Purimshpiel During the Reading of the Megillah
by Rabbi Dr. Barry Leff
Congregation B’nai Israel
Adar 9, 5766
March 9, 2006
Question: Is it permitted to hold a Purimshpiel in the middle of the
The reading of the “whole megillah” is a rather lengthy
process, and it can be difficult for children to sit through the whole
thing. Furthermore, when Purim is on a school night, some families may want
to come for the Purimshpiel and still get their children home at a
reasonable time. Is it permitted to start the Megillah reading, perform the
Purimshpiel in the middle of the Megillah reading, and then finish the
Megillah reading afterwards to accommodate those for whom this is an issue?
At first glance, it might seem this should be permitted: the Shulhan Arukh
records in OH 690:5 that it is permitted to interrupt the Megillah reading,
even if you paused long enough to complete the Megillah reading. The Rama
adds even if you have a conversation in between, it is permitted.
However, there are several sources which would cause us to conclude that for
the purposes set out, such a lengthy break is not permitted.
The Rama on OH 690:5 adds that we rebuke someone who converses during such a
break, because, as stated in OH 692:2, we don’t converse during the reading.
The Mishnah Berurah adds neither the reader or someone listening should
converse during the reading, not even words of Torah, although after the
fact, such a person has still fulfilled his obligation as long as he heard
the full Megillah. And Mishnah Berurah states there are certain form of
conversation that are permitted, such as greeting someone between the
chapters, as we have with the reciting of the Shema.
Mishna Berurah also brings a teaching that since you have made a blessing on
the Megillah reading, you should not pause in the meanwhile until after
completing the mitzvah. The Rashba further explains that the reason one who
converses in between sections of the Megillah reading is chastised is
because once the bracha has been recited one should maintain his attention
to the fulfillment of the mitzvah.
A relatively short break in the Megillah reading – for example to do an
introduction to the particular chapter, even with a short skit or song –
would not be forbidden, because people’s intention is still on the reading
of the Megillah.
But a lengthy break, to do an entire Purimshpiel, would be problematic,
because with such a long break, people’s attention will surely wander from
the fulfillment of the mitzvah of the Megillah reading, thereby introducing
a break between the reciting of the bracha and the fulfillment of the
mitzvah. Considering that after the Purimshpiel, people will naturally want
to take a break, congratulate the performers, some people will leave, it
would certainly result in a violation of the principle that one’s attention
should remain focused on the fulfillment of the mitzvah.
Furthermore, to interrupt the Megillah reading in a fashion that would make
it very easy for people to walk out en masse before the completion of the
reading would be a violation of the principle of lifnei iver lo titein
michshol, not to put a stumbling block before the blind, because the mitzvah
is to hear the recitation of the Megillah—the mitzvah is not related to
hearing the performance of the Purimshpiel. And this is especially
applicable in this case, since even children are obligated to hear the
recitation of the Megillah (OH 689:1).
Therefore, it is not permissible to interrupt the Megillah reading to do an
entire lengthy Purimshpiel which would cause people to intentionally miss
the completion of the Megillah reading. Other things should be done to try
and accommodate the concerns, such as starting earlier, reading faster, or
otherwise attempting to complete the evening in a timely fashion.