- Question: [Tuesday, 21st Adar 5783]
I just turned 17 years old, and I am practicing becoming a Sofer having just finished a Safrus course successfully. Am I allowed to already write a Megillah on behalf of myself and others, prior to age 18, or must I wait till age 18 as is the law with Tefillin and Mezuzos?
While you may certainly write a Megillah on your own behalf even prior to age 18 and prior to growing a beard, and may use it to read the Megillah for yourself on Purim, it should not be used to fulfill the mitzvah of others unless no other Megillah is available being that it’s validity remains under question and dispute amongst the Poskim. Certainly, it may not be sold on the market as a regular kosher Megillah, and therefore the suggestion is not to write a Megillah at all until age 18, as eventually it can make it on the market over the years and be falsely sold as a regular kosher Megillah, and be used without knowledge of its surrounding debate. This however only applies if one has not yet grown a full beard. If you already have a full beard, then you may write a Megillah and sell it even prior to age 18. From age 18 onwards, you are valid to write a Megillah and sell it, even if you do not have a beard.
Explanation: This question touches upon two Halachic subjects, with the first being whether or not a child is valid to write a Megillah, and the second being regarding from what age is a person considered an adult with regards to Megillah reading, if indeed a child is invalid to write it. So, regarding the first question of whether a child is valid to write a Megillah, this matter is debated amongst the Poskim. Some Poskim rule a child is valid to write a Megillah as a child is Rabbinically obligated in the Mitzvah of Kerias Megillah and there is thus no reason to invalidate him from writing it. Other Poskim, however, rule a child is invalid to write a Megillah as all scribal writings follow the same ruling of invalidation, even if the Mitzvah fulfillment with the item is only rabbinical. Practically, the Poskim conclude regarding this debate that one is not to initially use a Megillah written by a child to fulfill the Mitzvah of Megillah reading, although in a time of need one may read from it without a blessing. Even in such a case, if another Megillah written by a man later becomes available, one is to read from it without a blessing.
Now let us address the second question regarding from what age is one no longer considered a child in this regard, and may he hence write a Megillah according to all opinions. This enters us into the general halachic discussion of when a child becomes biblically obligated in mitzvah’s. So, a child above Bar/Bas Mitzvah only becomes Biblically obligated in the commands upon reaching puberty and growing two pubic hairs. If one does not know this to be the case, he is only obligated due to doubt, as perhaps he has not yet developed, and is hence Biblically exempt from all the commands. Accordingly, he cannot be Motzi an adult by any biblical command, as one of questionable obligation cannot be Motzi one of certain Biblical obligation. However, even such a child does rabbinically remain obligated in mitzvah’s, and can also fulfill the obligation for adults by all rabbinical commands, as by a Rabbinical obligation, the sages allowed one to rely on the Chazaka of Rava that a child above Bar/Bas Mitzvah has grown two pubic hairs, even if this has yet to be verified.
Now, if the boy has already grown a nice amount of facial hair, or is above age 18, it is assumed that he is fully developed even regarding biblical commands, and he may therefore be Motzi others in all Mitzvos just as any other adult, including the biblical commands. If, however he is below 18, and has not yet grown facial hair to this extent, then he maintains a questionable status of which the ruling is that he may be Motzi others for a Rabbinical command, but cannot be Motzi others for a Biblical command, as stated above.
Now that we have addressed the above issue, what remains to be clarified is the status that we give Megillah reading and the writing of the Megillah. Is it considered similar to a biblical command which a child cannot fulfill behalf of others until the signs of puberty have been verified, or is it considered like a rabbinical command in which these signs of verification are not necessary. So while for certain the mitzvah of reading Megillah is rabbinical, the day reading is given a similar status to a biblical command being that it is from the words of Kabbalah, in this sense referring to Scripture. Hence, the Poskim conclude that while by the night reading, any child above Bar Mitzvah may read the Megillah. By the day reading, only a child that has started to grow facial hair or is known to have developed the signs of puberty, is to read the Megillah for other men. However on behalf of women, a child above Bar Mitzvah may read the Megillah even during the day. Likewise, in a time of need, he may read even for men, even if he does not have facial hair and it is not verified that he developed the signs of puberty.
