Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Reading of the Megillah: To Make Noise, or not to make noise - That is the Question!

Note: To see the original website, where the high-quality Megillah below, as well as higher-quality Megillahs are sold, click here, to go to the Sofer website where you can buy all sorts of holy items, click here. I know the Sofer personally, he does excellent work, is very knowledgeable, and has a first rate character.

On the night (and less so during the day) of Purim, many people bang and make noise when the name "Haman" - yimach shemo, is mentioned during the Megillah reading. We learn in the Torah (end of Parshas Beshalach) that we are supposed to blot out the name of Amalek - yimach shemo (may his name be blotted out). In Jewish law, different customs as to how to blot out the names of these evildoers. Some people would write the name on their shoe and then blot it out. So, many Jewish communities make noise to, in a sense, blot out Haman's name - yimach shemo. There is a famous saying, "everything in measure". So, not bearing that saying in mind, and not expecting what happened at the Megillah reading, I decided to go to the reading where noise was allowed, opting not to go to the reading where there was to be no noise. I felt that it would be better to attend a reading where the name of the despicable rasha (evildoer) would be "blotted out". Well, I was in for a bit of a surprise! Every time the mentioned the evildoer's name, people made noise, for as long as 30 seconds to a minute! Not only that, but the noise was loud to the extent that it was unhealthy. I mean, such a long pause in the middle of a phrase in a pasuk (verse) could change the meaning (which might not be a problem in terms of fulfilling one's obligation to hear the reading of the Megillah, assuming one heard all the words). However, the noise was very loud. To make matters worse, there were some kids, as well as older "kids" who decided to mock people who would want others to quiet down by saying "Nu!" in a degrading way. The reading, as a result of this, lasted a long time. I, being unhappy with the way the reading went, decided to hear a reading later that night, which did not have noise, and was, overall, much better.


The pluses, as I mentioned before, are short and simple, assuming that it is taken in measure, as many congregations do. Those congregations (i.e. most of the reading I attended) would put a time limit on how long people could make noise (usually 5 - 15 seconds), many also limit how loud the banging can be. This situation allows for the attendees to not have to sit through lengthy banging and not be exposed to the loud noise. As well, people do their part in "blotting out" the name of Haman, yimach shemo.


Some of the smaller minuses, that I mentioned above, include unnecessarily extending the reading of the Megillah. I'm against rushing through the Megillah. However, if one can read the Megillah clearly, and at a reasonable pace in a half-hour, why extend the reading for a half-hour just to make noise? These minuses only apply to what I would describe as "extreme noise", which is noise that is extended and loud. Another problem is that if one makes noise in an inappropriate manner (as described above), it is a disgrace to the reading of the Megillah. Of course we should rejoice in the Jewish Nation being saved! However, when we rejoice, we should remember that we were saved after fasting and doing teshuvah (repentance). We should also remember that the Jews reaccepted the Torah She'Ba'al Peh (the Oral Torah) after being saved from destruction. Therefore, it is only right that the few people who sometimes make things loud for others would learn the following from the Torah She'Ba'al Peh: "...if he makes him deaf, he pays his (the victims') entire value" (Bava Kamma 85b).
RaSH"I comments on the above that the reason one who causes one to lose their hearing has to pay their entire value (a larger penalty than other bodily damages) is that one "is not fitting for anything", as Rabbeinu Yonah says, the person is no longer worth anything when he is lacking his bodily function of hearing. Meaning, hearing is such an essential component in a person's existence that lacking it takes away from what he is worth (assuming his value on the market). To make my point, it is great to celebrate and blot out the name of reshaim on Purim, however, it should all be done in measure.


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