Shiur #77: Blessings on Purim

  • Rav David Brofsky


In previous shiurim, we mentioned that the Shehechiyanu blessing is said on Festivals, upon fulfilling a mitzva that is only performed at fixed times (shofar, lulav, matza, and ner Chanuka), upon building (or purchasing) a new house or new keilim (clothing and utensils), upon seeing a friend, upon seeing a new fruit, and upon hearing good news.

The Rishonim discuss when Shehechiyanu should be said on Purim. While they assume that Shehechiyanu is certainly recited at night before reading the Megilla, they question whether the daytime reading, as well as the mitzvot that can only be fulfilled during the day, receive the Shehechiyanu blessing as well.

The Rambam (Hilkhot Megilla 1:3) and others (see Yere’im 268; Rashbam, cited by Mordekhai, Megilla 781) rule that Shehechiyanu is not said during the day. Apparently, they maintain that the obligations of night and day are either identical or similar enough not to warrant a separate blessing during the day.

On the other hand, Rabbeinu Tam (cited by the Rosh 1:6) and the Ri (in Tosafot, s.v. chayav) rule that Shehechiyanu should indeed be repeated during the day. According to this view of Rabbeinu Tam and the Ri, why and how does the daytime reading differ from the nighttime reading?

Some suggest that the daytime reading contains an additional dimension that is lacking in the nighttime reading. Tosafot, for example, writes:

Even though one has recited zeman [the berakha of Shehechiyanu] at night, he repeats the berakha during the day because the primary expression of pirsumei nisa (the publicizing of the miracle) occurs at the daytime reading. The verse implies this as well, as it says, "By night, but have no respite" – in other words, even though one reads during the day, he must still read at night. The primary reading is during the day, as the main festive meal is during the day…

According to Tosafot, the additional focus upon pirsumei nisa adds a special dimension to the daytime reading. The Rosh adds that "the primary pirsumei nisa occurs during the day, during the time of the festive meal, as well as the matanot la-evyonim and mishlo’ach manot." Apparently, since the distribution of the matanot la-evyonim and mishlo’ach manot, as well as the festive meal, all occur by day, the pirsumei nisa is most effectively expressed during the day of Purim, and this lends its character to the daytime reading of the Megilla.

Others note that the nighttime and daytime readings of the Megilla may originate from different sources. R. Yechezkel Landau, for example, in his Noda Bi-Yehuda (Mahadura Kama, O.C. 41), suggests that while the morning reading was established by the prophets and is therefore categorized as divrei kabbala (originating from prophetic revelation), the nighttime reading was enacted later by the Sages.

There may be another reason to say Shehechiyanu during the morning. Regarding the Shehechiyanu blessing, the Talmud (Eiruvin 40b) teaches:

Rabba said: When I was in the house of study of R. Huna, we raised the following dilemma: What is the halakha with regard to saying the blessing for time [i.e. Shehechiyanu] on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Do we say that since these Festivals come at fixed times of the year, we recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu, just as we would for any other joyous event that occurs at fixed intervals? Or do we say, perhaps, that since these Festivals are not called pilgrimage Festivals [regalim], we do not recite it? R. Huna did not have an answer at hand…

The gemara concludes that the halakha is that one recites the blessing of Shehechiyanu on Rosh Hashana and on Yom Kippur, and one may recite the blessing even in the market, as it does not require a cup of wine.

While the gemara raises a doubt regarding whether Shehechiyanu is said only on the Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot) or also on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it does not seem to entertain the possibility that one should say Shehechiyanu on Purim (and Chanuka).

            The Meiri (Megilla 4b) suggests that while at night, the Shehechiyanu blessing is said over the Megilla, during the day, there is another reason to say Shehechiyanu:

Some attribute the obligation to say Shehechiyanu during the day to another factor, and that is because [Purim] is a Yom Tov. At night it is said only over the Megilla, unlike other days, during which the blessing is said at night only to recall the [significance of the] day, and not for another reason… However, on Purim, if one eats the meal at night, one has not fulfilled his obligation.

