By Rabbi Ari Enkin / Yekum Purkan is the Aramaic prayer which is recited immediately following the Haftara every Shabbat morning. It is a prayer for the welfare of Torah scholars as well as laymen and other members of the congregation who engage in charitable activities. Following the two paragraphs of Yekum Purkan, an additional misheberach is recited in honor of all those who volunteer for the benefit of the community.

Yekum Purkan

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Yekum Purkan is the Aramaic prayer which is recited immediately following the Haftara every Shabbat morning.[1]  It is a prayer for the welfare of Torah scholars as well as laymen and other members of the congregation who engage in charitable activities.

Following the two paragraphs of Yekum Purkan, an additional misheberach is recited in honor of all those who volunteer for the benefit of the community. One who prays alone omits the second Yekum Purkan as it refers to “the congregation” which is obviously not present when one prays alone. In fact, some authorities rule that both paragraphs of Yekum Purkan should be omitted by one who prays alone.[2] Sefardim generally do not recite Yekum Purkan as part of their liturgy at all.

Yekum Purkan is not recited on a weekday Yom Tov in order to allow for the already lengthy services to end that much earlier, so that people can get home and prepare their Yom Tov meal.[3] Indeed, it is reserved especially for Shabbat, as it is primarily a prayer for those who study the Torah, which was given on Shabbat.[4] It is also suggested that Yekum Purkan is recited only on Shabbat in order to recall that the Exilarch[5] would be present in the synagogue on Shabbat morning and reciting it then was considered to be a gesture of honor towards him.[6] 

Yekum Purkan is written in Aramaic, as that was the vernacular language in Babylon where it was composed, just after the canonization of the Talmud.[7] In fact, some sources teach that Hebrew was all but forgotten in Babylon.[8] Interestingly, however, Yekum Purkan is not found in the Babylonian siddurim of Rav Amram Gaon and Rav Saadia Gaon. It is first found only in the 11th century Machzor Vitri with minor variations in the text from that which is in use today. 

Although one should not hold anything in one’s hands except a siddur when praying, it is permissible for the chazzan to hold the Torah for Yekum Purkan should it be the congregation’s custom to do so.[9] In fact, it is quite appropriate to hold the Torah when reciting Yekum Purkan considering that it is a prayer for Torah scholars. In some communities the one who lead the Shacharit service is the one to recite Yekum Purkan although in most congregations it is the individual who will be leading Mussaf that recites it.[10]

Please submit any Yekum Purkan “Factoids” and “Halachatoids” you might have. For an exhaustive treatment of Yekum Purkan see: Rivevot Ephraim 6:455.  


[1] Rema, OC 284:6.

[2] Mishna Berura 101:19; Rivevot Ephraim 1:216:1.

[3] Siddur Harashban 20b; Rokeaich 53.

[4] Ziv Hashabbat p.183.

[5] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exilarch.

[6] Sefer Yuchsin p.121; Safra Chadeta p. 91 cited in Rite and Reason p. 252.

[7] Siddur Otzar Yisrael vol. 1 p. 704.

[8] Torat Moshe, Bereishit 45:12. (Source provided by R’ Yonatan Pachas)

[9] Taz, OC 96:1; Mishna Berura 96:2; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 286:3.

[10] Rivevot Ephraim 4:97:1.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

42 comments

  1. While not my usual source, IIRC Neil Danzig has done some solid research on this prayer, and has some convincing ideas. Essentially, it’s a fundraiser and unity prayer. The first ones blesses the leaders of the yeshivot and the local rabbinate which, by proxy, represents all Torah institutions, and is thus a kind of declaration of loyalty, while the second one blesses the community on account of its support for those yeshivot. In fact, it was not uncommon for yeshivot themselves to expressly pray on behalf of their far flung supporters, of which the second yekum purkan is a reflection, even as it is recited by the community or its leaders. In fact, in one synagogue, Ets ‘Hayim of Strasbourg, France, it is recited out loud by the shatz, which truly makes a lot more sense than having everyone say it for himself.

  2. Wow!
    That’s certainly a ‘pirush’ I have never seen!

    Ari Enkin

  3. It is also suggested that Yekum Purkan is recited only on Shabbat in order to recall that the Exilarch[5] would be present in the synagogue on Shabbat morning
    ================================
    and the rest of the week?
    KT

  4. Joel-

    ….my thoughts exactly!! 😉

    Ari Enkin

  5. I feel the first yekum purkan should be edited or deleted as we are asking things for people and things who do not exist anymore. There are no rabbis in Bavel anymore and there is no Reish Galuta. If when we say it today we mean all rabbis and heads of the major jewish congregations and yeshivot in the diaspora today then we should edit the text to actually say that, for those who originally wrote the prayer really intended it for those rabbis, leaders and institutions in Bavel (also in Israel, but this is not such a problem being that there are today Rabbis, Yeshivot, leaders in Israel).

  6. The Sefardic custom is to include a bracha for the kahal, which mirrors the second yekum purkan and mi sheberach:

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/sidurim/mizrah/shabat/shaharit.htm#5

  7. The exilarch wasn’t always the biggest tzaddik. But daily attendance at Beit Knesset wasn’t a given back then- that much is clear from the Gemara. In fact, lots of things we take for granted now (for the better, I’d say) weren’t practiced in many eras. Most people never wore tefillin in the Geonic era, for example. So it’s not so troubling that the reish galuta only showed up on Shabbat. Maybe during the week he had his own minyan.

    There’s an old myth that “the first thing Reform did was eliminate the second Yekum Purkan.” Nothing more than a folk tale, even if one with a message, but I wonder where it began.

  8. Shlomo,

    Some people (including one of YU’s roshei yeshiva) apparently exchange the phrase “of Bavel” for “of the Dispora.” Rav David Bar Hayim of Machon Shilo doesn’t say the prayer at all, if I’m not mistaken

  9. Regarding bavel see the footnote in the Philip Birnbaum Siddur (or is it the Machzor?). He cites a suggestion for changing it.
    Artscroll Siddur, however, maintains that Bavel means the entire exile.
    In our times, there is a stronger argument to change it, because there is not even a single rabbi left in Bavel (unless there is a US army chaplain there).

  10. RE:

    “Some people (including one of YU’s roshei yeshiva) apparently exchange the phrase “of Bavel” for “of the Dispora.””

    names….gimme names.

    Ari Enkin

  11. Shlomo – Should Israelis also stop saying “venitrahaknu me’al admatenu” and similar phrases in mussaf?

    Nachum – Perhaps the Reish Galuta normally prayed in his beit midrash (a halachically preferable location) rather the town synagogue? It makes sense that farmers out in the middle of nowhere would pray on their own. It makes less sense than the reish galuta would.

  12. >Indeed, it is reserved especially for Shabbat, as it is primarily a prayer for those who study the Torah, which was given on Shabbat.[

    How was Moshe allowed to carry the Luchos in what was literally a reshus harabbim deoraysa?

  13. >Yekum Purkan is written in Aramaic, as that was the vernacular language in Babylon where it was composed, just after the canonization of the Talmud.[7] In fact, some sources teach that Hebrew was all but forgotten in Babylon.[8] Interestingly, however, Yekum Purkan is not found in the Babylonian siddurim of Rav Amram Gaon and Rav Saadia Gaon. It is first found only in the 11th century Machzor Vitri with minor variations in the text from that which is in use today.

    Doesn’t the sefa sort of contradict the resha? It’s like surmising that akdamus milin was composed in Babylon because it’s in Aramaic, although it’s only found in the Ashkenazic liturgy.

  14. >There’s an old myth that “the first thing Reform did was eliminate the second Yekum Purkan.” Nothing more than a folk tale, even if one with a message, but I wonder where it began.

    I’ve been working on a post about that for awhile. Here’s a foreshadowing: it’s not true, but both the Orthdox and the Reform had this myth, and in fact to a certain degree at certain key moments in the historical discussions about Reform this prayer, which was a fish in the barrel as far as both sides were concerned, was highlighted.

    Status: not literally true, but sort of symbolically true.

  15. Shlomo – I do believe the following words are problematic and should be changed or deleted even for those living in the diaspora since they can make aliyah if they wanted to and they are choosing not to: ומפני חטאינו גלינו מארצנו ונתרחקנו מעל אדמתנו. When one says these words he is saying a lie and that is not the way of Judaism, IMO.

