Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah One
Most of the last chapter of Megillah is about the public reading of the Torah. The one main difference between how we read today and how they read in their time is that today the person who receives the aliyah and recites the blessing is usually not the same person who actually reads the Torah. This allows people who dont know how to read from the Torah to receive aliyot. In mishnaic and talmudic times, the person who read the Torah was the same person who received the aliyah. There are other differences which we will discuss throughout the chapter.
1) He who reads the Megillah may either stand or sit.
2) Whether one read it or two read it [together] they [those listening] have fulfilled their obligation.
3) In places where it is the custom to say a blessing, they say the blessing, and where it is not the custom they do not say the blessing.
4) On Mondays and Thursdays and on Shabbat at minhah, three read from the torah, they do not add [to this number] nor decrease [from it], nor do they conclude with [a haftarah] from the Prophets.
5) The one who begins the Torah reading and the one who concludes the Torah reading blesses before it and after it.
Section one: One may read the Megillah while either standing or sitting. Today the custom is to stand but this is not mandatory. In contrast, when reading the Torah one has to stand.
Section two: Two people may read the Megillah together when reading in front of the community. However, when it comes to reading Torah only one person at a time can read. The idea behind this is that it is harder for people to hear two people chanting together than one chanting alone. Since hearing the Megillah is halakhically less significant than hearing the Torah, they allow to people to read simultaneously.
Section three: According to the simple reading of the Mishnah, there were various customs with regard to reciting a blessing over reading the Megillah. Some did and some did not. The Talmud however explains that this only refers to the blessing after the Megillah. In all places they would recite the blessing before reading. Today our custom is to recite a blessing before and after.
Section four: The mishnah now begins to discuss regular Torah reading. On Mondays, Thursdays and on Shabbat at minhah only three people receive aliyot (go up to the Torah). This number may not be increased nor may it be decreased. There is no haftarah (portion from the Prophets section of the Bible) on these occasions.
Section five: In the time of the Mishnah the first person to read would recite the first blessing and the last person to read would recite the concluding blessing. Those reading in between would not recite any blessing at all. Today, each person receiving an aliyah recites a blessing before and after.