Why do we read the Megillah two times on Purim?
Question submitted to “Ask the Rabbi” by:
City: Columbia, Missouri
School: Public school
“During Purim, why do we have to hear each word of the Megillah twice? Also if one doesn’t understand Hebrew very well, why do they still have to hear each word of the Megillah twice?”
Rabbi Tully Bryks responds:
There are several explanations behind the double Megillah reading. I will provide one of the more straightforward answers, provided by the famed commentator Rashi (see Talmud Megillah 4A): Just as the Jews at that time called out to G-d both night and day to save them from potential extermination, we call out our thanksgiving both night an day, as personified by the Megillah. This explanation is consistent with one of the reasons that we don’t recite Hallel (Songs of Praise) on Purim, as the Megillah serves the function of Hallel.
With regard to the Hebrew language question, it is permitted to hear the Megillah read in any language that you understand. But you would not fulfill your obligation if it was read in French and you only understand English. Hebrew is different. Even if you don’t understand a word of Hebrew, you still fulfill your obligation, as the Hebrew language has a unique power to it. As such, for someone who does not understand Hebrew, the ideal would be to hear the Megillah read in Hebrew, while following along to yourself with an English translation. In this way, you would obtain the unique spiritual benefits of hearing the words in Hebrew and still get to fully understand everything that was read.
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