Thursday, March 14, 2019

more on the chiyuv of mikra megillah according to BaHa"G

The Ran in Pesachim writes that when a mitzvah can be done via shliach, the nusach ha'bracha is "al mitzvas...," but when it must be done personally the bracha starts "l...".   Ran then asks why is it that the bracha on megilah is "al mikra megillah," but the bracha on shofar is "li'shmoa kol shofar?"  In both cases there is a shliach tzibur doing something for us; in both cases we each listen.  So why is it that when it comes to megillah the mitzvah is defined as **reading** the megillah, and the shliach tzibur is our agent, and therefore the bracha is "al...," but when it comes to shofar the mitzvah is defined as the act of listening which we do ourselves and therefore say the bracha "li'shmo'a..?"

Ran gives a complicated answer which is not so easy to understand (see Steipler in Pesachim).  The Rosh (R"H 4:10) asks the same question. and quotes a straightforward resolution from the BaHa"G: the halacha is that if one blows shofar properly but does not hear the sound, e.g. one hears only an echo, one is not yotzei.  The mitzvah is hearing the kol shofar, not merely blowing.  Therefore, the bracha is "li'shmo'a."  He doesn't spell it out, but what he seems to be implying is that when it comes to megillah it is reading which is critical, even if one does not hear the words coming out of one's mouth.  Therefore, the bracha is "al mikra."

This answer of the BaHa"G may be l'shitaso of the BaHa"G's view we have been discussing earlier in this week (link1, link2).  Recall that BaHa"G, based on the Tosefta, argues that men and women do not have the same chiyuv in megillah.  Men are obligated in reading; women only in hearing the text read.  Given this assumption, mikra megillah MUST be different than shofar.  The chiyuv of megillah, unlike shofar, cannot be "li'shmo'a," because then there would be no way to distinguish the obligation of men from that of women.   


  1. "Men are obligated in reading; women only in hearing"

    [if a husband reading the megillah privately to his wife would (bdei'eved) motzi both,] why mustn't he annually blow a shofar in the home for his wife, given that her exemption from hearing owes to preoccupation with family*? could it be that the megillah's words would suit household infants (Rabbi Yehoshua's mother bringing his crib to the beis midrash so that her son could absorb divrei chaim), but shofar blasts would only adversely effect** any tiny people present?

    *reason given for women's exemption from positive time-bound mitzvahs

    **what about infants at har Sinai, were they not traumatized by all the noise? Shemos Rabbah 5:9 says that each heard the uproar according to his capacity; maybe infants, whom Hashem knew were unable to handle extremes of commotion, heard nothing at all beyond levels tolerable to their nervous systems? [while fathers with their earthly shofars can manage no such (supernatural) delineation of domestic sound]

    1. 'shofar blasts would...adversely effect'

      the shofar speaks, says Rambam: 'wake from your sleep! rise from your slumber!' (hilchos Teshuva 3:4)-- now is that any way to address a weeks-old infant? [and one may ask further, is that any way to address a wife? yes, says Rambam, one would sound her out annually with a mussar blast that registers halfway (3:4, hetzi v'hetzi) between mild speech (Ishut 15:19) and a shote (Ishut 21:10); yes, says the master, since she might have tended in the past year toward hevel v'rik (3:4), the hevel of 'yofi!' (Mishlei 31:30) even overtaking va'ta'kam b'ode lilah (31:15): 'teruah/awaken, teruah/arise, Teruah my darling, make me some lunch!']

      {all of this most certainly points us, by the wily hermeneutics of proximity, to the Purim punch at Mishlei 31:5, and to the sober iggeret Esther}