Shabbat Parshat Zachor
On the Shabbat before Purim, there is a mitzvah to hear the maftir (the eighth and final aliyah of the Torah reading) of Zachor. This is read from the end of Parshat Ki Teitzei (Deut. 25:17-19), in which the Torah commands us to remember what the ancient nation of Amalek did against the Jewish nation when they first left Egypt (as is depicted in this reading). We do this before Purim because the wicked Haman was a descendant of Amalek. Through this maftir reading, we fulfill this mitzvah. Women should also come to hear the reading of Parshat Zachor.
Fast of Esther
The fast commemorates the Jewish custom of fasting and praying before war, which the Jews did on the 13th of Adar, as they prepared to fight against those who wished to annihilate them. Fasting is not the goal; rather it is a component of teshuva. We are reminded that when a person repents, G-d hears his cries and rescues him from danger, just as He did in the days of Purim.
This fast is observed on the day before Purim. When Purim falls out on Saturday night, since we do not fast on Shabbat (except for Yom Kippur) the fast is pushed back to the preceding Thursday.
At mincha services on the fast of Esther, every male adult contributes machatzit hashekel (half the unit of the national currency) to charity. It is a remembrance of the Biblical tax of one half-shekel toward the daily communal sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple.
If you did not do so at mincha, you can give it anytime during Purim. The minhag is to give three half-shekels (i.e. three U.S. half-dollar coins). For $1.50, you can purchase the three coins from the synagogue. You lift them out of a collection plate as an act of acquisition and then return them to the plate as the donation. The money is distributed to charity.
Those under bar mitzvah age are exempt, but a boy’s father may contribute for him. This is the preferred minhag. Once a father has done so for his son, he must continue until his son assumes this practice himself.
The Prayers of Purim
Beginning Purim night by Ma’ariv services, we insert the paragraph of Al haNisim into the Amidah in the blessing of Modim and into the Bircat haMazon in the blessing of Nodeh. If you forget to insert Al haNisim in the Amidah and realize before saying the name of Hashem at the conclusion of the blessing of Modim, you should return to Al haNisim and continue from there. If you realize afterward, you can make the insertion at the conclusion of the Amidah after the verse of “…yeh’yu l’ratzon”.
If you forget during Bircat haMazon – and have not yet said the name of Hashem at the conclusion of the blessing of Nodeh – you should return to Al haNisim and continue from there. If you realize afterward, then after the paragraph of Ba’morom, you add the following phrase: “harachaman ya’aseh lanu nisim v’nifla’ot k’shem she’asitah la’avotenu ba’yamim ha’hem ba’zman ha’zeh” and continue with Al haNisim, starting from the words “bi’mei Mordechai”. (The first paragraph, beginning with the words Al haNisim, is omitted). Even if you were to totally forget to insert Al haNisim, you need not repeat the Amidah or Bircat haMazon.
On Purim day, during the repetition of the Amidah, insertions known as Krovetz are said. There is a special Torah reading for Purim. Tachanun, Kel Erech Apayim and Lamnatzayach are not said.
Reading of the Megillah
Men and women are obligated to hear the Megillah read twice, once by night and once by day. You should wear Shabbat clothing in honor of the Megillah reading. During the daytime Megillah reading, men should wear Tallit and Tefilin.
The reader of the Megillah must have in mind that through his reading those listening will fulfill their obligation, and those listening must have in mind to fulfill their obligation through his reading.
To fulfill this mitzvah, you must hear every word in its entirety from the reader. Everyone must remain absolutely silent so they and others can hear every word. (If you think when you whisper to your neighbor no one else hears you, you’re wrong! You should even silence sneezing or coughing as much as possible). Parents are responsible to make sure their children do not disturb, and children who are too young to remain quiet should not be brought to the Megillah reading.
No one should make noise with the gragger other than when Haman’s name is mentioned (and only until the signal is given to stop).
You should not read the Megillah to yourself in a low tone, nor say aloud the words together with the reader (as some people tend to do at the end of a chapter), so as not to disturb others from hearing every word from the reader.
If you were unable to hear a word or a phrase from the reader, you can read it from the Megillah in which you are following along (even a printed one), and then continue to listen to the reader after catching up. Many people follow from a kosher Megillah scroll and read along silently to be certain they will not miss a single word. If you are following in a printed Megillah, you should not read along silently, but only the words that you miss.
Before the Megillah is read, the reader recites three brachot:
- “Al mikrah megillah”,
- “She’asah nisim”,
During the daytime reading, you should have in mind that the third bracha of She’hechiyanu not only applies to the mitzvah of Megillah reading, but also to the other mitzvot of Purim day, which are: mishloach manot (sending gifts of food); matanot la’evyonim (charity to the poor); and the se’udah (the festive meal).
After the Megillah is read, the reader recites the concluding blessing of “harav et ri’vainu”. At night, we recite the paragraphs of “Asher Hainee” and “Shoshanat Yaakov”. (By day, we omit “Asher Hainee”). Upon returning home at night after Megillah reading, it is proper to celebrate with food and drink.
On Purim day, men and women are obligated in the mitzvah of sending gifts of food. With regard to a husband and wife, there should be a mishloach manot portion designated for her to send to another woman. Another option is for them to send their mishloach manot jointly just that the food portions sent should be of a size that would be respectful for two people to send together.
The minimum requirement is to send two portions of food to one person. The portions should be two different kinds of food (they don’t have to be two foods that need different brachot) and should be ready to eat or drink.
Mishloach manot can be sent through a messenger. It is actually preferable to have mishloach manot delivered through a third person, even if the third person merely hands the mishloach manot to the recipient. This third person can even be a child. Note: There are businesses and organizations that offer mishloach manot deliveries anywhere in the country or Israel. If the delivery does not take place on Purim day, you do not fulfill the mitzvah through this. Also, there are those that give a donation in honor of another person in lieu of actual food gifts. This too cannot be a fulfillment of this mitzvah.
Mishloach manot should not be sent to a mourner, but can be sent instead to the mourner’s spouse and family.
On Purim day, men and women are obligated in the mitzvah of Matanot L’Evyonim (charity to the poor).
The minimum requirement here is to give a gift of money to two poor people, each one receiving his own gift.
The poor must receive the money on Purim day. If there are no poor where you live, you set aside on Purim day two gifts of money to be distributed to the poor when the opportunity arises – or a messenger can be sent to deliver the charity to the poor on Purim day. To facilitate this mitzvah for our congregation, Rabbi Rabinowitz will make sure that the funds are distributed on Purim day.
(Matanot la’evyonim should not be confused with ma’ot chitin, the Passover charity fund for the needy.)
Either send in your donation by mail in time to arrive on Purim, or donate the money on or before Purim at the shul. Pledges can be emailed to email@example.com or phoned in to the rabbi at 781-223-1471. All donations and pledges must be received by the Rabbi no later than 4 pm on March 5.
The Purim Se’udah
On Purim day, men and women are obligated to partake in a se’udah, a festive meal in celebration of the Purim miracle.
The se’udah must begin before sunset. The majority of the meal should be eaten before sunset and extend into the night. On Purim, we indulge in wine in an amount more than usual.
Note: The mitzvot of mishloach manot, matanot la’evyonim, and the se’udah can only be performed on Purim day and should be done after the daytime reading of the Megillah.
You should make sure that your spouse and children above bar and bat mitzvah age fulfill all the mitzvot of Purim.
The day after Purim is called Shushan Purim. In Shacharit we do not say Tachanun, El Erech A’payim and Lamnatzayach.
When Shushan Purim is on Shabbat, we omit tzidkatcha tzedek.
Fast of Esther Schedule
Wednesday, March 4
- 05:03 am – Fast begins – If you will be eating food over which we make the blessing of ‘Borei Minei Mezonot” you must begin eating prior to 30 minutes before the fast begins.
- 06:40 am – Shacharit
- 05:10 pm – Mincha
- 06:10 pm – Ma’ariv
- 06:22 pm – Fast ends
- Refrain from eating until after the Megillah reading.
- 06:25 pm – Megillah Reading
- 08:00 pm – Second Megillah Reading
Purim Day Schedule
Thursday, March 5
- 08:00 am – Shacharit
- 08:45 am – Megillah Reading
- 09:45 am – Breakfast- Hamantashen and coffee
- 10:00 am – 12:00 noon – Everyone is invited for a brunch at the home of Rabbi and Rebbetzin, 265 Fellsway East
- All checks, cash, and pledges for Matanot L’Evyonim must be in by 4:00 pm.
- 10:15 am – Second Megillah Reading
- 03:30 pm – Kid Zone!
- 03:40 pm – Third Megillah Reading
- 04:40 pm – Mincha
- 05:00 pm – Purim Se’udah
- 07:30 pm – Maariv
- There will not be a minyan for maariv earlier than 7:30 pm.