Purim 5770

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The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in Ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

Purim Mitzvot:

1) Listen to the Megillah

To relive the miraculous events of Purim, listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) twice: once after Shabbat, Saturday night, February 27, and again on Purim day, February 28. To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is crucial to hear every single word of the Megillah.

At certain points in the reading where Haman’s name is mentioned, it is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) to “eradicate” his evil name.

2) Give to the Needy (Matanot La’evyonim)

Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility; but on Purim it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor. Give charity to at least two, (but preferably more) needy individuals on Purim day, February 28. The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least two coins into a charity box. Even small children should be taught to fulfill this mitzvah.

3) Send Food Portions to Friends (Mishloach Manot)

On Purim we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends. On Purim day, February 28, send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage) to at least one friend.

4) Eat, Drink and be Merry

Purim should be celebrated with a special festive meal on Purim Day, at which family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. It is a mitzvah to drink wine at this meal.

5) Special Prayers (Al HaNissim,Torah reading)

On Purim we include the Al HaNissim prayer, which describes the Purim miracle, in the evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as in the Grace After Meals. In the morning service there is a special Torah reading in the synagogue (Exodus 17:8-16).

Purim Customs: Masquerades and Hamantashen

A time-honoured Purim custom is for children, and often adults too, to dress up and disguise themselves — an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised within nature. This is also the significance behind a traditional Purim food, the hamantash — a pastry whose filling is hidden within a three-cornered crust.

Pre- and Post-Purim Observances:

Torah Reading of “Zachor”

On the Shabbat before Purim (this year, February 27) a special portion of the Torah called Zachor (“Remember”) is read, in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of the nation of Amalek (Haman’s ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.

The Fast of Esther

To commemorate the prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held during the Purim story, we fast on the day before Purim. This year, because the day before Purim is Shabbat, we fast on the Thursday beforehand – on February 25. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise and lasts until nightfall.

The “Half Coins” (Machatzit Hashekel)

It is a tradition to give three coins in “half” denominations – e.g., three fifty cent coins – to charity, to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal offerings in the time of the Holy Temple. This custom, usually performed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the “Fast of Esther,” or before the reading of the Megillah.

Shushan Purim

In certain ancient walled cities – Jerusalem is the primary example — Purim is observed a day later on the 15th of Adar. This is to commemorate the fact that in the ancient walled city of Shushan, where the battles between the Jews and their enemies extended for an additional day, the original Purim celebration was held not on the 14th but on the 15th of Adar.

The 15th of Adar is thus called “Shushan Purim” and is a day of joy and celebration also in those places where it is not observed as the actual Purim.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach

This text and more about Purim from chabad.org


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