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Purim Customs and laws


Parshat Zachor - On the Shabbat before Purim, there is an obligation for everyone to hear the special maftir, that of Parshat Zachor (Devarim 25:17-19). It describes both the commandment to remember the evil the Amalekite nation perpetrated against the Jews on their way out of Egypt, and to obliterate their name in future generations. In order to fulfill the obligation, one must hear every single word read in public.

Taanit Esther - Taanit Esther is the fast that commemorates the three days fast observed by the Jews in the Book of Esther. In the time of Mordechai and Esther this fast took place on the first three days of Pesach, but since fasting on Pesach is not permitted, the fast is linked to Purim. Generally The Fast of Esther is observed the day before Purim and is followed by the Megillas reading on Purim. As Purim falls out on Saturday night this year, Taanit Esther is moved to Thursday, March 13th. The fast begins at 5:20 AM and ends at nightfall. This year one may eat as soon as the fast ends. Unlike years when Taanit Esther immediately precedes Purim and we do not eat before Megillah.

Machatzit HaShekel - Machatzit HaShekel refers to the Biblically ordained annual giving of a silver half shekel by Jews. This money was collected during the month of Adar and used for upkeep in the Temple, specifically for communal sacrifices. It was collected from all people, but was obligatory on all males above 20 years of age. Today, this mitzvah is commemorated on the afternoon of Taanit Esther, at or before Minchah, or at the latest, on Purim morning.

The Mitzvah is performed by contributing at sum of money in exchange for three silver coins. The three silver coins are then lifted to acquire ownership, and then contributed. In this manner, everyone can perform the mitzvah with the same coins.

Matanot L’Evyonim - The most important mitzvah of Purim, giving gifts to the poor is the way the Jews celebrated their victory over Haman. Note that this obligation is independent of the Machatzit haShekel, and it must be performed on Purim day itself. The amount given should be sufficient to assist at least two different poor people with their Purim meal.

Reading the Megillah - It is incumbent on every man and woman to hear the Book of Esther read in the evening and the morning. One must hear every word of the Megillah both times. The Megillah is read from a scroll written on parchment paper. The megilla is stored a Megillah holder. Check out our selection of Megillah holders here.

During the Megillah Reading, each time the name Haman is heard we are to make noise so to erase the name of Haman, The noisemakers we use are called Graggers or Raashan. For a selection of Raashanim click here

Al Hanissim - A special Purim text for Al Hanissim is included in all prayers, as well as Birkat Hamazon. If it is forgotten, one is not required to repeat the prayer in question.

Torah Reading - On Purim morning, we read of the attack on the Jewish people by the Amalekites, and how Moshe led the Jewish people to victory (Exodus 17:8-16).

Mishloach Manot - One must send a minimum of two different prepared/cooked foods, to at least one other Jewish person. If one’s funds are limited, it is better to fulfill the minimum requirement for Mishloach Manot and donate more to Matanot Le’Evyonim. 

Mishloach Manos is very often sent in decorative Purim boxes. We have a selection of Mishloach Manot boxes to enhance your Mishloach Manot. check it out here

Purim Seudah - It is a requirement to have a festive meal for Purim. One should eat bread, and the meal should ideally contain meat products.

Drinking on Purim- Because wine played an important role in the miracle of Purim, it plays a role in our celebration of it as well. To fulfill this requirement, one should drink slightly more wine at the Purim Seudah than one normally does at a meal, and then, if possible, take a short nap. In our observance of Purim, we must consider the unfortunate reality that alcohol abuse has become a serious problem in the contemporary Orthodox community, and conduct ourselves accordingly. Moreover, drinking other hard beverages does not fulfill the requirement to drink wine. Indeed, the Chafetz Chaim writes (Biur Halacha, OC 695:2): “We are not commanded to reduce ourselves to levels of drunkenness, but rather to rejoice in a manner that will lead us to the love of God.” In our community, which is blessed with so many wonderful children, safety and responsibility must be given extra and paramount concern. As a matter of Torah and secular law, alcohol must not be given to minors, and adults should take special on Purim to consume alcohol minimally and responsibly.

Torah Study and Prayer- Purim is a day of joy that is celebrated through merrymaking and laughter. However, in some significant ways, Purim is no joke. The Talmud tells us that the Jewish people re-accepted the Torah on Purim, and therefore, even with all the other mitzvot one must perform on Purim, it is a most auspicious and effective day for Torah study. Moreover, many classic sources tell us that Purim represents a special opportunity for one’s prayers to be answered.