Why Hearing the Megillah is Considered Bitul Torah, by Yisrael Apfel

The Gemara1 records a beraissa that teaches: “Kohanim engaged in their avodah, Leviim engaged in their musical accompaniment to the avodah, and Yisraelim attending the avodah, all must abandon their service to go hear the reading of the Megillah.”

The Gemara further records that the Yeshiva of Rebi relied upon this beraissa to interrupt their study of Torah in order to hear the Megillah. They reasoned, if the avodah, which is stringent, must be abandoned for Megillah reading, then it is certainly true that Torah study, which is not as stringent, should be abandoned as well2. The Shulchan Aruch3 codifies the ruling that we interrupt Torah study to go hear the Megillah and adds that all the more so one must disrupt any mitzvah one is engaged in in order to hear the Megillah.

At first glance this halacha is difficult to understand. Why does the Gemara refer to interrupting the study of Torah in order to hear the Megillah as “bitul TorahIn what manner is the study of Torah being interrupted if listening to Megilah is inherently Talmud Torah, as it is part of Tanach?

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