Rabbi's Message

Halachically Speaking - All About Purim

By Rabbi Yeshaya Siff
Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan

PARCHAS ZACHOR – will be read on the Shabbos preceding Purim (February 24 this year). Since Purim recalls the downfall of Amalek’s descendant Haman, the Shabbos before Purim was designated as the time for remembering the evil of Amalek and our obligation to obliterate his memory, that of pure evil and hatred of Hashem and the Jewish people.

KRIAS SHEMA – That time of year has come again when the halachically prescribed time for reciting the three paragraphs of Shema in Shacharis falls before the time we would ordinarily reach that point in the davening. We are obligated to recite the three paragraphs before the following times: February 25 – 9:22, March 3 – 9:16 and March 10 – 9:10. Therefore, we must say them before we come to shul. The clock is changed March 11.

TAANIS ESTHER (FAST OF ESTHER) – We fast on the day before Purim to do Tshuva and remember that Hashem hears each person who genuinely repents in his time of trouble. This realization introduces the joy of Purim and heightens our recognition of the miracles and salvation by Hashem that happened to our people in those days at this time.

MACHATZIS HASHEKEL – Not to be confused with Matanos L’Evyonim, gifts of money to poor people, Machatzis Hashekel commemorates the half-shekel collected during Adar for the communal sacrifices in the time of the Holy Temple. Three half-dollars is the preferred donation. If one cannot afford that amount, the custom is to buy three half-dollars by donating whatever he can afford, lifting up the three half-dollars that are placed on a table in shul of that purpose and then placing them in the appropriate shul container. It is usually done before the Megillah reading.

MEGILLAH READING – Women are obligated in all mitzvos of Purim. Thus, both men and women must hear every word of the Megillah read from a valid scroll and they fulfill their obligation through the Halacha of “shomea k’oneh – reading is like reciting.” If one misses a word or two one must read it quickly from a booklet and catch up to the ba’al korai so that the entire Megillah is read in order.

MISHLOACH MANOS – is a mitzvah that is fulfilled by sending two types of readily edible food to at least one person. It should be sent through a messenger (Shliach) and men, women and children should each send their own packages, men to men, women to women and children to children.

MATANOS L’EVYONIM – A donation should be given to each of at least two individuals on Purim day. It is a greater mitzvah to increase Matanos L’Evyonim rather than Mishloach Manos or the Seudos Purim. If you cannot locate poor people on Purim day, you can send the money to any of a number of organizations which care for the needy. (Consult the rabbi if you need assistance.)

PURIM SEUDAH – is held any time during the day of Purim. The custom is to daven Mincha early in the afternoon and then enjoy the meal which may extend into the evening. The reason for the late start is that we are usually busy with the other mitzvos of Purim earlier in the day. In our shul we shall daven Mincha at 2:00 PM, one minyon only.

HELP OTHERS TO REJOICE – and you will experience the greatest joy of Purim. If you know anyone who is alone, invite them for the Purim Seudah, send them Mishloach Manos, visit them. There is no greater joy before the Almighty than to bring happiness to those who are normally unhappy, especially neighbors and even strangers in your own building.

On Link Rabbi Siff's biography.