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Have any of the halachic authorities discussed using an acoustic megaphone on Shabbat?

Is a megaphone like any other musical instrument, which is forbidden on Shabbat because we might end up repairing it?

Is it like a Shofar, which (according to the Baal HaTanya) is forbidden because of weekday activity?

If it is forbidden because it is considered a musical instrument, what about rolling up a piece of paper to use as a megaphone?

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  • As far as i know, in Morocco and Egypt they used speakers and microphones on Shabbat at the synagogue
    – Aaron
    May 17, 2016 at 17:31
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    @Aaron That doesn't seem relevant. It's a completely different mechanism.
    – Double AA
    May 18, 2016 at 1:24

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There are different types of megaphones - you are speaking here of a non-electric acoustic horn that amplifies a voice. Electric megaphones or amplifying music would be very different (but are explicitly addressed by R Rozen below)

I didn't find responsa formally addressing megaphones. However here are relevant halachot which relate to your question (taken in part from YUOnline and Zomet)

  • The Gemara, Eruvin 104a, notes that there is a prohibition against engaging in an activity for the purpose of producing sound on Shabbat. The Gemara records a dispute as to whether this prohibition includes all forms of sound or whether it is limited to music. Most Rishonim are of the opinion that the conclusion of the Gemara is that only music is prohibited. Rambam (1135-1204), Hilchot Shabbat 23:4, also follows the opinion that the prohibition is limited to music. He explains that the prohibition is a rabbinic prohibition based on a concern that it may lead one to fix a musical instrument
  • R Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (in Kovetz Ma’amarim, p. 41) writes that it is true that it is forbidden to make a voice heard on Shabbat by means of an instrument specifically made for this purpose, such as a record player; but the reason for this prohibition is that turning on the instrument on Shabbat is forbidden. If, however, the device was turned on before Shabbat, we have not found that the Sages forbade one to speak or sing only because his voice passes through the device and is then heard from a distance

Writing in a different but related context (the use of microphones on shabbat), R Yisrael Rozen from Zomet (the Institute for Science and Torah) writes about different factors enabling the use of some microphones in some situations which could be relevant here, e.g.,

  • One may not hold the microphone in his hand; it should be set up as a free-standing unit
  • The system should be clearly labeled as operating in accordance with Halacha
  • Use of the microphone is restricted to mitzva cases, and only where there is a great need
  • One may not play music instruments over a microphone, even by means of a radio set on a timer, etc.

Rav Shaul Yisraeli agreed with the above criteria, so did R Chaim David Halevi (Chief Rabbi and Chief Rabbinic Judge of Tel Aviv) and R Pinchas Baruch Toledano (a dayan in London)

So it might be that using a megaphone can be justified in certain circumstances, e.g., if held in a fixed position (and not by hand), if it cannot be repaired or adjusted, if all know that it is approved and if it is for the sake of a mitsva (e.g., to amplify a sermon in a synagogue). It is a bit puzzling why it is not more commonly used so there might be additional reasons to forbid it.

As always you need to CYLOR for a specific ruling.

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    +1, though you haven't directly/clearly addressed the non-electric variety of megaphone the OP asked about in your answer - R'Rozen is specifically concerned with electronic devices. One might argue that an acoustic megaphone, which could be created simply by cupping your hands, would specifically not be included in any of the regular concerns around shema mitaken. May 17, 2016 at 11:27
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Shu't Shvus Yaakov chelek 3 siman 31 seen here on the bottom of the first column discusses a type of device which was able to carry someone's voice many מילים away. He says he never heard anyone who raised an objection to using this device on Shabbos.

וביחוד על ידי כלים המיוחדים לדיבור ומשמעים קול על כמה וכמה מילים בריחוק מקום יחול אדם לדבר עם חבירו דבר זה יהיה אסור לדבר עמו בשבת ומעולם לא שמענו שום פוצה פה לפקפק בנידון זה

Minchas Elazar 3:25 seen here in the first column, halfway down brings this tshuva, and assumes the Shvus Yaakov was discussing a device similar to a telephone.

וכן ראינו במכונת הטעל׳עפאן לדבר בריחוק מקום והוא באמת מבואר עוד בשו׳ת שבות יעקב (י׳ג סי׳ לא) בכלי זו שמדברים השרים בריחוק כמה מילים ובע׳כ הוא כעין כלי הטעל׳עפאן והתשובה נכתבה בשבו׳י בשנת תפ׳ב לפני שני מאות שנה בערך ואיך אתה יאומרו ראה זה חדש הוא וכבר היה לעולמים באמת ושכחום וחזרו ויסדום

However, Shu't Beis Yitzchok after Yo'd 2 in #31 of מפתחות והגהות seen here in the middle of the last paragraph in the right column says it is impossible to assume the Shvus Yaakov was discussing an electrical device as he lived before the usage of electricity and was obviously referring to something else.

דהשתובה הנ׳ל בשבו׳י נכתבה מהגאון מ׳ דוד אופענהיים זצ״ל עוד בשנה תפ״ב ואז לא ידעו עוד מכונת טעלעפאן שנתחדשה בזמנינו. ובודאי כלי אהר הי׳ לפני הגאון הנ׳ל שלא הי׳ בה החששות האלו

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