June 21, 2015

The Four Mitzvot of Purim

“They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, as as an occasion for sending gifts to open another and presents to the poor” (Megilat Esther 9:22).

On the 15th day of Adar, we celebrate Purim, a day of celebration, mirth, and joy. It tells the story of Queen Ester and Mordechai’s brave acts to save the Jewish people in the Persian Empire.

We are commanded to fulfill four separate mitzvot during the day-long celebration:

1)The Reading of the Megillah (Scroll) of Esther:
The story of Esther is traditionally read off a parchment scroll twice during the holiday, once during the first night and again the next morning. When we hear the name of the story’s villain, “Haman,” listeners make a great amount of noise to drown out his name. The mitzvah states that we are commanded to “hear” as opposed to “read” the megillah as to not require every person to read the text directly.

2) Sending Gifts of Food – Mishloach Manot
We are also commanded to send “Mishloach Manot,” gifts often composing of a basket or plate filled with tasty sweets, many times favoring “Hamantashen” triangle shaped pastries with fruit or custard filling.

3) Gifts to the Poor – Matanot La-Evyonim
Going beyond the normal mitzvah of tzedakah, we are obligated to give two gifts to at least two people in need. One should not be too exacting about our donations, meaning that we do not investigate whether the recipient is truly poor; anyone who extends their hand is given a donation. It taught that is better to donate more to the poor than to have an elaborate Purim feast or to send expensive gifts of food to friends.

4) The Purim Feast and Purim Rejoicing
The days of Purim (14 and 15 Adar) are called “days of feasting and gladness,” therefore we are commanded to have a great celebratory daytime meal on Purim. Since wine was such a crucial part of the Purim miracle, wine is drunk liberally at the Purim feast. Excessive drinking is actually a mitzvah on Purim, to the point where one cannot distinguish between “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai!” (Talmud).

by Eran Hornick

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