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. 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. 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. Indeed, it is reserved especially for Shabbat, as it is primarily a prayer for those who study the Torah, which was given on Shabbat. It is also suggested that Yekum Purkan is recited only on Shabbat in order to recall that the Exilarch would be present in the synagogue on Shabbat morning and reciting it then was considered to be a gesture of honor towards him.
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. In fact, some sources teach that Hebrew was all but forgotten in Babylon. 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. 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.
Please submit any Yekum Purkan “Factoids” and “Halachatoids” you might have. For an exhaustive treatment of Yekum Purkan see: Rivevot Ephraim 6:455.
 Rema, OC 284:6.  Mishna Berura 101:19; Rivevot Ephraim 1:216:1.  Siddur Harashban 20b; Rokeaich 53.  Ziv Hashabbat p.183.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exilarch.  Sefer Yuchsin p.121; Safra Chadeta p. 91 cited in Rite and Reason p. 252.  Siddur Otzar Yisrael vol. 1 p. 704.  Torat Moshe, Bereishit 45:12. (Source provided by R’ Yonatan Pachas)  Taz, OC 96:1; Mishna Berura 96:2; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 286:3.  Rivevot Ephraim 4:97:1.