My phone vibrated in the middle of megilah reading and I checked who it was. What should I do?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah.
The mitzva of megilah requires the listeners to intend fulfilling their obligation of hearing. This should be thought about at the onset of the reading.
A person must listen to the entire megilah from beginning to end; if he missed even one word, he hasn’t fulfilled his obligation. Therefore, the baal korei should ensure every word can be heard clearly, especially when there are children making noise in shul. If one has substantial concern that he may have missed a word, he may be lenient by the night reading which is rabbinic. However, the day reading is mandated by the megilah itself (divrei kabbalah), thus some poskim rule to be machmir.
The megilah must be heard in the correct order, and a missed word can’t be made up later by just reading that section. If one misses a word while listening to the baal korei, he should read from that word to himself until he catches up to the baal korei (preferably audibly, but b’dieved even if he didn’t hear himself). He may even read from a Chumash, since b’dieved it is sufficient to hear the majority read from a kosher megilah scroll. Catching up in a kosher megilah is preferable, but only if he can read the words with the correct nekudos. Reading them incorrectly, in a way that changes their meaning, would not fulfill his obligation.
Although one fulfills his obligation even if he didn’t focus on every word, some poskim write that if one’s mind wanders during the kria to the extent that he doesn’t know if he heard the words at all, it is not halachically considered that he listened. Therefore, he should complete what he missed as if he hadn’t heard those words.
One who reads the megilah himself is yotzei even if his mind wanders. For this reason, some have the custom to follow along in a kosher megilah and read along quietly with the baal korei. One who does not know the nekudos perfectly should follow along without reading, except if he missed words.
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