Contribute Matanot La’Evyonim Money below: (See # 3 below for more info.)

Guide to the Mitzvot of Purim

The 4 Mitzvot of Purim

      1. Reading the Megillah (Scroll of Esther)

The Scroll of Esther (Megillah) is read on Purim night, and again the next day. We read it in the synagogue, because in a larger crowd greater publicity is given to the miracle of our being saved. This year we will have multiple outdoor readings and we will encourage families to sit together (as per the Psak of Rabbi Hershel Schachter) in order to allow for social distancing.

The entire Megillah must be read from a kosher scroll, written with proper ink, parchment, etc. Every word must be clearly heard. We will be reading the Megillah outdoors at the Young Israel Aish parking lot on February 25 at 6:50 PM and at 8:00 PM; and then again on February 26 at 7:00 AM in shul and at noon in the parking lot. (Note: You only need to hear the Megillah once at night and once during the day. We have multiple readings for your convenience and to meet Covid guidelines.)

The custom is to make noise at the mention of Haman’s name, in keeping with the command to wipe out the remembrance of Amalek (Deut. 25:17-19). Similarly, the Shabbat before Purim is called Shabbat Zachor, because the Maftir portion features the command to remember (zecher) Amalek.

     2. Mishloach Manot – Sending Food to Friends

On the day of Purim (not at night), we send two items of food to at least one person – Mishloach Manot. One should send ready-to-eat (i.e. not raw) foods or drinks. Ideally, the food should be of a respectable quantity according to the standards of the sender and recipient.

The reason for this mitzvah is to ensure that everyone has sufficient food for the Purim feast. Furthermore, this increases love and friendship between Jews, providing an ideal opportunity to embrace our fellow Jews – irrespective of any religious or social differences. (After all, Haman did not discriminate among us.) For this reason, it is particularly nice to give gifts to those who you may have had an argument with, or someone new in the community who needs a new friend.

     3. Matanot La’evyonim – Gifts to the Poor

On the day of Purim, it is also a special mitzvah to give money to at least two poor people – Matanot La’evyonim. Each poor person should be given at least the amount of food that is usually eaten at a regular meal, or the amount of money required to buy this. One certainly fulfills this obligation by giving $20.

It is preferable to do this after the Megillah reading, so that the blessing “She’hecheyanu” can apply to it.

If you do not know who is qualified to receive the gifts, then give the money to an authorized charity collector who will distribute the money on Purim for the purpose of fulfilling this mitzvah. The money may even be given to a charity collector before Purim, if he will distribute it on Purim day. At Young Israel Aish we do this by contributing to the organization Od Yosef Chai which gives out these funds to poor families in Israel.

It is better to spend more on gifts to the poor (Matanot La’evyonim) than on Mishloach Manot. There is no greater joy than gladdening the hearts of orphans, widows and poor people. The Jewish people are one unit – we can’t possibly enjoy the holiday if poor people don’t have enough.

     4. Rejoicing & the Purim Meal

The day’s grand finale is the festive meal. The Purim seudah (feast) should begin during the daytime and extend until after dark.

We eat our fill and pamper our bodies – because it is the Jewish bodies that Haman sought to destroy. Also, we are obliged to imbibe alcohol (responsibly, of course) until one doesn’t know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” According to Ashkenazic tradition, this means that one should drink more than what he or she is accustomed to drinking. This will cause him or her to fall asleep during which time one doesn’t know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

We dress up in costumes, to let our defenses down and open up to the deeper reality of ourselves and our world. All our current problems and life’s imperfections blend into good, until they become one unified expression of the Almighty’s infinite perfection. Since Purim falls out on Friday this year one should conclude the Purim meal no later than 2:44 PM in order to enter Shabbat with an appetite. 

On Purim we add “Al Ha’nisim” – an extra paragraph which describes the Purim miracle – to the Amidah prayer, and also to the Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals).

Wishing you & yours a Purim Sameach!