Purim Guide for 2011
By Uri Lampoon
When is Purim this Year?
This year, 2011, Purim is on Sunday, the 20th of March. Like all Jewish holidays, celebrations begin at night, March 19th and continues through to Sunday night time. Since this begins at the conclusion of the Shabbat, we must wait for the Shabbat to end before beginning our festivities.
Sushsan Purim, the Purim that is celebrated in Jerusalem (and other walled cities that have an ancient tradition of being enclosed
with a wall from the time of Joshua) is on Monday, March 21st) meaning that it starts on nightfall of Sunday night, the 20th of March. Their celebration continues untill nightfall Monday the 21st of March.
The fast of Esther this year is pushed up to Thursday, the 17th of March. The fast is from sunrise to sunset only. Anyone who is in ill health or suffers pain from the fast may break the fast and eat.
What are the basic things to do on Purim?
There are four basic thing to do on Purim and they begin with
|Megilah||The book of Esther
||The book of Esther is read twice, once in the evening and again in the morning.
|Mishloah Maanot||Sending food to our friends
||We send two different potions of food to our friends
|Matanot Le'evyonim||Giving money to poor persons
||We give charity to needy people|
|Mishteh||Having a good drinking party
||We have a festive meal during the day, replete with great wine!
When is the Fast of Esther?
It is normally on the day before Purim, but this year, 2011, Purim starts on Saturday night, the fast can not be on the Shabbat. Since if the fast is observed on Friday, it would mean entering the holy Shabbat fasting, the fast is pushed up to Thursday. The fast begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. Check your local papers for times or ask at the local synagogue. Everyone, whether they celebrate regular Purim on Sunday or Shushan Purim on Monday, fasts on the same day.
Does everyone have to fast?
Yes, everyone should fast, but it is a very lenient fast. If you have difficulties fasting and experience some pain, you may break your fast. Pregnant and nursing mothers do not fast nor do children. Older children, one or two years before their bar or bat mitzvah may begin to fast but are not obligated to complete it.
When is the Megillah read?
The Megillah is read twice. It is first read on the night of Purim and then read a second time on the day of Purim. You should contact your local synagogue for reading times. Remember that most cities start Purim on Saturday night, but there are exceptions, like Jerusalem, where the reading begins on Sunday night.
Do people dress up in costumes on Purim?
Children have the custom to wear costumes and many drunken men
seem to have taken hold of this custom also. The custom began in Shushan the ancient capitol of Persia when the Jews found favor with King Achasveous and were given permission to liquidate their enemies, many non-Jews dressed up like Jews,therefore it is customary to wear costumes on Purim.
What exactly is the portions of food (Mishloach Manot)
to be sent to my friends?
You can send anything that is edible with out preparation. There should be two different types of foods. As an example: a bottle
of wine and cake, or a can of sardines and a bag of popcorn. Even though asprin and alka-selzer are a welcome relief, they do not qualify as two portions of food, since they are not food.
The purpose sending food portions to our friends and neighbors is to spread the simcha (happiness). The minimum
is two items to one friend, but many people try to send many food items to many of their friends. It is a good time to bring people closer together.
What about giving charity?
Giving charity is considered a really big thing. How can we sit down to have a great time if another person is suffering due to financial straits and can not enjoy a good meal? The minimum requirement of giving charity is to give money to two needy persons. The more you give, the more praiseworthy you are. On Purim, we give to whom ever asks for money, hence the custom of Purim
gelt (money) for children.
How is the meal to be conducted?
Invite over your family and friends. Get as many friends, neighbors and relatives together as possible. Prepare a scrumptious meal. The Purim meal should be by day; however it is considered proper to eat something special at night also. There are those who have a special milk meal at night. By day the meal should be with meal or fowl. Don't be embarrassed to ask your guests to bring over a salad or
cake. Have plenty of wine on hand. Make sure you invite everyone that you can think of. Call me up or send me an e-mail and invite me to your feastive meal, too! How could you have such a nice meal and not invite a nice person like me??
When should the meal take place?
The meal is on Purim day. Even if you ate and drank like a truly rightgeous person Purim night, you are required to have another meal by day. Many have the custom to have it in the afternoon since the morning is generally busy with reading the Megillah, sending food portions, and giving charity to needy people.
Is it true that we are to get drunk on Purim?
Yup! Unless drinking is difficult for you or if you may do some improper act. Many people just drink more than their normal limit. If a person normally will have two glasses of wine, so he has three. Woman do not drink or get drunk as this is considered immodest.
May one drink other alcoholic beverages besides wine?
Yes, however, wine is the best, since the miracle of Purim came though drinking wine. Some people prefer other drinks such as beer, vodka, whiskey and/or alka-seltzer.
How much are we to drink on Purim?
We are to drink until we do not know the difference between "Blessed is Mordachai" and "Cursed is Haman". Of course, if you don't know the difference to begin with then you should not even begin to drink! So the first thing to do is to read the Megilah and know a bit about Mordachai and Haman!
from the March 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine