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Of the forty-eight men and seven women who prophesied in Israel, none added to or detracted from any of the Miswoth in the Torah. The sole exception was the Miswah of reading the Meghillah. The story of how our Holy Torah and the good therein triumphed over the forces of evil is recounted in the reading of the Meghillah, on Purim.

When the wicked Haman, the seed of Amaleq (may his name and memory be erased), sought to annihilate the Jewish people, the Jews realized that they had only one weapon, but it was a formidable one - their Torah.

Through his egotistical pride and hatred for Mordekhai the Jew, Haman gave the order in the name of King Ahashuerosh to destroy every Jew, both young and old and women and children. Throughout one hundred and twenty seven provinces from India to Ethiopia the order was received to exterminate them, on one day, on the thirteenth of Adar.

The Jewish People prayed and fasted for three days and nights in order to rectify the three types of wrongs they may have committed, by their actions, speech and thought. And in the end their prayers were answered. The evil are elevated to eminence to show how great their fall and this was the case with the wicked Haman. From being the most powerful man in the kingdom, second only to the king himself, he was hung in total disgrace, as were all his sons, on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordekhai the Jew.

Shabbath Zakhor

The Sabbath before Purim is known as Shabbath Zakhor (Shabbath ‘Remember’) as the portion “Remember what ‘Amaleq did unto you” is read. It is important for all to hear this. It is customary, on this Shabbath as well as on Purim itself, to sing Shbahoth (songs of praise) such as “Simeni Rosh ‘Al Kol Oybai” (Place me above all my enemies).

Ta’anith Esther

The day before Purim is called the Fast of Esther, as we fast in memory of the three-day fast of our forefathers. The fast is broken after the Meghillah reading. When the Meghilla is read on Mosi Shabbath (Saturday night after Shabbath) and Sunday morning, the fast is held on the preceeding Thursday.

Reading the Meghillah

Both men and women are obligated to hear the Meghillah reading. One who does not have a Kasher Meghillah must hear every word read by the Hazzan. Prior to the reading, the Hazzan unfolds his Meghillah like a letter, but the congregation read theirs like one would read a Sefer Torah. This is the most common custom among Sepharadim.

The Minhagh is to stand for the Berakhoth of the Meghillah reading at night. The blessing of Sheheheyanu is recited at night but not in the morning. When reading only for women (as is commonly done when the women cannot attend the main public reading) the Meghillah is read without reciting a Berakha (blessing). In Ashkenazi communities, the Berakha of Lishmowa’ Meghilla is substituted.

Click Here for more of the Laws and Customs of Purim.

(Taken from the writings of Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe.)