The Meiri seems to suggest that although the Shehechiyanu blessing was instituted for Purim as well, only the DAY of Purim is viewed as a Yom Tov.

The Meiri realizes that this understanding may lead one to conclude that even if one does not read the Megilla during the day, he should still say the Shehechiyanu blessing. Although he rejects this possibility, elsewhere (Shabbat 23a, s.v. mi she-ein, cited by Sha’ar Ha-Tziyun 676:3) he writes that one who does not light Chanuka lights should still say Shehechiyanu over the day itself.

The Acharonim debate this question as well. The Magen Avraham (692:1) writes that one who does not have a Megilla to read should not say Shehechiyanu. Others, such as the Mor U-Ketzi’a (692), insist that “it is appropriate to say the Shehechiyanu blessing over the day … especially since the miracle happened on that day.” The Acharonim seem to conclude that due to this doubt, one should refrain from saying this blessing (Bi’ur Halakha 692, s.v. ve-shehechiyanu; Iggerot Moshe, OC 5:20:2).

In practice, while the Shulchan Arukh (682:1) rules that one should not say the blessing again in the morning, the Rema rules that the blessing should be said. Some Acharonim (see Magen Avraham 692:1; Mishna Berura 692:1) write that when saying Shehechiyanu, one should have in mind the other mitzvot of the day, such as mishlochei manot and the se’udat Purim. The Kaf Ha-Chaim (692:4) suggests that Sephardim should have this in mind when saying Shehechiyanu at night.

The Berakhot Recited Before and After Megilla Reading

The Megilla reading is preceded by three berakhot: the birkat ha-mitzva (“al mikra megilla”), the birkat ha-nissim (“she-asa nissim”), and the birkat ha-zman (“shehechiyanu”).  The gemara (Megilla 21a) relates that the recitation of the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu after the reading of the Megilla is dependent upon communal custom.

What is the nature of this berakha? Some assert that ha-rav et riveinu was instituted not for the Megilla reading, but rather as a birkat ha-shevach – a berakha of praise – for the Purim miracle. The Ran (12a in Rif) explains that for this reason, the berakha begins with "Barukh," despite the fact that it is a "berakha ha-semukha le-chaverata," a berakha adjacent to another – i.e. to the blessings which precede the Megilla reading – and this type of berakha generally does not open with "Barukh."  Fundamentally, the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu stands on its own and was not instituted to be recited specifically after the Megilla reading, and it therefore requires its own introductory “barukh.”

The Ritva (Megilla 21b) cites this view, but subsequently rejects it. The Avudraham (Hilkhot Birkat Ha-Mitzvot) similarly dismisses the Ran’s theory and advances another one:

The reason why they established a berakha after all mitzvot fulfilled through reading – both readings that are required by Torah law, such as the Shema reading, and readings ordained by the Sages, such as reading the Megilla, reading Hallel, the haftara, and Pesukei De-Zimra – more so than other mitzvot, is because we learned that the public reading of the Torah must be followed by a berakha through a kal ve-chomer [a fortiori deduction] from birkat ha-mazon, and they therefore established that ALL mitzvot fulfilled through reading should be followed by a berakha, like the public Torah reading.

According to the Avudraham, ha-rav et riveinu indeed relates to the Megilla reading, as the Sages specifically instituted that this berakha be recited at the conclusion of the reading.

The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (5) explains that this berakha is not inherently related to the reading of the Megilla per se, but rather is a berakha of pirsumei nisa, which should therefore be recited publicly.

We have thus identified two approaches to the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu. Some view it as an independent berakha commemorating the miraculous events of Purim, while others explain that it was instituted to conclude the reading of the Megilla, just as we conclude Hallel, haftarot, and Pesukei De-Zimra with a berakha. These two approaches may yield some interesting practical ramifications.

