Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
At the time you will be reading this, we will be close to the celebration of the joyous holiday of Purim, the 14th of Adar. I share with you the mitzvot (commandments) which we fulfill on, and in honor of the holiday.
1.) The Shabbat before Purim is always Parshat Zachor, in which we are commanded to remember what the nation of Amalek did to B’nai Yisrael (the Children of Israel) when we departed Egypt, at the end of Parshat B’Shallach in Sefer Shemot (the book of Exodus). This is a Mitzvah D’Oraita, (a biblically-ordained mitzvah) agreed upon by all meforshim, (commnetaries) among the four special parshiyot: Parshat Shekalim, Parshat Zachor, Parshat Parah, and Parshat HaChodesh.
We must hear every word of Parshat Zachor, with no interruptions. There are even some opinions that say the reading of Parshat Zachor must be heard within one’s own nusach, one’s own pronunciation, one’s own tradition.
We experience the repetition of the word: “Zecher,” (remember) as there is a disagreement about the pronunciation: either with the vowel: “tzayreh,” (with the “AY” sound) or a “segel,” (the “EH” sound); In order to ensure that we have fulfilled the mitzvah, we read it both ways, just to be sure.
2.) On either the 13th of Adar (or the 11th of Adar when Purim is on a Sunday), we commemorate Taanit Esther (the Fast of Esther), as we fast one day in place of the three days Esther and the Jews fasted in the actual Purim story. This fast day is a “half fast day,” which ends following the reading of the Megillah. There can be an exception for completing the fast for those who are weak, frail, or elder AND for the Megillah reader, depending on his strength, energy or disposition.
3.) On Purim: there are four distinct mitzvot to be fulfilled: hearing the entire Megillah twice: once in the evening and once in the morning. Both recitations of the Megillah are said with the appropriate brachot (blessings) before and after the reading. Every person over the age of majority must hear every word. There is a misconception of “drowning out the name of Haman,” as people mistakenly believe we drown out the recitation of Haman’s name when it comes up in the reading. Since his name IS part of the Megillah, we must hear his name as part of the text as much as any other word found in the Megillah. We therefore make noise AFTER his name or otherwise we would NOT be hearing every word.
4.) Mishloach Manot: Sending of food gifts to friends/neighbors. The food gift must be two different types of ready-to-eat food (requiring 2 different brachot) during the day on Purim day. The Mishloach Manot must be sent. This can be done by having our children jumping out of our vehicles and delivering the food package by hand.
5.) Matanot L’Evyonim: This is a special Purim tzedakah (charity contribution) on Purim day to two different poor people or organizations. The amount of money equal to a modest but decent Purim Seudah (meal). Organizations servicing the poor ensure that contributions made to them will be delivered on Purim day.
6.) Purim Seudah (special Purim meal) is celebrated on Purim day, in the late afternoon. The meal typically includes bread, something of a fancy meal and and an atmosphere of joy and celebration. There are many authorities that hold that there should be liquor present and/or consumed at the meal. There are clearly different opinions on this.
7.) The day after Purim is Shushan Purim. This is celebrated only in Jerusalem. There are no real traditions observed outside of Jerusalem on this day with the exceptions of not fasting (if one needed to fast), no recitation of the prayer: Tachanun, and a few subtle differences in a funeral service.
Wishing you all a joyous and festive Purim holiday,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin