The mitzvah is to hear the megillah directly from the reader. This precludes hearing the reading via telephone, live hookup, webcast, or even a microphone.
The reader reads from a koshermegillah (handwritten scroll), while the members of the congregation follow along in printed texts (normally provided by the synagogue). Some, however, who wish to fulfill the mitzvah in its optimum manner, opt to follow along in their own kosher megillah. Click here to purchase a megillah. Warning: it’s quite pricey.
The megillah is described (Esther 9:29) as the “Letter of Purim.” As such, immediately before the reading, the reader takes the megillah, which is normally rolled up as a scroll, and folds it into several flat readable panels—making it “letter-like.”
Before starting the megillah, the reader recites three blessings. All in attendance answer Amen. Click here for the text of the blessings.
The congregation rises while the reader recites the blessings—both the preliminary and the concluding blessings. For the actual megillah reading, all aside for the reader may be seated.
Before the daytime megillah reading, while the reader recites the Shehecheyanu blessing—which thanks G‑d for “granting us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this occasion”—the reader and congregation have in mind that the blessing also refers to the day’s other mitzvot: mishloach manot, matanot la’evyonim and the Purim feast.
There’s no talking from when the reader begins the introductory blessings until after he finishes the concluding blessing.
In Chabad synagogues, it is customary to make a racket only when Haman’s name is mentioned in conjunction with an adjective, such as “Haman the Aggagite,” “Haman the Jew-hater,” or “Haman the son of Hamedatha.”
During four junctures in the megillah reading, the reader pauses, allowing the congregation to recite the “four verses of redemption.” They are: “There was a Jewish man in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordechai, son of Yair, son of Shim’i, son of Kish, a Benjaminite” (2:5). “And Mordechai left the king’s presence wearing a royal garment of blue and white, a large golden crown, and a shawl of fine linen and purple wool. And the city of Shushan celebrated and rejoiced” (8:15). “For the Jews there was light and happiness, joy and glory” (8:16). “For Mordechai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus, a leader to the Jews, and loved by his many brethren. He sought the welfare of his people, and spoke peace for all their descendants” (10:3; the megillah’s final verse). After the congregation concludes each verse, the reader reads it aloud.
The reader also pauses before reading the names of Haman’s ten sons (9:6–10). Here, too, the congregation recites the names before the reader repeats them. If possible, the names should all be said in one breath.
One who is stuck on Purim without a kosher megillah, and no synagogue in the vicinity, should nevertheless read the megillah—from a printed text or online—both Purim night and day. The blessings, however, are not recited in such an instance.
Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.