Paris Curfew Threatens Nightime Megilah Readings

A 6 PM-6 AM curfew imposed on cities across France to combat the spread of coronavirus threatens people’s ability to attend Megillah readings at night. Rabbonim grapple with various options.

By reporter

In a desperate attempt to combat the spread of coronavirus, French authorities have imposed a nationwide curfew on all nonessential travel outside the home.

The curfew runs from 6 pm each evening until 6 am in the morning. Failure to the curfew attracts a €135 fine for the first offense, rising to €3,750 and six months in jail for three offenses within 30 days.

Residents are still allowed to pick up children from school after 6 pm or engage in other essential travel. However, an exemption certificate is needed for all these trips.

The result of the curfew is that people are unable to go to shul to hear the Megillah. Shkia in Paris on the night of Purim is at 6:27, while the earliest Tzeis Hakochavim is at 7:00 PM. Going to Shul to hear the Megillah would mean returning after the curfew.

Due to the extraordinary circumstances, many Rabbonim have ruled that it is permissible to read the megillah from Plag Hamincha (5:21 pm). This is in accordance with the opinion that night begins at Plag Hamincha.

However, not everyone agrees. Rabbi Avrohom Boruch Pewzner, Rov of Anash in Paris, ruled that reading the megillah from Plag Hamincha is not permissible according to the Alter Rebbe.

Instead, the Rov suggested arranging minyanim in buildings in a way that no one will have to leave their apartments, and the Baal Koreh could get himself an exemption because he is assisting older people.

What about someone who does not have a Megillah? Such a person should ask a rov if he is obligated to go out and risk a €135 fine. Yet, it is certainly permissible to take the risk of a fine to fulfil the mitzvah.

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