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 PURIM GUIDE

Compiled by Rabbi Pinchas Allouche

 

INTRODUCTION
Why Do We Celebrate Purim? 

In the Story of Purim, an all too familiar scenario arises.  A despotic agitator in a position of power became obsessed with the destruction of our people. This time it was during the period between the destruction of the First Temple and the building of the Second Temple (fifth century BCE) that the Jews came very close to being annihilated.  Haman, the powerful royal advisor, managed to persuade Achashverosh, the King of the vast Persian Empire, to endorse the mass murder of all of the Jewish people living in his realm.  Because of the hidden intervention of G-d, using Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai as His messengers, the Jews were spared. The nation of Israel was then able to defend themselves against their enemies.
 

In order to commemorate these miraculous turn of events, we celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar with feasts, sending gifts of food to our friends and tzedaka money to the needy, and with the reading of the Megillah, the story of Purim.
 

 How Do We Celebrate Purim?

There are four mitzvoth that are absolutely essential to the observance of Purim. They are the reading of the Megillah, the festive meal, the sending of food gifts and giving gifts to the poor. In this guide, we will elaborate on all of the laws and customs that pertain to the days before Purim and to the very day of Purim. 

 
FAST OF ESTHER 

To commemorate the day of prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held at Esther's request. When Purim is on Shabbat, we fast the Thursday beforehand from approximately an hour before sunrise until nightfall (approximately 40 minutes after sunset).

Adding the Anenu prayer in the Amidah prayer, additional fast day prayers, and the special Torah reading for fast days are required on the Fast of Esther.

 

SHABBAT ZACHOR
 

The Shabbat that precedes Purim is called Shabbat Zachor. Zachor means to remember and the aliya for the maftir is read "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, upon your departure from Egypt... You shall erase the memory of Amalek from the heavens, you shall not forget."  We are thus commanded to remember Amalek's cruel and cowardly attack upon the children of Israel following their departure from Egypt. The Sages tell us that "remember" refers to the oral obliteration and "You shall not forget" relates to the obliteration of Amalek in our heart. In order to fulfill the commandment, we read this passage from a Torah scroll, once a year, on the Shabbat before Purim so that wiping out Amalek is adjacent to the wiping out of Haman, a descendant of Amalek. When the name of Amalek is read, all present in the kehila will bang their hands and stomp their feet in order to blot out the name of Amalek. I encourage all of you, men and women, young and old to come to our Synagogue this Shabbat at Congregation Beth Tefillah, 10636 N. 71st Way, Scottsdale, 85253, to fulfill this important Mitzvah of "Zachor", and... to enjoy our UPLIFTING SERVICES & LUNCHEON. The reading will take place at approximately 10:45am.

 
PURIM DAY
 
THE MITZVAH OF HALF A SHEKEL

Just before the reading of the Megillah, it is customary to give three halves of the coin that is the basis of the local currency (in the US: app. 6 quarters or 3 half dollars). The reason for the half-shekel is in memory of the half-shekel that was given by all Jews when the Temple still stood and whose collection was announced on the first of Adar. One of our congregants will bring a plate around on Saturday evening, March 11, at the beginning of the services after Shabbat.  On the plate will be three half-dollars. We will then drop our contribution onto the plate and lift the three half dollars on the plate up in the air for a moment before dropping them back on the plate. One gives the three half-shekels for each of the members of the household including, in the case of a pregnant woman, for the unborn child. Others have the custom to pick up the three coins as many times as one has children.

The reason we use three half-shekels is that the term "Terumah" (contribution) is mentioned three times in the Torah portion of Ki-Tissa, in the account of the mitzvah of the half-shekel.

 THE FOUR ESSENTIAL MITZVOT OF PURIM


1) Listen To The Megillah

To relive the miraculous events of Purim, we listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) twice: once on Purim eve, and again on Purim day. During the Megillah reading, we will simultaneously have a unique slide-show for kids where they will be able to follow the story of Purim with animated pictures.

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) and stamp one's feet to "drown out" 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. 
The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy on the very day of Purim. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least several coins into a charity box. As in the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah. Rabbi Allouche will be happy to direct your gift to a genuinely needy family in our own community.  Please make a point of seeing the Rabbi before or on Purim.
 

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.

Send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage), to at least one friend on Purim day. Men should send to men and women to women. It is customary that the gifts are delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.
 

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 or other inebriating drinks at this meal, more than usual. This meal must begin prior to nightfall.

Wed, December 13 2017 25 Kislev 5778