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As a hearing impaired individual that can often be classified as deaf, I face discrimination on a daily basis. Not so much in my Jewish community, but out in the world.

As I was reading the Mishnah, I came across a section that I found extremely offensive. Megillah 2.4:

"All are eligible to read the Scroll excepting one that is deaf or an imbecile or a minor. R. Judah declares a minor is eligible."

This Mishna seems to lump deaf people in the same group as "imbeciles." While I do recognize that this was written in a completely different era before there was PC -- it still perturbs me.

Is this law still enforced - can deaf individuals can actively engage in recitation of the Scroll during Purim?

Also, this leads me to wonder, can a deaf person recite the Torah in general? I understand that correct pronunciation of the Torah is key, but deaf people are not necessarily mute. Why were they singled out (in regards to the Scroll during Purim)?

It seems sad to deny someone the blessings of reciting Scroll/Torah because of a physical disability that they didn't choose, and when they have alternative ways of reciting Scroll/Torah. Can these alternate ways be deemed just as valid?

What is the accepted practice?

  • "that certainly seems like they are lumping deaf people in the same group as 'imbeciles' [which] perturbs me." What is the problem grouping people who are in the same group (those who are not obligated in a given Mitzva)? How is that offensive? No one is saying deaf people are imbeciles, just like no one is claiming deaf people are minors (!) . I think you should edit out the parts of this which needlessly and without basis pass judgement on the law and its legislators, and instead just ask what the law is and why. – Double AA Aug 11 '16 at 20:52
  • Megillah 19b, Rambam 1:2 (note girsaot), ShA OC 689:2 and Bach. – Double AA Aug 11 '16 at 21:06
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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. You might be interested in reading this post: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/3887/8775 about how this site differs from some other sites. – mevaqesh Aug 11 '16 at 21:37
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    @user51778 "We can do it! So why not let us do it?" Personally, I'm all for it! :-) However, you're asking a halakhic question, and generally halakhic obligation or exemption from mitzvot doesn't depend only on physical abilities. (e.g., non-Kohanim are not permitted to perform ritual sacrifice, though they are physically capable.) I'm still hoping someone will post a source explaining this particular exemption, though. – Noam Aug 11 '16 at 22:43
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    You asked some important questions regarding contemporary halacha of "cheresh" as it is currently defined. There is a great pamphlet addressing these issues published by Rabbi Shukhatowitz and available through "Our Way", the deaf division of the OU. Contact Rabbi Lederfeind at Our Way 212 613 8234. Leave a msg that you want to obtain this pamphlet. It will answer these questions and more. – DanF Aug 12 '16 at 19:35
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I did some googling and found some interesting results. The one with the most information is here. It is a reasonably long essay on deafness in halakhah, and outlines differing opinions on different topics.

Short version:

  • Some say deaf people who can speak or hear through a hearing aid are obligated to read the Torah, but the Megilla has a particular mitzvah of "publicizing the miracle" of Purim, which requires hearing.
  • Some say deaf people who can speak are obligated to read both Torah and Megilla.

That means you've got some serious rabbinical support backing you up, user51778! (Like the Meiri, the Chazon Ish, and Rabbi Frank.)

For details, read the article. For practical decisions, consult a rabbi.

  • "serious rabbinical support" Does it? You don't specify who or how many opinions hold that way. It seems to me the dominant opinion is the other way in fact (Shulchan Arukh, Rama, Arukh haShulchan, etc.) and even those in the latter camp hold his reading for others would only work Bedieved. – Double AA Aug 12 '16 at 0:21
  • Did you skip footnote 66 there for a reason? – Double AA Aug 12 '16 at 0:28
  • Your answer is a "result" as yes / no. It is valuable without doubt. But if you can continue it and explain the Halachic topic it will be very interesting. Particularly how you understand that "publicizing the miracle" is different from Torah reading. Thank you. – kouty Aug 12 '16 at 2:58
  • @DoubleAA Footnote 66 refers to reading the megilla for others, and I understood the original question to be about performing the mitzvah at all. Perhaps I misunderstood the question. I added to my answer some of the specific rabbis who say that a deaf, speaking person can read megilla. – Noam Aug 15 '16 at 4:46
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    @Noam I see no reason to think the OP was referring to someone whose deafness could be solved by a hearing aid. (Of course, if the OP would just have written a question without these ambiguities, we wouldn't have to be debating his intention...) At the very least I recommend clarifying in this post who holds precisely what about what case(s) in case the OP never clarifies. – Double AA Aug 15 '16 at 5:06

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