Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends and families:
As we prepare for the immensely joyful holiday of Purim, I share with you the following points to help you in your celebrations and to make clear the obligations of the holiday:
It is no surprise that one of the more prominent mitzvot (commandments) of the holiday is to hear the Megillah two times, read properly and fully from a kosher Megillah.
Baruch Hashem, we are living in a time when the reading of the Megillah can be heard almost around the clock in a wide variety of locations, helping us fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Megillah in the evening of Purim and then again, the next day.
It is interesting to note that the Megillah is named for Esther (“Megillat Esther”) and not Mordechai, but there is an interesting reason for this: Mordechai is the featured personality in the Megillah in the beginning of the story; Esther is the featured personality in the second half of the story. SHE is mentioned when Hashem sends his salvation and saves the Jewish people so the sages thought it most proper for the Megillah to be named for her.
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. 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.
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.
The mitzvah of Mishloach Manot is the sending of food gifts to friends or 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.
The mitzvah of Matanot L’Evyonim is a special Purim tzedakah (charity contribution) on Purim day to two different poor people or organizations. The amount of money should be 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.
The mitzvah of the Purim Seudah is a special Purim meal, 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.
This Purim, may we celebrate and bring into our midst HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Almighty G-d, who saved us THEN and who saves us in EVERY Generation.
Wishing you all a very joyous Purim holiday,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin