QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT PURIM

JEWS ALL OVER THE WORLD WILL BE CELEBRATING THE WONDERFUL PURIM HOLIDAY

 

Here are some QUESTIONS and ANSWERS ABOUT PURIM, as written by rabbi Sjimon den Hollander PVAO Chairman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PURIM March 20-21 2019 CELEBRATION

 

Question:

What are the most important things to observe on Purim?

Answer:

There are four obligations to fulfill on Purim:
1) Listening to the Meghilla
2) A Sengudat Mitzwa (A festive meal)
3) Mishloach Manot (Sending food)
4) Mattanot la-Evyonim (Gifts for the Poor)

 

Question:

What is the Meghilla?

Answer:

The Meghilla is the Book of Ester. Meghilla literally means scroll. The Meghilla is read from a scroll.

 

Question:

When should we listen to the Meghilla?

Answer:

Two times: Both in the evening of Purim (Purim Eve), and also during the day of Purim.

 

Question:

I have learned that women are exempt from certain commandments. What about listening to the Meghilla?

Answer:

When it comes to listening to the Meghilla, women are also obligated.

 

Question:

Do we fulfill this obligation if the Book of Ester is read from a regular book?

Answer:

Unfortunately, that does not fulfill the commandment.  However, if there is nobody with an Ester-scroll, then it is the best you can do.

 

Question:

If the obligation is to listen to the Meghilla which is read from a scroll, can we listen to a recording of someone who read it from a scroll?

Answer:

Most rabbis believe that listening to a recording is not valid, but there is an opinion that it is enough to fulfill the mitzwa. Once again, if there is no real Meghilla, it is advisable to listen to a recording.
Here is a link to a recording, written from a scroll. The style is of the Sephardi Jews from Iraq:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbmYiQNmXYw

 

This is another link, much more attractive in my opinion, in the real style of Kahal Kadosh Shearith Israel, recorded in New York, but unfortunately not recorded from a scroll.
Excellent for those who want to study the tune for next year!!!!
https://shearithisrael.org/megillat-esther

 

Question:

If it is a requirement to listen to the Meghilla, then how can there be a custom to make noise during the reading of Haman? Doesn’t it prevent you from hearing every word?

Answer:

This is very true. The noise making during the reading of the name Haman, is a very late custom which started within some Ashkenazi communities. Most rabbis were actually against it. Unfortunately, the custom spread throughout most Jewish communities. But even today, there are still Sephardi synagogues that do not allow it. This is the only right we: to read the Meghilla with dignity, so we can hear every word.
However, there is no problem, when we tell the story to children in their own language, if they make noise during the naming of Haman.

 

Question:

The story of Ester is such an important story. Why is it not part of the Torah?

Answer:

The story of Ester took place many centuries after the life of Moses.

 

Question:

What is the Sengudat Mitzwa?

Answer:

The word Sengudaa (סעודה), often written as Seudah or Se’udah, means a meal.
A Sengudat Mitzwa is a prescribed, festive meal.

Question:

When should we have this festive meal?

Answer:

The meal should be had on the day of Purim itself. Of course, it is nice to have a meal in the evening as well, but the Sengudat Mitzwa can only be fulfilled during the daytime.

 

Question:

Should we have this meal with a lot of people, or can it just be with our own family?

Answer:

It can be just with your own family, but it is nice to invite people. In some communities, the people cook together and have a meal with the entire community. However, you can even have it alone (although, that is not as festive of course).

 

Question: Isn’t there also an obligation to drink until you don’t know the difference between Mordechai and Haman? Does that also apply for young children?

Answer:

I believe the idea that one has to get drunk on Purim is based on a misunderstanding. It seems that in the time of the Talmud, there were some who got drunk on Purim. While they were drunk, they would do bad things. The majority then limited the drinking by saying: Only drink until you do not know the difference between “Blessed is Mordechai” and “Cursed is Haman”. (Not: between Mordechai and Haman!!!). Blessed is Mordechai in fact means: “May the good side win!”, and Curses is Haman means: “May the bad side lose!” In fact, there is no difference between the two; if the good side wins, the bad side loses. So after you take your first sip, if you ask yourself what the difference is between the two, you will realize that you don’t know, and you need to stop right away.
Maimonides (the Rambam) is very clear that getting drunk is equal to idol worship, at all occasions, also on Purim. Because God stands for reason, and when you are dunk, you erase your reason. Furthermore, being drunk is damaging to the body, and especially to the brain, and we are not allowed to cause ourselves damage.

 

Some others say that, a person should drink just a little more than usual, and then take a nap, because , when you sleep, you certainly do not know the difference between Blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman.

 

Question:

What is Mishloach Manot?

Answer:

Mishloach Manot is the mitzwa to give food.

 

Question:

To how many people should we give food?

Answer:

We should give food to at least one person, but we can give to as many as we like.

 

Question:

What kind of food should we give?

Answer:

It should be at least two different types of food. Also, the food should be prepared.
So packets of tea, or a pack of rice which still must be boiled, is not a valid way to fulfill this mitzwa.

 

Question:

When should the food be given?

Answer:

The food should be given on the day of Purim itself.

 

Question:

Do poor people also need to give food to other poor people?

Answer:

Poor people also are required to fulfill the mitzwa. Hopefully, if two poor people exchange their food, they both have fulfilled the requirement.

 

Question:

Can we give Mishloach Manot and Mattanot la-Evyonim to non-Jewish people?

Answer:

The mitzwa is only fulfilled by giving these to Jews. That makes sense, because these gifts are given to them to help them celebrate Purim with happiness and joy, and non-Jews generally do not celebrate Purim. However, it is still a good idea, after we give the required gifts to Jews, and in addition to share the joy and also give something to non-Jews.

 

Question:

What is Mattanot La-Evyonim?

Answer:

Mattanot La-Evyonim is the mitzwa to give money to poor people on the day of Purim.

 

Question:

To how many people should we give money?

Answer:

At least to two individuals.

 

Question:

How much money should we give to each person?

Answer:

The amount we give should at least be enough for the person the buy a meal.

 

Question:

When should the money be given?

Answer:

The money should be given on the day of Purim itself.
Sometimes a person is assigned to collect Mattanot la-Evyonim from a number of people and then to distribute it among the poor. Such a person can collect the monies before Purim, but he must make sure to hand it to the poor during Purim.

 

Question:

Can we give it to these poor individuals together as a family, or should every member of my family fulfill this mitzwah?

Answer:

It should be done by each member of the family separately. Even though pre-bar/bat mitzwa children are technically not obligated, it is a very good way of teaching them to be charitable when they hand over money to a poor person.

 

Question:

Do poor people also need to give money to other poor people?

Answer:

Poor people also are required to fulfill the mitzwa. Hopefully, they will also receive from others as well. Several people can exchange money back-and-forth. It is important for even poor people to understand that they should not only expect to receive but also to support and contribute to others.

 

Question:

What is the proper greeting for Purim?

Answer:

Many people mistakenly say “Chag Sameach”, especially in Israel. However, in the Torah, the word Chag is only used for the Pilgrim Festivals: Pesach, Shabungot and Sukkot.
A better greeting is Purim Sameach!  An old Sephardi greeting is: Purim Alegre!

 

Purim Alegre to you all!
Rabbi Sjimon den Hollande