Purim Night Megillah Reading
The Tan’ach, the Hebrew name for the complete Bible, is made up of Torah (the Pentateuch), N’viim (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings).
Included in K’Tuvim are the 5 megillot (scrolls):
- Shir HaShirim – The Song of Songs – written by King Solomon. Song of Songs is read on Passover.
- Ruth – The Book of Ruth – written by Samuel the Prophet. The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot.
- Eichah – Lamentations – written by Jeremiah the Prophet. Lamentations is read on Tisha B’Av.
- Kohelet – Ecclesiastes – also written by King Solomon, is read on Sukkot.
- Esther – The Book of Esther is read on Purim and is attributed to Mordechai and Esther.
While all five of these books are called megillot, only Esther is referred to as “The Megillah.”
The Megillah is read twice on Purim, once at night and once during the day. Both readings are obligatory.
On Purim night, the Megillah is usually read about an hour after that week’s Shabbat candle lighting times. Different synagogues may, however, vary, so please call your local synagogue for the exact times.
If possible, one should not break one’s fast before hearing the Megillah. If one feels weak or ill, however, one is permitted to eat.
- In order to fulfill the mitzvah of Megillah, it is necessary to hear every word during the reading. For this reason it is imperative that people not talk to each other during the Megillah reading or allow the words to be drowned out by “stamping out” Haman.
Blessings for Megillah reading:
The person reading the Megillah recites 3 blessings before the Megillah is read. Those listening should respond “Amen.”
- Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the reading of the Megillah.
- Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who wrought miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season.
- Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
After Megillah reading, the reader recites one blessing. Following the blessing, the congregation recites the traditional hymns, Asher Heni and Shoshanat Ya’akov.
- Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, Who takes up our grievance, judges our claim, avenges our wrong; Who brings just retribution upon all enemies of our soul and exacts vengeance for us from our foes. Blessed are You L-rd, Who exacts vengeance for His people Israel from all their foes, the G-d Who brings salvation.
- Asher Heni is recited only after the evening Megillah reading.
- Asher Heni and Shoshanat Yaakov can usually be found in Jewish prayerbooks, or after the Megillah text.
- Because the reading of the Megillah is a mitzvah in which both men and women are equally obligated, many synagogues hold second and third readings for those who miss Megillah reading so that mothers and fathers can switch between watching the children and hearing Megillah.
Children who are not able to stay quiet during the Megillah reading should not be brought to the services.
“Booing” during the Megillah
Because it is a commandment to “wipe out” the memory of Amalek, and Haman is the wicked epitome of Amalek, it is customary to drown out his name with boos, hisses and other loud noises.
When the reader says the name of Haman everyone makes noises to drown out his name. As mentioned earlier, however, it is necessary to hear every word of the Megillah reading. Therefore, when the reader or the rabbi signals for the noise to stop and the reader to continue, it is important to maintain quiet.
While all sources of noise are acceptable for drowning out the name of Amalek, the traditional Purim noisemaker is a grogger, a mechanical device that makes a loud grating sound when twirled by hand.
Making groggers is a great way to involve children in the Purim festivities.
Dressing up in Costumes
There is a tradition on Purim to come dressed up in costume or mask to Megillah reading. A major theme in the Megillah is the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœhidden face of G-d.’ By putting on a mask, we are remembering that one must often look past the surface of an experience to see the hand of G-d.
Dressing up is also a way for people to bring joy and laughter to their friends, another major Purim theme.