rabbis defined the mitzva of zekhirat amalek as the reading (or listening to) the portion from the Torah, with its blessings.  The Taz apparently believes that the mitzva must be fulfilled within the formal context of keriat ha-Torah, which of course includes the blessings preceding and concluding the portion.


The Acharonim also discuss whether we may apply to zekhirat amalek the principle of shomei'a ke-oneh, which allows the listener to be considered as though he personally recited the given text.  If we do apply shomei’a ke-oneh in this context, then one should listen silently to the ba’al keri’a’s reading, without reading along.  The Munkatsher Rebbe (R. Chayim Elazar Spira, 1871–1937), in his Minchat Elazar (2:1), suggested that one might need to actually enunciate the words of Parashat Zakhor in order to fulfill the obligation, while other Acharonim, including the Peri Chadash (O.C. 67:1) and the Netziv (Meishiv Davar O:C 47), maintain that one should simply listen to the ba’al keri’a.  (See R. Ovadya Yosef’s discussion in Yechaveh Da'at 3:53.)


Another issue raised by the Acharonim involves the proper pronunciation of the central word of the Zakhor reading: zekher (“the memory” of Amalek).  The Radak (R. David Kimchi, 1160 – 1235), in his Sefer Ha-shorashim, records that he saw two versions of this word: in one version it was punctuated with a segol, yielding “zekher,” whereas in the other it was punctuated with a tzeirei, and thus pronounced, “zeikher.”  In later editions of the Sefer Ha-shorashim, the phrase, "and the [halakha is not] like him" appears, referring to the "zeikher" reading, thus implying that "zekher" is the correct reading.  Based upon this text, siddurim and Chumashim from the 17th to 19th centuries were amended to read, “zekher.”


Interestingly, there is a historical debate as to which of these two pronunciations was accepted by the Vilna Gaon.  The work Ma’aseh Rav (a collection of customs and practices of the Gaon, published in 1832 by R. Yissachar Ber) records that the Gaon would say, "zekher" while reading Parashat Zakhor.  However, R. Chayim Volozhin (1749-1821), a student of the Vilna Gaon, writes in his approbation to the Ma'aseh Rav that he heard the Gaon say "zeikher."


This confusion led to the custom to read both versions of the word, and this is the ruling of the Mishna Berura (18).  Indeed, in many communities today the ba’al keri’a first reads the phrase one way and then immediately repeats it with the second pronunciation.  Others prefer to finish the verse, and then repeat the entire verse with the second version. 


Recently, two scholarly studies have been published regarding this question.  Both R. Mordechai Breuer (Megadim 10, "Mikraot She-ein Lahem Hekhrea") and Y. Pankover (Minhag U-mesora – Zekher Amalek Be-chamesh o Shesh Nekodot" in Bar Ilan University’s Iyunei Mikra u-Parshanut 4) conclude that the proper reading is "zeikher," and that early texts support this conclusion.


This debate demonstrates the precision which the poskim demand for the reading of Parashat Zakhor.  Some authorities go so far as to insist that one should hear the parasha read in one's own pronunciation.  In other words, one who reads Hebrew with an Ashkenazic pronunciation (which affects the pronunciation of the "kamatz"/"komotz" vowel and the letter "tav/sav") should hear the parasha read in this fashion.  Some even insist the one hear the portion read from a Sefer Torah written according to one's tradition. (See R. Tzvi Pesach Frank’s Mikra'ei Kodesh – Purim 7; Minchat Yitzchak 3:9 and 4:47:3; Yabia Omer 6:11; Halikhot Shlomo 18:1.) 


Finally, the poskim debate the question of whether women are obligated to hear Parashat Zakhor.  Some (Marcheshet 22:3; Avnei Neizer O.C. 509) suggest zekhirat amalek constitutes a mitzvat asei she-hazeman gerama (a time-bound obligation), from which women are generally exempt, though most other Acharonim reject his argument. 


The Sefer Ha-Chinukh (603) argues that since women generally don’t participate in battle, they are exempt from the commandments relating to Amalek.  The Minchat Chinukh, however, raises two objections to this contention.  Firstly, he argues that, as mentioned in the Talmud (Sota 44b), women do, in fact, participate in obligatory wars (milchamot mitzva).  Secondly, the mitzva to remember Amalek is not necessarily linked to the mitzva to wage war against Amalek.  As discussed earlier, R. Soloveitchik suggested that this issue would depend upon the relationship between the commandment to remember Amalek and the mitzva to destroy Amalek.


Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (1902-1989), former head of the rabbinical court of the Eidah Charedit in Jerusalem and author of the multivolume Minchat Yitzchak, follows the view of R. Natan Adler (the teacher of R. Moshe Sofer) who held that women are indeed obligated, and that their mitzva should be fulfilled through the public Torah reading.  Therefore, it is customary for women to hear the reading of Parashat Zakhor, and many communities arrange readings later in the day to accommodate those who cannot attend synagogue services on the morning of Shabbat Zakhor (Minchat Yitzchak 9:68).


R. Shneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin (1830-1902), a student of the Tzemach Tzedek and a well-known Chabad posek, presents a third view on this issue.  In his work Torat Chesed (O.C. 37), he writes that women are indeed obligated to fulfill the Torah obligation of zekhirat amalek, which is not a time-bound mitzva, but they are exempt from the Rabbinic obligation to hear Parashat Zakhor.  They may therefore fulfill the obligation of zekhirat amalek by reading the parasha to themselves, without hearing the formal Torah reading.  On this basis, R. Shneur Zalman explains why it was unheard of in his community for women to attend the Zakhor reading.  R. Aaron Felder, in his Mo’adei Yeshurun (Hilkhot Purim 1, 3, note 9), records that R. Moshe Feinstein likewise held that women may fulfill their obligation by reading the parasha from a printed Chumash.


            Next week we will begin our study of Ta'anit Ester and the laws of Purim.