Purim: for such a time as this

“And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

After Shabbat Zachor (“Sabbath of Remembrance,” שבת זכור) is the Festival of Purim. At Shabbat Zachor we read of the attack on Israel by Amalek, the ancestor of Haman. At Purim, Esther risked her life by appearing before the king without permission, in order to save her people from Haman.

In 2018, the Fast of Esther is held on February 28, 2018, and Purim is celebrated from the evening of February 28 through March 1 (March 1-2 in Jerusalem).

For the morning prayers, selichot prayers with the 13 Attributes of Mercy are recited:

as well as the “long Avinu Malkeinu”.  Here is Barbara Streisand’s Avinu Malkeinu with English subtitles.

The Torah reading is Exodus 32:11–14 and 34:1–10, the story of the golden calf, where Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites and obtained forgiveness.  The special haftarah (selected prophets) is Isaiah 55:6–56:8.
The Amidah, or Shemoneh Esrei, (19 blessings) is recited with the Shema Koleinu blessing, (Acceptance of Prayer), where one may ask for any needs. Here is one with four a capella female voices

The priestly blessing is added to the Amidah in the afternoon service. Here is Leonard Cohen in Israel giving the priestly blessing at the end of a concert.

Leonard Nimoy priestly blessing
Nimoy and the letter shin, for shekinah, the earthly female presence of the deity
May Adonai bless you and guard you –

יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ‬
(Yevhārēkh-khā Adhōnāy veyishmerēkhā …)

May Adonai make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you –

יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

(“Yāʾēr Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā viḥunnékkā …)

Book of Esther scroll
May Adonai lift up His face unto you and give you peace –

יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם‬
(“Yissā Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā viyāsēm lekhā shālōm.”)

The Megillah (Book of Esther) is read at the beginning and the end of the festival, which also includes other customs.

“Esther before Ahasuerus” – by Artemisia Gentileschi, the most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century


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