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Purim

begins in the evening of Saturday, 23 March 2024

and ends in the evening of Sunday, 24 March 2024

The Fast of Esther is on Thursday 21 March 2024

FAST of ESTHER
Starts: Thursday March 21st - 4.22am
Ends: Thursday March 21st - 6.56pm
Mad Hatters TeaParty
Mad Hatters Tea Party
Purim photos

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Purim Snapshot

 

The name Purim comes from the word pur ("lot"). This refers to the lot which Haman cast to determine the date on which to annihilate the Jews. In His great compassion, Hashem saved the Jews and turned their distress into a great salvation.

 

The 14th of Adar was set a day of feasting and joy, and thankgiving to Hashem for his deliverance.

 

There are four mitzvot of Purim - 1) Reading the Megillah, 2) Seudat Purim, 3) Mishloach Manot and 4) Matanot L'evyonim.

 

Reading the Megillah

Megillat Esther describes the events surrounding Haman's decree against the Jews and the manner in which Hashem saved his people. The Megillah is read as an expression of our gratitude to Hashem for his kindness towards His people, hence, we do not say Hallel on Purim as the reading of the Megillah serves as our praise.

 

The Megillah is read twice, once at night and once in the morning. A kosher scroll which was written on parchment must be used.

 

One must hear every word when the Megillah is read. If one did not hear a few words, he should immediately read them from the text in front of them, or recite them by heart. In this case, one must recite the Megillah until he reaches the word the Reader is reciting. This is because one must read every word of the Megillah in the correct order. One must not talk when the Megillah is being read, this is because not only does it disturb the reading for oneself but it also might disturb the reading for others and stops them from fulfilling the mitzvah. For this reason we must also be careful in how we 'bang' to wipe our Haman's name since we must ensure we do not bang over any other word of the Megillah or continue to bang once the Reader has carried on in case we miss any words.

 

Three blessings are recited before reading the Megillah:

 

Asher kideshanu b'mitzvotav vetzivanu al mikra Megillah ("Who has commanded us to read the Megillah")

She'asah nissim la'avoteinu bayamim ha-heim bazman hazeh ("Who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this time")

Shehechiyanu - Sephardic Jews only recite Shehechiyanu before the Megillah at night.

 

When reciting the blessings and reading the Megillah, the Reader must intend to exempt all the listeners, and those who are listening must intend to fulfil the mitzvah of reading the Megillah. Another reason why we must not talk during the reading of the Megillah is because we will cause a disturbance (hefsek) in our fulfilment of the mitzvah as from the time we hear the blessing until the time we complete the mitzvah there must not be any separation - just like with Shofar on Rosh Hashanah or washing for Hamotzi.

 

When recites (or hears) the blessing of Shehechiyanu before the morning Megillah reading, he should intend for it to apply to the other special mitzvot of the day as well.

 

The blessing 'harav et riveinu' ("Who pleads our cause") is recited after the Megillah is read with a minyan.

 

In the Megillah itself, the Megillah is decribed as the 'letter of Purim' (Esther 9:26), therefore, it is customary for the Reader to fold the Megillah like a letter (i.e. one section on top of the other), before beginning to read the scroll. Those who follow along in a scroll during the Megillah reading do not have to do this.

 

Even though the mitzvot of Purim are positive mitzvot which are bound by a time limit, Women must still observe these mitzvot since the women were also included in the decree of annihilation and in the miraculous salvation. (So there should be no talking in the Ladies Gallery either!)

 

Al Hanissim, Kriat HaTorah and tefillah on Purim

 

Al Hanissim, with the paragraph 'Bimei Mordechai...', is addd in the blessing of Modim in the Amidah and in Nodeh Lecha in Birkat Hamazon.

 

'V'atah Kadosh' is recited after the Megillah is read at night. This year, since Purim is on Motzai Shabbat, we also recite 'Viyhi Noam' before 'V'ata Kadosh.'

 

Haman was a descendent of Amalek, therefore 'Vayavo Amalek' (Shemot 17:8-16) which tells of how Amalek first attacked the Bnei Yisrael after the exodus from Egypt, is read from the Torah before the morning Megillah reading.

 

Tachanun and Lamnatzeach before U'va Letzion are not said on either Purim or Shushan Purim.

 

Seudat Purim 

Purim is a "day of feasting and joy." It is a mitzvah to make a festive meal during the daytime. It is customary to begin the meal after Mincha. One must make sure that most of the meal is eaten during the day. If the meal lasts into the night, Al Hanissim is still recited in Birkat Hamazon.

 

The Seudat Purim is celebrated amidst great joy, with more wine served than usual. Our Sages said "One must drink (wine) on Purim until he cannot distinguish between 'Blessed be Mordechai' and 'Cursed be Haman.' This does not mean, however, excessive drinking of wine so that one might come to undesirable behaviour; or that he might forget the required brachot or prayers. It is sufficient to drink a little more than is his usual habit, and to take a nap. He thereby fulfils the precept of the Sages: For one who sleeps does not know the difference between a curse and blessing.

 

During this meal one should praise and thank Hashem for His deliverance and compassion during the time of Haman's decree. It is proper to study Torah before the meal begins.

Mishloach Manot

It is a mitzvah to send gifts of food to fellow Jews. These gifts are called Mishloach Manot. This mitzvah increases friendship and unity among Jews. The mitzvah of Mishloach Manot should be performed during daytime.

 

It is obligatory to send a gift which consists of at least two types of food to another person. One can only give foods that are edible or drinkable without further cooking or preparation. One may therefore send cooked meats or fish, pastry goods, fruit, sweets, wine and other drinks. Whilst it is good to send portions to as many friends as possible, it is preferable to give more gifts to the poor than to friends.

 

Even a poor person is required to fulfil the mitzvah of 'Mishloach Manot.' If one is unable to do so directly, he may exchange his own food for that of his friend; both of whom would then fulfil their obligations.

 

The mitzvah of Mishloach Manot may not be fulfilled with money, clothing and the like, but only with foods or beverages.

 

Matanot L'evyonim

It is also a special mitzvah to give gifts to the poor on Purim. This mitzvah is called matanot l'evyonim. We do this mitzvah by giving gifts to at least two poor people, the gift should be either money or food.

 

The Rambam writes:

 

"It is preferable for a person to give many gifts to the poor rather than to make an extravagant meal or send many portions of food to his friends..." (Hilchot Megillah 2:17)

This article has been adapted from Shaarei Halacha by Rabbi Zeev Greenwald and ou.org

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