The springtime Jewish holiday of Purim isn’t just any other occasion to have a good time; having fun and merrymaking is actually a commandment each year.
Because the holiday commemorates the Jewish people’s triumphant survival under threat of annihilation, it’s a time for joyous celebration of ancestral strength, courage, and victory in the face of danger. Read on for the Purim blessings and prayers that correspond with the holiday.
But first, the context: The Purim story comes from the Book of Esther, which tells how Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai foiled a plan by Haman, King Achashverosh’s top deputy, to kill all the Jews in the Persian empire. After Queen Esther courageously reveals that she is Jewish and exposes Haman’s plan, the king sentences Haman to death and elevates Mordechai to top deputy. Mordechai and Esther then decree the Jewish people can defend themselves against their enemies.
"Many of us understand the message of this story to be that we know what it is to be marginalized and vulnerable and so we must use every opportunity and all influence we have to protect other vulnerable groups," shares Rabbi Amy Bernstein, Senior Rabbi of Kehillat Israel in Los Angeles. "Our Jewish commitment, out of this narrative, is to building an American and global society that makes everyone safer, that allows everyone to flourish and to contribute their strengths and talents to our collective well being."
This year, Purim begins in the evening on Saturday, March 23, 2024 and ends the following evening, Sunday, March 24, 2024. Looking for more Purim information and inspiration? Check out our roundups of creative Purim costumes, ideas for Purim gift baskets filled with delicious food and drink, and Purim greetings to use in social media captions, cards, emails, and more.
Blessings for the reading of the Megillah
"There are three blessings made over reading the Scroll of Esther," Rabbi Bernstein explains. "We sanctify the obligation to tell the story every year. Why? Our history is a critical factor in helping us identify with the Jewish people and with the events that have shaped our identity."
The reader recites these three blessings before reading the Megillah:
Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olom A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Al Mikra Megillah
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the reading of the Megillah.
Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olom She-o-so Ni-sim La-avo-sei-nu Ba-yo-mim Ho-heim Bi-z'man Ha-zeh
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olom She-heche-yo-nu Ve-ki-yi-mo-nu Ve-higi-o-nu Liz-man Ha-zeh
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
Bernstein notes that storytelling and recounting the history of Jewish ancestors, "the dangers they faced and the risks they took — getting in touch with gratitude that we are still here, these are all holy. Reciting a blessing before reciting the story of Purim reminds us of that with great effectiveness," she says.
(Note: Bernstein shared that she does not use King or Lord, but rather God or Sovereign).
The Shehecheyanu blessing
Ba-ruch A-tah A-do-noi E-loi-hei-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam she-he-chee-ya-nu v'ki-yi-ma-nu vi-hi-gi-ya-nu liz-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, God, Spirit of the Universe, Who has given us life, has sustained us in that life, and has brought us to this moment in time.
Bernstein explains that the blessing of the Shehecheyanu is the blessing over new things. "Things that we're experiencing for the first time in a long time and the first days of holidays."
And that alone is reason to appreciate life and indeed to celebrate. "We should all be looking for opportunities to say that blessing every day!" she says.
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