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Many today have the practice (usually following the Gra — see Maaseh Rav 175) of blessing על מקרא מגילה when reading Shir HaShirim, Ruth, Eicha, and Ḳohelet from a kosher scroll on Pesaḥ, Shavuot, Tish'a b'Av, and Sukkot, respectively, and additionally שהחיינו on all but Eicha.

Does anyone discuss any minimal conditions for reciting these brachot? For example: does it need to be attached to shacharit/musaf, mincha, or maariv?; does it need a minyan?; if it's read on the "wrong" day, does it get a bracha?; and perhaps other conditions. Is the answer different for the two different brachot?

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    The end of that Maaseh Rav has a story that is relevant
    – Double AA
    Jun 25, 2021 at 1:22
  • I believe there is an Igrot Moshe that is relevant (iirc story about not having a megilla on shabbat and wanting to read on last day of yom tov. probably if you search IM for "shir hashirim" it'll come up)
    – Double AA
    Jun 25, 2021 at 1:22
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    @DoubleAA Thanks. The Maaseh Rav story is relevant, but it seems to have been on the same day (which is why I didn't ask about that setup explicitly). The Igrot Moshe reference is OḤ 4:99(2). He says that the particular day isn't important, but unfortunately doesn't address the other questions.
    – magicker72
    Jun 25, 2021 at 1:35

1 Answer 1

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+500

The earliest source to make a beracha on reading the 5 megillos is Meseches Sofrim (14:1):

ברות ובשיר השירים בקהלת באיכה ובמגלת אסתר צריך לברך, ולומר על מקרא מגילה, ואף על פי שכתובה בכתובים. והקורא בכתובים צריך לומר ברוך אתה י"י אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו לקרוא בכתבי הקודש.

This is codified in Machzor Vitri (Shavuos 312) and Maharil (Seder Tefillos Pesach).

However, the Beis Yosef (OC 559) quotes this opinion, but rules that the general custom is not to make a beracha (and so rules the Rema).

כתבו הגה"מ יש במס"ס דאמגילת רות וקינות ושיר השירים מברך אקב"ו על מקרא מגילה וכן נהג הר"ם אכן יש לאומרה בנחת ובלחש עכ"ל והעולם לא נהגו לברך כלל על שום מגילה חוץ ממגילת אסתר

The Magen Avraham (490) discusses the origins of the various customs:

כצ"ל דלא כמ"ש בדפוס קרקאקא השניי' וז"ל רמ"א בתשו' סי' ל"ה מהרי"ל ואבודרהם והג"מ פ"ה מהל' ט"ב כתבו לברך וכ"כ בד"מ לכן דקדקתי וכתבתי והעם נהגו כו' ולא כתבתי סתם וכן נוהגין כמ"ש בשאר מקומות וכן נ"ל מכמ' טעמים דדוקא איכה שהחזן קורא להשמיע לצבור מברך וכו' וכ"מ דעת המנהגים ועי"ל דדוק' כשהם כתובים כתקנה בקלפים בגלילה מברכין אבל בחומשין שלנו פשיטא שאין לברך וכו' עכ"ל אבל הלבוש וב"ח ומנהגים ומט"מ כתבו לברך על כלם חוץ מקהלת וכן עיקר כמנהג קדמונינו

Magen Avraham quotes two reasons from the Rema (Responsa 35) why not to bless: A blessing is only made when it is read b'tzibbur (specifically when one person is reading to the entire congregation), and only when reading from a kosher megilla (but not when reading from a Chumash). Nevertheless, the Magen Avraham rules that one should make a beracha.

The implication of the Magen Avraham is that he rules to bless even without fulfilling the two qualifications of the Rema. The Vilna Gaon explicitly rules so in Biur HaGr"a.

However, Maaseh Rav (175) brings the custom of the Vilna Gaon to specifically use real Megillah and to have a public kriya.

בשבת חה"מ פסח וסוכות ובשבועות יום ב' אחר יוצרות קודם אין כמוך קורין המגלה בניגון וטעמי' ממגלה הנכתבת בגליון כס"ת עם עמודים וא' קורא וכולם שומעין והקורא מברך שתי ברכות על מקרא מגלה ושהחינו.

Another important difference between the Magen Avraham and the Gr"a: the Magen Avraham rules is that although one should make a blessing on all megillos, Koheles is an exception. (See Machatzis Hashekel who explains why Koheles is different based on Shabbos 30b). The Vilna Gaon (Maaseh Rav 175 and Biur HaGra) rules to bless even by Koheles.

Is the Beracha only recited when attached Shacharis?

Maaseh Rav brings a story when Megillas Rus was not read during Shacharis, and the Vilna Gaon ruled to read the Megilla during Mincha, with the blessings. Evidently, although the minhag was during Shacharis (see Rema 490), it can be fulfilled during Mincha too.

R' Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:351) ruled for his congregation in a time of need to recite the Megilla with the blessings before Shacharis in a different location.

Is there a beracha on the 'wrong day'?

This may depend on the classification of the blessing. Some understand that this beracha is on the minhag/takanah - accordingly, the beracha would presumably be only when the minhag is fulfilled. See Igros Moshe (OḤ 4:99(2), cited by @DoubleAA and @Magicker73 in comments), who posits that the minhag can be fulfilled over any day of Yom Tov.

However, the Emek Beracha (Birchos Hatorah 3) and the Brisker Rav (Chiddushei HaGriz, Hilchos Berachos) explain this bracha is not a birchas hamitzvos but a beracha al hatorah, a blessing which is made on any public reading of the Megillah. Accordingly, one could argue that the blessing would not be limited to the fulfillment of the minhag.

(Presumably, this does not apply to Shehechiyanu, which would only be because of the minhag as a mitzva habah mizman lizman.)

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  • Thanks. The Maaseh Rav doesn't necessarily mean that he requires a public reading and a kosher megillah for a bracha — it could just come to exclude another popular minhag for everyone to read the megillah to themselves from a printed text with a bracha. (Haven't yet looked at the sources for your later sections.)
    – magicker72
    Mar 4, 2022 at 16:16
  • I would suggest you expand the details of R' Shternbuch's teshuva, because that gives a full approach to my questions for "al mikra megilla" (only chiyuv on tsibbur, need 10 to listen to the sha"ts to make a bracha, time of day is unimportant bedieved).
    – magicker72
    Mar 4, 2022 at 16:40

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