  16. >I do believe the following words are problematic and should be changed or deleted etc.

    The problem with these kinds of suggestions is that if one were truly looking for consistency rather than to cherry pick at personal pet peeves, it would require a comprehensive historical examination of all our practices, liturgy, etc. and then a corresponding overhaul. A reform, if you will. Maybe that’s a good idea, but try getting everybody else on board.

  17. S. – I agree. And i think a “reform” is called for do to the major changes that have happened to the jewish people and the world in the last century. Unfortunately we lack the leadership and unity for such an undertaking. השיבה שופטינו כבראשונה, ויועצינו כבתחילה.

  18. Sholomo: Re: Exilarch. Could be. We *do* know from the Gemara he had his own beit midrash, and at least some sat in on the shiurim. Of course, like I said, some of them weren’t so frum, but I imagine even those davened every now and then.

    The President of the State of Israel isn’t known for his frumkeit (although I’ve heard tell that he is, somewhat), but has a shul with a daily minyan on the grounds of his residence and certainly comes to the Great Synagogue on yomim tovim.

    Of course, some (most?0 reshei galuta *were* pretty frum, and some were even geonim. (Literally, the heads of the academies.)

    Re: Composition. Mentioning Bavel means it was probably written either during the time of the Geonim (pre-1040 CE) or within recent memory of the same (say, until 1200?). On the other hand, it would seem to imply that it *wasn’t* written in Bavel. I read R’ Enkin’s line charitably as meaning “not so long after the Talmudic period,” which when dealing with Jewish history could mean 600-1000.

  19. The second and third blessings are Ashkenazic in origin. They pre-date the First Crusade.

  20. Nachum,

    About not attending synagogue in ancient times: I believe Kitzur SA writes that the reason [or among the reasons] we call seven people to the Torah who recite Borchu on Shabbos is because we want to offer those who didn’t attend Maariv on all nights of the week a chance to catch up on the Borchu’s. When I saw that I immediately thought to myself that it must have been either common or at least, not uncommon for folks not to make it to maariv [and probably Minchah too since they were often done one after the next] in days gone by.

  21. Rabbi Enkin,

    I assume the rosh yeshiva doesn’t mind but I can’t be sure. I will email you his name if you give me a way of contacting you. That same rosh yeshiva also told me that some rabbis in Israel say “of the Diaspora” instead of “of Bavel.”

    Shlomo,

    I agree that that phrase is problematic. The next one is too for those religious and right-wing Zionists who believe we may build the Beis Hamikdash and could if the governemnt and people were’t so timid. According to them, the phrase, “we cannot ascend because of the hand that was sent [or is over] our temple” is also false (or, alternatively, a condemnation of Jews — hardly what we mean to say to G-d).

    I asked Rav David Bar Hayim about this. He agreed with me (incidentally he also agreed with me concerning the problematic text of tefillat haderech, some of which is badly outdated). He suggested I use nusach EY for that part of shmoneh esrei. As far as I can tell, nusach EY doesn’t have the problematic verses in question.

  22. With regard to:

    ומפני חטאינו גלינו מארצנו ונתרחקנו מעל אדמתנו
    and whether it’s still relevant – of course it still is! You stopped quoting too soon. The tefilla continues that therefore we don’t have the Bet Hamikdash and can’t do korbanot. So until we rebuild the B”H (bimhaira beyamainu) I feel that the sentence still applies – we may be a lot closer – but look who is occupying Har Habayit – we have been distanced from *our* special piece of land, our makom kodesh.

    As to Reform dropping the second yekum purkan starting the slippery slope, I heard it attributed to R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch.

  23. Shachar Ha'amim

    Yekum Purkan is an example of one of many prayers in the contemporary siddur that could use a revision in view of current circumstances.

  24. So many comments and noone mentioned Prof. R. Daniel Sperber?

  25. MiMedinat HaYam

    the resh galuta was busy visiting the other shuls in town. and going to the executive minyan.

    yes, some were talmidei chachamim, some wre not. but they were all that remained of malchut bet david. (who similarly were not necessarily so learned.)

    2. bavel = galut.

    any lubavitcher will tell you “bet rabenu she-bebavel” (or similar wording ; i’ll let others do the calcs) = 770 in gematria.