Now, according to this we should apply the same rule regarding writing the Megillah, that according to those Poskim who invalidate a child from writing in Megillah, he should likewise remain invalid until age 18, or until he has a full beard, being that we give it a status similar to a biblical precept. This would follow the same rule regarding writing Tefillin and Mezuzos in which Admur and the Poskim rule that if it is written by an unverified adult, then it is invalid. This indeed is the conclusion of the Avnei Nezer, who states that unlike regarding the law by a Torah scroll in which case there is room to validate it even if written by an unverified adult, by a Megillah it should be written by a verified adult. Accordingly, until a child reaches the age of 18 or has a full beard, his writing of the Megillah will remain under question and debate in the Poskim as to its validity, and while certainly it is valid Bedieved to be used in a time of need if no other Megillah is available as perhaps even if he is a child it is valid, and perhaps even according to the stringent opinion it is not necessary to verify his adult status, nonetheless, certainly such a Megillah may not be sold on the market as a regular kosher Megillah when in truth it is under debate as to its validity. Selling such a Megillah on the market without informing the buyer to its halachic question of validity surrounding it would be most certainly a Mekach Taus, and a business fraud. Accordingly, we have concluded that one should not even write such Megillah for himself, for his own use, as there is no telling what will happen with this Megillah in the future.
Sources: See Avnei Nezer O.C. 516-517 in great legnth; Bikurei Shlomo 7; Minchas Elazar 4:57; Nitei Gavriel 30:2 See regarding whether a child is valid to write a Megillah: Shaareiy Teshuvah 691:1; Kol Yaakov 690:6; Lenient: Peri Chadash 691:3; Mateh Yehuda 691:2; Machazik Bracha 691:2 Stringent: Maaseh Rokeiach on Rambam Megillah 1; Mileches Shamayim 24:3; P”M 691 M”Z 2; Avnei Nezer O.C. 516:19 “If only all our Torah would be as clear as the ruling here that women are invalid to write a Megillah; See Rav Akiva Eiger 691:2 “It seems that if a woman wrote the Megillah then it is invalid, just as we rule regarding Tefillin and Mezuzah” and the same would apply to a child; See regarding the need for a child to develop signs of puberty even after Bar/Bas Mitzvah to biblically be considered an adult: Admur 37:3; 39:1 regarding Tefillin; 55:6; 128:49; 199:9 regarding Birchas Hamazon; 271:7 regaridng Kiddush; M”A 271:2; M”B 271:3; See Michaber E.H. 155:15 regarding Miun and 169:10 regarding Chalitza; Rav Poalim 1:10; Kaf Hachaim 271:9; See regarding the definition of the signs of puberty: Facial hair: M”A 271:2; Admur 199:9; Michaber E.H. 169:9 regarding Chalitza; C.M. 35; M”B 271:3; Shaar Hatziyon 271:5; Age 18: Admur 39:1; M”A 39:1; See Miasef Lekol Hamachanos 39:7; Chikrei Halachos 5:62; Yagdil Torah N.Y. 8:44; See regarding a child being invalid for fulfilling biblical commands on behalf of others prior to verification of the signs, but being valid for rabbinical commands: Admur and Poskim ibid; See regarding a child under 18 reading the Megillah on behalf of others: Shearim Hametzuyanim Behalacha 141:7; Binyan Shlomo 58; Piskeiy Teshuvos 689:4; See regarding the invalidation of a child under 18 writing Tefillin and Mezuzos: Admur 39:1; M”A 39:1; M”B 39:3; Minchas Elazar 4:57; Piskeiy Teshuvos 39:1 footnote 2; Other opinions: Some Poskim rule Bedieved it is valid if written by a child above Bar Mitzvah. [Noda Beyehuda Tinyana 1]