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Amplification System for Reading the Megillah


Can one be yotzei hearing the Megillah over the PA system or radio? Can a hearing aid be used to amplify the sound? What about hearing the shofar or Torah reading? Why do some people refrain from using a microphone at a chuppah? How can someone who needs a hearing aid or cochlear implant perform mitzvos that require hearing, and what is the halachic difference between the two devices? B’dieved, after hearing the megillah via livestream, does one have to hear it again? What about hearing the Megillah in a cellar or bomb shelter? What will our brothers in the Ukraine do this year? Is a telephone a better choice? Why does the Mishna mention hearing tekias shofar in a barrel or cave? And when were these halachos first relevant? Of this, and more, in the coming article.

Amplification System for Mitzvos

With heartfelt prayer that they be protected from all danger, it seems that this year our brothers in Ukraine will be experiencing Purim in a cellar or bomb shelter. Can the mitzva of hearing the Megillah be performed via an amplification system?

This question was first presented over 350 years ago to Rabbi Yaakov Chagiz (1620-1674) (Halachos Ktanos, volume II chapter 45): is a person who can only hear with the aid of an ear trumpet (the first hearing aid) obligated to hear the shofar? Rabbi Yaakov Chagiz considered it hearing via an agent and proved from the Tosefos (Succah 37b) that this, too, is considered hearing. Therefore, the person in question is obligated to hear the shofar.


When the loudspeaker was invented the question came up again. People wanted to know if the ba’al korei of a large shul could use a loudspeaker for the Megillah reading. While for regular Shabbos prayers and shofar it is clearly forbidden due to Hilchos Shabbos, the question is relevant for Megillahs Esther since the public is obligated to hear it and work is permitted.  While a regular krias haTorah doesn’t usually draw large crowds, everyone comes for Megillah, including ladies and children. Since halacha mandates people hear every word, use of a loudspeaker could greatly assist in the mitzva.

Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (Eidut LYisroel, Halacha, p. 122) and Minchas Yitzchak (volume I, chapter 37) maintain that one does not fulfill his obligation of reading or hearing the Megillah when it is read over a loudspeaker or with the assistance of a hearing aid because it is a kol havara – the sound of an echo, not the natural human voice.

The Sound of an Echo

In order to understand this topic, we must first clarify why an echo is problematic. The Mishna (Rosh Hashana 27b) discusses blowing the shofar in a cave or barrel. The Rishonim (Chidushei Haritva, Chidushei Haran, Chidushei Hameiri) quote Rav Hai Gaon who explains the context for this halachic discussion: during the Roman period, the government outlawed Torah study and mitzvah observance. In order to perform the mitzva of shofar, communities would go out to distant caves or even hide in large barrels.

The Mishna states that if both the blower and his audience share the same space – be it cave, barrel or hollow – they performed the mitzva. But if one was inside and the other was outside, only one who heard the sound of the shofar itself performed the mitzva. However, if he only heard the echo of the shofar he hasn’t performed the mitzva and must repeat it. This halacha appears in the Shulchan Aruch (OC 587:1).

The Mishna continues and explains that whether or not overhearing fulfills the mitzva (a person passed outside the shul) depends upon the reader or blower’s intention. If the blower or ba’al korei intended to include this person in the mitzva, or had a general intention to include anyone who hears him in the mitzva, he has fulfilled the mitzva. However, if one of them did not intended to enable the hearer to fulfill the mitzva, they didn’t, in which case, the listener has to repeat the mitzva.

Rabbi Henkin and Minchas Yitzchak compare a PA system to the above-mentioned cave or barrel, and deduce that hearing the Megillah over an PA system does not fulfill the mitzva. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank agrees with them (Mikraei Kodesh, Purim, chapter 11) that using a PA is impossible for shofar (even if it would have theoretically been possible under Hilchos Yom Tov). However, he sees krias haTorah and Megillah as being different from shofar. While hearing an echo is halachically unacceptable for shofar because one hears two sounds together – both the original sound and the echo, for Megillah and krias haTorah, hearing two mixed sounds is kosher. Therefore, a loudspeaker can be used for krias haTorah (during the week) and Megillah.

Bomb Shelter

This dispute has practical ramifications when discussing hearing the Megillah in a bomb shelter. If the reader is in a different shelter or outside, and the Megillah is heard along with an echo, according to the Minchas Yitzchak it is unacceptable and must be repeated, while according to Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank it is a kosher Megillah reading.

Loudspeaker – Human or Electronic Voice

According to the Minchas Shlomo (volume I, chapter 9); Rabbi Chaim Pinchos Sheinberg (as heard from his grandson, Rabbi Altusky shlita); Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer I, OC 19:18); and Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos V’hanhagos, I chapter 155) a loudspeaker and other devices are not considered a human voice. While hearing with an echo may be kosher for some mitzvos, the sound produced by an electronic PA system is far from the same thing. Since an electronic system receives sound waves and then translates them into electric signals, which are then reconverted into amplified sound, the sound produced by the system is not human, but electronic. While the human voice is the cause of the electronic signals, the sound it produces is not human.

