Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blessing The Second Reading

The Blessing

Ever wonder why we (or at least we Ashkenazim) recited the blessing "She-Hecheyanu" twice before reading the megillah, once before the reading at night and again before the reading in the day? "She-Hecheyanu" is for infrequent joyous events, like a mitzvah that is performed only once a year. It is not for the same mitzvah within a 24-hour period.

In fact, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 692:1) rules like the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Megillah 1:3) that the "She-Hecheyanu" is only recited on the megillah reading at night and not on the reading in the day. The Rema (ibid.) rules like Rabbenu Tam (Tosafos Ha-Rosh, Megillah 4a sv. chayav) that one recites "She-Hecheyanu" both at night and during the day. (Interestingly, Tosafos Ha-Rosh quote Rabbenu Tam's older brother, Rashbam, as having the same view as the Rambam.)

Click here to read moreThe Two Blessings

While the primary megillah reading is the one during the day, the Vilna Gaon in his commentary to the Shulchan Arukh points out that if the "She-Hecheyanu" is recited even long in advance then it is not repeated. For example, if one recites the blessing when building a sukkah before the holiday then it applies to the mitzvah and one does not repeat the blessing on the holiday. That is why, according to the Rambam, one does not repeat the blessing on the megillah reading in the day. However, this raises the question why Rabbenu Tam would disagree with the Rambam.

R. Yechezkel Abramsky (Chazon Yechezkel, Megillah 2:2) defends Rabbenu Tam's position by pointing out the difference between the sukkah example and the megillah case. With the sukkah, the building of the sukkah is a preparation for the mitzvah of dwelling in it and is essentially an extension of the mitzvah. That is why the blessing recited on the building of the sukkah applies to the mitzvah as well. However, the reading of the megillah at night and in the day are two separate mitzvah activities. But this leaves the question of why the Rambam was not convinced by this reasoning.

The Two Readings

The Gemara (Megillah 4a) quotes R. Yehoshua ben Levi who says that we are obligated to read the megillah at night and then repeat it during the day. The language of this saying is odd because it would have been sufficient to say that we are obligated to read the megillah at night and during the day. Why the language of "repeat it"? Also, why is this the only mitzvah of Purim that applies at night?

R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik is quoted as saying that the reading at night is solely an instrument to making the morning megillah a second reading (R. Mayer Twersky quotes others in the name of R. Soloveitchik at minute 34 of this lecture - audio). The fundamental obligation is to re-read the megillah during the day. There is, therefore, no inherent observance at night but merely a preparation for the reading in the day, although the Sages ordained that this preparation be done at night. If someone were to be unable to hear the megillah during the day, for example if he were to have to undergo a full day of surgery, then he would not be obligated to hear the megillah at night either.

With this, we can explain Rambam's position. Just like the building of a sukkah is a preparation for dwelling in it, the reading of megillah at night is a preparation for the reading in the day. Both are extensions of the basic mitzvah and, therefore, the "She-Hecheyanu" recited on either "preparations" apply also to the basic mitzvah. That is why the "She-Hecheyanu" at night is sufficient for the day as well.

(Note that the Magen Avraham [692:1] offers an alternate explanation for reciting the blessing in the day -- that it applies to the other commandments of the day.)

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