Purim Guide for 2008
By Larry Fine
The Shabbat before Purim is called Parshat Zachor. On this Shabbat we take out from the holy Ark an extra Torah scroll. In this Torah Scroll we read the portion about Amalek. It is a mitzvah to hear this reading therefore women and children come to the synagogue to hear it. Since it is a mitzvah, the custom is that the congregation rises, faces the Torah and stands silently while listening to the reading.
The thirteenth of Adar, (in a leap year, Adar II) the day before Purim, is a fast day. This is called the fast of Esther in remembrance of the three day fast that the Jews of Shushan fasted during the time of Haman's decree against the Jews. If Purim is on Sunday, the fast of Esther is observed on the Thursday before Purim.
On Purim evening and also on Purim day the Megilah is read. Every one, men and women, are obligated to hear it. Children who are old enough to appreciate the mitzvah and behave are brought in order that they may learn to perform this great mitzvah. Every world of the Megilah reading must be heard.
During the meals on Purim a special prayer is added to the blessings after eating bread "al-hanisim" which relates the miracles that G-d performed for us during this time. This is also added during the silent pray on Purim.
On the day of Purim, portions of food are send. A minimum of one gift containing two different kinds of edible foods must be sent. Many more may be sent and this is the prevailing custom.
One the day of Purim charity must be given to two different poor people. It is considered particularly important to be generous to the poor and to give as much as possible for there is nothing as acceptable to G-d than bringing relief to the poor and needy. On Purim we do not excessively check to ascertain that the person asking for charity is really needy, rather all who put out their hands for charity are given some money.
On Purim day every one is commanded to have a special meal. There is no requirement to have one in the evening too as there is with other holidays. The prevailing custom is to invite one's friends and neighbors to participate. Wine and spirits are served at this meal.
In Jerusalem, as well as other ancient walled cities from the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated not on the fourteenth of Adar like the rest of the world, but on the fifteenth of Adar. This is called Shushan Purim, the reason being that since during the time of Esther, the rest of the Jews outside of the capital city of Shushan found respite from their enemies on the fourteenth of Adar. In Shushan the capital of Persia, the Jews had more enemies and the fighting lasted one extra day. They then celebrated on the fifteenth of Adar. Therefore all cities that were walled cities like Shushan, (and Jerusalem) celebrate Purim a day later.
This year, 2008, the fifteenth of Adar fall out on the Shabbat. Since the sages forbade reading the Megilah on the Shabbat, Purim is observed over a three day period. The fast of Esther is like every one else on Thursday before Purim. On Friday the Megilah is read and charity is dispensed. On the Shabbat, Purim is mentioned in the prayers and in the grace after the meal. On Sunday, Jerusalemites celebrate the Purim meal and send food portions to their friends. This is called Purim Mishulash, the three day Purim.
* * * * *
For more Purim Articles, see our Purim Archives
from the February 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine