The Purim Feast

The reason that the Sages instituted drinking and feasting on Purim and not on Chanukah is as follows: In the days of Mordechai and Esther, the Jews sinned through eating, by partaking of the feast of Ahashuerus. This was physical sin, and therefore they were endangered, measure for measure, with physical annihilation. In contrast, in the days of the Hasmoneans, the Jews sinned through almost assimilating into Greek culture and thereby ignoring the study of the Torah; therefore they were endangered not physically, but spiritually, in that the Greeks wanted to outlaw the practice of Judaism. Therefore, the commemoration of the miracle of Chanukah is chiefly through vocal observance: praise and thanksgiving, which emphasize the spiritual. Purim is chiefly observed through drinking and eating, which emphasize the physical. (B'nei Yissachar, by Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech from Dinov)

Purim-Related Observances:

  • Shabbat Zachor ["Shabbat of Remembering"]

This is the only Shabbat each year that every man and woman is obligated (according to most authorities) by Torah law to go to shul. On this day, a section of the Torah, called "Zachor" [in Hebrew, "Remember"] is appended to the weekly Torah reading. By hearing it read publicly on the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim, we fulfill the Torah commandment in it: "Remember what Amalek [the ancestor and inspiration of Haman, the villain of Purim] did to you". (Deut. 25:17-19)

Anyone who is unable to be present at this reading should make an extra effort to hear the Torah reading (Ex. 17) that takes place immediately before the morning Megilla reading on Purim, or at least to hear Zachor read when it comes up in the regular Shabbat cycle of Torah readings, as the final verses of the portion Ki Teitzei.

  • Fast of Esther ["Shabbat of Remembering"]

The fast starts before dawn and ends after dark, and entails no eating or drinking. There are special services at synagogue both morning and afternoon. The money saved by not eating should go to charity; the time, to Torah-study and mitzvot-performance.

  • Purim

1. Hear a public reading of the Scroll of Esther in the evening and again during the day.

2. Give money to at least two needy individuals. (If you don't encounter anyone that qualifies, put the money in a safe place until you do.)

3. Send (via a third party) a gift of two or more kinds of ready-to-eat foods and/or drink to at least one friend (not a relative).

4. Celebrate at a festive day-time meal with bread, good food, and plenty of wine. The Talmud and Codes of Law instruct us to drink until we can no longer differentiate between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman"! (A few authorities opine that the minimum obligation is to drink only "a bit more than what one is used to". Looking ahead to Passover night, perhaps the quantity implied is 4 cups plus!)

5. Add "Al HaNissim" to the daily Standing Prayers and to the Blessings-After-Meals. (See daily prayerbook in the Thanksgiving/Modim section of the Standing Prayer.)

  • Shushan Purim

Inhabitants of cities that were important enough to be surrounded by walls at the time of the Jews' entrance into the Holy Land at the time of Joshua celebrate Purim one day later than everyone else (see Esther 9:17-19). The prime example is that of Jerusalem. The status of Safed and several other cities in Israel is unclear, so the day is celebrated somewhat in addition to regular-Purim, "just-in-case."