  26. I have read that HaRav Yosef Be’er Soloveitchik did not say Yequm Purqan.

    I also know that it is not included in HaRav David Bar-Hayim’s nusach eretz yisrael.

  27. Okay, I believe that the article should make clear that this is about Nusach Ashkenaz (and its derivatives). There is no need to list people who don’t daven this nusach and therefore don’t say it by definition.

  28. MiMedinat HaYam

    i have never seen a nusach sfard shul that doesnt say it. they ALL do.

    and thats not a derivative.

  29. Sorry, but the inelegant “vernacular language” made me cringe. Also, you mean Babylonia, not Babylon. And Aramaic is probably better described as a lingua franca and not the local vernacular.

  30. MiMedinat HaYam,

    By Nusach Sefard you mean the nusach of ashkenazi chassidim that started as a blend of Nusach Ashkenaz and kabbalsitic sefaradic siddurim?

  31. “Artscroll Siddur, however, maintains that Bavel means the entire exile.”

    It’s not that they “maintain” that or anything like it, it’s just that they chose to translate it that way, and they probably did so to avoid people asking the obvious question – why are we praying for things that don’t exist?

  32. ” Shlomo on October 19, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Shlomo – I do believe the following words are problematic and should be changed or deleted even for those living in the diaspora since they can make aliyah if they wanted to and they are choosing not to: ומפני חטאינו גלינו מארצנו ונתרחקנו מעל אדמתנו. When one says these words he is saying a lie and that is not the way of Judaism, IMO.

    Speaking of this, many times when I say it in davening I kind of catch myself and afterwards say to myself ‘what am I doing here?’

    I don’t know if any other Jews have a similar experience, but maybe for that reason it needs to stay.

  33. And couldn’t the fact that it refers to the heads of the yeshivas in Bavel and a prayer for the welfare of the Jews there, be an indication that this was composed and commonly said in Eretz Yisrael? And that the Ashkenazi Jews, similar to some other customs and tefilloth, preserved the EY custom?

  34. To quote Prof. Lawrence Kaplan’s comment at http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2010/01/minhag-jokes-and-their-historical.html:

    IIRC,it was Shadal who quipped re Reform Judaism “First they did away with yekum purkan, and then it was va-yemach et kol ha-yekum!”

  35. MiMedinat: There’s a bit of a question about the origins of the Reshei Galuta, as they appear on the historical record rather late. Certainly they were *believed* to be of Beit David.

    “Nusach Sephard” is Ashkenazi.

  36. @Shlomo has a good point, that the Yequm Purqan seems anachronistic, and @Guest (9:00am) is right that the prayer seems to self contradict. The reason is that Artscroll is right to translate Bavel as in the whole diaspora, since the present text of Yequm Purqan is fairly late, which is why it is only known from the 11th century. In other words, it was written at a time when Aramaic was still a Jewish lingua franca, though waning, and it was purposefully written in a way that is reminiscent of the older realities. It seems that the various titles are not to be taken literally, but as a stand in for various rabbinic leaders who were either in the local communities, in the far flung yeshivot or their traveling emissaries. See Danzig’s article, it is really worthwhile.

  37. MiMedinat HaYam

    whether or not they were from bet david, they were all that remained of “malchut bet david”.

    if the resh galuta came late to shul, he was practicing nusach sfard minhagim. (humor, but to the point.) if he didnt come only on shabat — well, lets not go there.

    the previous comment (erroneously) claimed “nusach ashkenaz” status to saying it.

  38. I have met with Rav David Bar-Hayim in Jerusalem and yequm purqan is not included in his nusach eretz yisrael.

  39. …I’ve been searching for the Danzig article on Yekum Purkan but havent found it.

    It is available on-line?

    Ari Enkin

  40. Does anyone by any chance know whether HaRav HaGaon Maran Daowidh Bahr Hayeemm is saying Yekum Purkan or not?

  41. He does not.

    Ari Enkin

  42. avrohom yitzchok

    Who is the Rashban (ref 3) and where can I find his siddur please?

  43. Avrohom Yitzchak–

    You can see the siddur here: http://hebrewbooks.org/21467

    Ari Enkin

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