Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:

With the holiday of Purim quickly approaching, I shared with you the following points and reminders concerning the holiday which I hope will be helpful to everyone in making the celebration of Purim festive and joyful.

In order to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Megillah in a complete manner, all Jews – men and women, over the age of bar or bat mitzvah, (12-years old for females, 13-years old for males), must hear the complete and accurate reading of the Megillah from a kosher, handwritten Megillah live and in-person, NOT via microphone, Zoom, or Skype.

The entire Megillah must be heard without interruption and without the “blotting out” the name of Haman, which CAN take place, following the recitation of his name.

It may be interesting to note that the Megillah is named for Esther and not for Mordechai, because Mordechai is the featured personality in the Megillah in the beginning of the story; Esther is the featured personality in the 2nd half of the story. Esther is mentioned when Hashem sends his salvation, saving the Jewish people, thus the Megillah is named for Esther.

It may be interesting to note that in Chapter 10 of the Megillah, we learn that only “MOST” of the Jews liked Mordechai instead of “ALL” the Jews. We learn that this is because Mordechai got involved in the government of Persia. So much for our respect and admiration for those who represent us in government!

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, (commentaries) among the four special parshiyot: Parshat Shekalim, Parshat Zachor, Parshat Parah, and Parshat HaChodesh.

All Jews, men and women, 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.

In the reading of Parshat Zachor, 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.

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 elderly AND for the Megillah reader, depending on his strength, energy or disposition.

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,” (to which I allude above), 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.

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.

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. Checks can be written to charities, shuls, or yeshivot, or other agencies who ensure that the poor Jews of the city will be supported by the collected funds for this purpose.

Purim Seudah (the special Purim meal) is celebrated on Purim day, in the late afternoon. The meal typically includes bread, something of a fancy meal 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.

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.

Robin and I wish everyone a very happy and joyous Purim.

With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin