READING THE MEGILLAH
The reading of the Megillah is a way to perform the mitsvah of pirsum hanes
– publicizing the Purim miracle. Women, as well as men, are obligated to
hear the reading of the Megillah, as women were also under the threat of annihilation. Furthermore, a woman – namely Queen Esther – played a significant role in the miracle. Children should also hear the Megillah (as long as they behave appropriately!).
Can I eat before hearing the Megillah?
One should not eat until he or she hears the Megillah, both for the night and morning readings. If one is very thirsty or hungry, he may eat or drink a small amount.
Do I need my own Megillah?
Although having a kosher Megillah is commendable, it is not necessary to fulfill the mitsvah. Due to the sanctity of the scroll, one who touches the parchment of a Megillah without a kerchief is required to wash his hands first. If one has already washed his hands before prayers, his hands are considered ritually clean and he need not wash again.
Even if one does not have a Megillah scroll, he should still follow along with the hazan by using his own printed Megillah, a Tanach, or any other text. This will enhance his focus and enable him to catch up on some missed words if need be. He should, however, be careful not to read along out loud with the hazan.
If I was late to the Megillah reading can I listen from where they are up to and hear what I missed afterward?
The Megillah has to be read in order. However, if one is only a minute or so late, he may catch up by reading from his own Megillah or a Tanach, provided that at least half of the Megillah was heard from the hazan, or he himself is reading from a kosher Megillah. The berachot should be recited before he starts to read.
What if I tuned out for a few seconds?
One must hear every word of the Megillah. If you know where the reader is up to because you have been following along, then you are good, even if your mind wandered a bit. However, if you missed a few words, you can make them up by quickly reading them yourself from any text.
Mishloach manot – sending gifts – is one of the exciting mitsvot of the day, which was instituted to increase camaraderie. The decree of Haman to wipe out the Jews was sold to Ahashverosh on the premise that the Jews were not united. We, therefore, renew and reinvigorate friendships by sending each other gifts of love.
Who must give?
Men and women, and boys and girls over thirteen years of age, are obligated to give mishloach manot. Younger children should also give as hinuch – training in mitsvot. A married couple should each fulfill their mitsvah individually, a man giving to men, and a woman to women. One can, and some say preferably, give mishloach manot through an agent.
When should I give?
The obligation to give mishloach manot can only be fulfilled during the daytime. If you ordered a package before Purim to be delivered to a friend (even through Amazon), the obligation will be fulfilled only if it arrives on Purim day.
What should I give?
Preferably one should give something respectable that befits the stature and honor of both the person giving and the recipient. One should give at least one of their mishloach manot in a way that meets this requirement.
To fulfill one’s obligation, one must give two different food items that are ready-to-eat. Drinks are also counted as an item; however, a plain water bottle or seltzer is not counted. Teabags or a bag of ground coffee are not ready-to-eat foods. However, a hot or iced coffee, tea or other flavored beverage does fulfill the requirement of a ready-to-eat item for mishloach manot.
How many should I give?
One fulfills his obligation by giving to one person. The more one gives the better, as you are creating more friendships. If one has a choice between giving more money to the poor or to give more mishloach manot, it is better to give more money to the poor. There is no greater happiness than making the hearts of poor people, widows, and orphans happy! (Rambam)
MATANOT LA’EVYONIM – GIFTS TO THE NEEDY
How much do I give?
The mitsvah is to give to at least two poor people. Some say one can give each poor person a perutah, a small amount. Others say one should give enough to buy a meal, which could range between five and twenty dollars. In practice, one should give the preferred amount for at least the first two poor people. To any additional poor people, one may give as he wishes – the more the better.
To whom should I give the money?
One fulfills his obligation of matanot la’evyonim by giving poor people that struggle financially with basic needs. This can be done easily by giving the appropriate amount to trusted people or organizations collecting on behalf of the poor.
Can I send the money before Purim?
Yes, so as long as the money is received by the poor person on the actual day of Purim.
DAY OF SALVATION
How Should I Spend My Free Time on Purim?
Purim is an exceptional day for giving tsedakah, increasing friendships, praying, and Torah study. On Purim the law is that “whoever extends his hand for charity, we should give and provide.”
That is to say, throughout the year we should check the credentials of one asking for charity; whereas on Purim, a day of giving, we should give to all poor people who stretch out their hand.
This is true in regard to prayers as well – whoever stretches out his hand to Hashem, He will provide. There are many remarkable stories of salvation for those who prayed sincerely on Purim.
Let us use this special day to give and to pray, and may all our prayers be answered speedily. Amen.