Rav Ovadia Yosef adds, though, that those who stand right next to the ba’al korei or shofar blower and can hear him without the loudspeaker have fulfilled the mitzva. Therefore, at a chuppah, a loudspeaker can be used, provided there are ten people who can hear the brachos without it.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch, however, is of the opinion that this is impossible. Since the loudspeaker’s sound drowns out the human voice, it cannot be compared to two people who are speaking at once (which is permitted, provided it is something people strain to hear because they enjoy it). Therefore, according to this opinion, a microphone cannot be used for the brachos under the chuppah. As for answering amen to a blessing heard over the loudspeaker: if one can hear the blessing without the loudspeaker, or hears the sound of the crowd who heard the bracha without a microphone answering amen in response to the blessing, amen can be answered. One who is standing far away and only hears the amplifier should not answer amen.

As for krias haTorah, Rav Moshe Sternbuch is unsure if the ba’al korei’s natural voice must be heard or it is enough to have the general sound and the natural voice is unnecessary. He rules that it is proper to be stringent

Electronic Signal

The Chazon Ish (Kovetz Ma’amrim B’inyani Chashmal, p. 40); Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC II chapter 108); and Shevet Halevi (volume V chapter 84) are inclined to rule that a loudspeaker is considered a human voice and we are not obligated to figure out how voice is converted through the electronic signals to determine the halacha. Even if eventually it will be known that the voice waves undergo changes while traveling through the electronic signals, it is still considered the voice of the original speaker and not a new electronic sound. It  is also not considered an echo because one does not hear the entire sound clearly in an echo, only a faint resonance whereas with a PA system one can hear the entire sound, just as it was originally. The Tzitz Eliezer (8:11) was unsure if the voice generated by electronic signals is a result of the original voice and a kosher sound, or not.

Practical Ramifications

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Shevet Halevi rule that practically one should not start new trends and the Megillah should not be broadcasted electronically. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (OC IV 126) and Shevet Halevi (V 84) were presented with a question regarding a girl’s dormitory in Kfar Eliyahu, Gedera, which had two minyanim of men, and many, many girls. On a regular year the first minyan would be held in the shul, into which half the girls could crowd in. The other half would hear the Megillah in the dining room with the other minyan. When Purim fell on Motzaei Shabbos the dining room was in no state to be used, and they wanted to use a loudspeaker to broadcast the Megillah from the shul to the entire group of girls at once. Both rabbonim answered that even if they would have to wait a long time until the dining room was cleaned and prepared, reading the Megillah over a loudspeaker should not be permitted.

The Shevet Halevi adds (volume V, chapter 84) that b’dieved, one who heard the Megillah over a loudspeaker should hear it again without a bracha. He adds that he was never presented with a question in which the choice was either hearing the Megillah via loudspeaker or not hearing it at all, and in such a case he would have to consider it further.

An ill woman who is hospitalized where there are no Jews to make Havdala for her and cannot make Havdala for herself can hear it over the phone because it is better than nothing. And furthermore, she can answer amen to the blessings (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, OC, Volume IV chapter 91:4). Similarly, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos V’hanhagos I, chapter 155) notes that the Chazon Ish was known to have told an elderly person who couldn’t leave his house for Megillah to hear it via radio broadcast. He writes that perhaps because the man would not have heard it in any case, the Chazon Ish gave him this solution to calm him, not necessarily because it was acceptable halachically.


There are two problems with hearing aids, each of which has different halachic ramifications.

  1. Originally, hearing aids weren’t electronic but rather resembled a small horn. Early halachic sources (Halachos Ketanos II, chapter 45; Sha’arei Teshuvos, OC 689:2) refer to a person who uses this device.
  2. Some devices resemble small loudspeakers – machines that collect the sound waves and translate it to electronic signals. The electronic signals create an echo similar to the original sound.
  3. Some devices are intended for people who are fully deaf (such as cochlear implants). The implant receives the sound waves and translates them to electronic symbols that stimulate the hair follicles in the ear or electrodes, that in turn simulate natural brain signals to create a hearing experience. Here, the device doesn’t produce any sound at all.

We must remain aware of the rapidly changing world of hearing aid technology. Hashem gave doctors and scientists knowledge that assists people who, until recently, were confined to a world of silence.

A deaf person should preferably have his own kosher Megillah and read it to himself along with the ba’al korei. Then he will have fulfilled the mitzva even without hearing it himself. Alternatively, he can stand right next to the ba’al korei without his hearing aid (if he can hear something without it), and if he misses a few words he can make them up from a printed Megillah. As long as he is able to hear most of the Megillah, he will have fulfilled the mitzva this way.

In the absence of all other options, a hearing aid can be used. The user, though, cannot recite the blessing himself. Rather, he should answer amen to another’s blessings.

The extent of the obligation to hear the Megillah for a person with a cochlear implant is debated among the poskim because he may not hear anything at all, and whatever obligation he has can be fulfilled with his implant since he cannot do better. Either what he is doing is just like thinking about the Purim story or his hearing with the implant is, indeed, considered hearing, in which case he is obligated to hear the Megillah like everyone else. In either case, hearing it with his implant is his halachic requirement.

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