1. The Shulchan Arukh (690:17) writes that upon completing the Megilla reading, one should roll the Megilla and then recite the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu. The Maharil (56) explains that it is disrespectful to leave the Megilla open unnecessarily, and he even criticized a reader who began reciting the berakha before rolling the Megilla. The Magen Avraham (690:19) distinguishes between this berakha and the berakhot recited after the haftara reading, which one should specifically recite while the haftara scroll is still open (Shulchan Arukh 284:6). He explains that since the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu was not instituted upon the reading of the Megilla, one may, or even should, roll up the Megilla before reciting it. He concludes (20) that one may, if he wishes, recite the berakha first and then afterwards roll the Megilla.

Interestingly, the Eshel Avraham (Butshash) writes that only the reader should roll the Megilla before reciting ha-rav et riveinu, while the listeners may recite the berakha and then roll their scrolls. Of course, this assumes that even the listeners recited ha-rav et riveinu individually (as opposed to the common practice that only the reader recites this berakha). In any event, the Eshel Avraham comments that it may be preferable for the listeners to recite the berakha before rolling their scrolls so that the berakha immediately follows the reading.

These Acharonim may disagree as to whether the berakha relates to the Megilla reading or if it functions as an independent berakha praising God for the miracles of Purim (Magen Avraham).

2. Similarly, the authorities debate the question of whether one may speak between the reading of the Megilla and the recitation of ha-rav et riveinu. The Tur cites the Ba'al Ha-Ittur’s comment that "since the final berakha is dependent upon local custom, one should not criticize one who talks between the reading [and the berakha]…" The Beit Yosef and Bach explain that since the berakha was instituted over the miracle of Purim, and not the reading of the Megilla, interruptions are allowed in between the reading and the berakha.

The Tur (692), however, disagrees, arguing that if one indeed recites ha-rav et riveinu, then he should not interrupt between the reading and the berakha. The Bach explains that Tur viewed ha-rav et riveinu as a berakha that concludes the reading of the Megilla, similar to the berakha of Yishtabach, which concludes Pesukei De-Zimra. Therefore, one should not interrupt between the Megilla reading and the berakha.

3. May one recite the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu without a minyan? The Beit Yosef (692) cites the Orchot Chayim (Hilkhot Megilla 7), who asserts that according to the Talmud Yerushalmi (4:1), one should recite this berakha only "be-tzibbur” – in the presence of a quorum. The Rema (692:1) cites this view as well.

One might suggest that if the berakha merely concludes the reading of the Megilla, than just as the Megilla may be read without a quorum (when it is read in the proper time), ha-rav et riveinu may similarly be recited privately. Conversely, if the berakha was instituted in order to publicize the miracle, then we should likely limit its recitation to public forums, where the miracle is properly publicized. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (692:5) indeed explains the Rema in this manner.

In truth, however, one might dispute this reasoning. One might suggest that the berakha was instituted specifically as the conclusion of a public Megilla reading, which may differ qualitatively from a private reading. Conversely, even if the berakha was instituted to publicize the miracle and to offer thanksgiving, one might still be able to recite it privately.

The Eliya Rabba (692:8) cites numerous authorities who disagree with the Orchot Chayim’s position, and he rules that even an individual may recite ha-rav et riveinu. The Bi’ur Ha-Gra also implies that the berakha may be recited without a quorum. The Bi’ur Halakha, however, concludes that since reciting the berakha is in any event only a custom, and generally we follow the rule of safek berakhot le-hakel (we refrain from reciting berakhot in situations of doubt), an individual should not recite this berakha. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (ibid.), by contrast, allows reciting the berakha even privately.  For one thing, he writes, he was unable to locate the passage in the Yerushalmi that was cited as the source for this halakha (possibly because the Yerushalmi may not have referred to ha-rav et riveinu at all, as noted by the Vilna Gaon). Additionally, the requirement of a quorum for the berakha of ha-rav et riveinu does not appear in the writings of any other Rishonim. Finally, the custom was to recite the berakha even without a quorum.

The Shulchan Arukh (692:1) records that nowadays it is customary for all communities to recite this berakha.

Next week, we will return to our study of the Shehechiyanu blessing. Purim sameach!