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If the only available minyan to hear Megillat Esther is a mixed minyan with no mechitza, can one attend the minyan or is it better to not hear megilla at all? Would it matter if the baal megilla was a male or female? Or if the person hearing the megilla is male or female?

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2 Answers 2

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It appears from some discussion in the Ashkenazic Achronim that a woman's mitzva is to hear a megillah reading, whereas a man's mitzva is to read a megillah (which can be fulfilled by listening to someone else fulfill their obligation). As men have a higher level of obligation, it can only be fulfilled by listening to someone with a greater than or equal level of obligation -- thus a man should really hear a man's reading.

If a man is stuck someplace and his only option is to hear a woman reading megillah, well if he can take a megillah and more or less read the words himeself (cantillation notes aren't critical), better to do that. If the female reading is truly his only option, then I strongly presume he should go ahead and listen to that, as many Achronim will say he's still fulfilling his obligation.

As for the mixed reading: In the second half of the twentieth century many great American rabbis felt the need to strongly demarcate between the Orthodox and Conservative movements, to the point of saying that an Orthodox fellow should not attend a non-mechitza Rosh HaShanah service, even if that means missing shofar blowing altogether.

With regards to megillah reading -- often the reading is freestanding and not part of a prayer service; and a minority opinion would even count women for a "minyan" vis-a-vis the extra blessing at the end of the reading; hence I'd suspect there would be strong room to say better to hear in a mixed crowd than not to hear at all. If the reading was part of a non-mechitza prayer service in a heterodox synagogue it would be a lot more of a problem. (Better yet, if the reading is held in someone's home and not open to the public, or a rare event, then the mechitza is a preference but not a requirement -- see here for more.) If one has the option of reading their own megillah, you'd have to weigh the value of a non-mixed reading against the value of having a big crowd for the mitzvah.

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Your first paragraph should limit itself to "some Ashkenazi Achronim". –  Double AA Feb 17 at 22:03
    
@DoubleAA thank you, done! –  Shalom Feb 18 at 1:53
    
You only incorporated one of the extra words I suggested, neglecting major Ashkenazi Achronim like the Gra and Aruch haShulchan who reject the Behag's chiddush. –  Double AA Feb 18 at 2:28

I'm somewhat confused by the premise of the question. I've been to megilla readings in school auditoriums, in people's living rooms, and other places outside the shul. There is no inherent connection between hearing the megilla reading and a shul setting, and as such I don't see why there should be a requirement for a mechitza during reading.

If you have sources that state otherwise, please let me know! It would raise the question of how the readings in other locations should be conducted.

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It might matter if the mixed setting is in a shul. If so, then it might require a Mehitzah. –  Seth J Feb 24 '12 at 14:24
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That's an interesting point in it's own right. Is the mechitza a construct inherent to the shul, or inherent to tefilla? I had always assumed it was required because of tefilla, and the restrictions surrounding the environment in which you daven. –  eykanal Feb 24 '12 at 15:12
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If I'm not mistaken, R' Moshe Feinstein said that places that are dedicated to regular prayer (Shul, Shtiebel, Beith Midrash, etc.) require a Mehitzah, but temporary Minyanim (Shiv'ah house, parking lot on road trip, etc.) simply require a separation of the genders, 4 Amoth (not sure if that is minimum or recommended) or so. –  Seth J Feb 24 '12 at 15:31
    
@SethJ, I think you misunderstand the Igrot Moshe. That is in a context of prayer. So if I say mincha on the side of the road, I don't need a mechitza but in shul I would. If the shul has a lecture, the mechitza is not neccesary, and if those listening are comfortable with it, they can even sit mixed. –  Ze'ev Felsen Sep 11 '13 at 19:26
    
@ze'ev felsen I haven't seen the I"M. Also, I have no recollection of this comment thread or the question. I must have been tired that day... –  Seth J Sep 11 '13 at 22:12

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