Purim is a holiday whose meaning is shrouded in mystery. The only clear element is what we are commanded to do on Purim as set forth at the end of the Scroll of Esther: read the Megilla, hold a festive meal, and give gifts to the poor. This last mitzvah is not an administrative detail of a system of social justice. Yes, the Jewish people are commanded to pay a tax of half a shekel, as we read onShabbat Shekalim, the Shabbat preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar. But gifts to the poor are another matter; giving charity is an expression of the direct, mutual economic responsibility between people.
On Purim we are bidden to get so thoroughly drunk on wine or other intoxicants that we are unable to distinguish between good and evil:
Rava said: one is obligated to become inebriated on Purim until he does not know (ad delo yada) the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”. Talmud Bavli, Megillah 7b.
hroughout the generations, Jews in different lands ate many different foods on Purim (see Ben Ezra for many examples). In this responsum, I shall give the history of three customs that are connected to today’s custom of eating hamentashen on Purim.
According to a well-known custom, Jews are required to get drunk on Purim. What is the origin of this custom? Are Jews really required to get drunk on Purim?
Is it permissible for women to read Megillat Esther in public on Purim?
The remarkable literal similarity between the two holidays, Purim and Yom Kippur, is sufficient to generate reams of drashot(sermons) on the meaning of Purim. In case one is tempted to chalk up the similarity of names to coincidence, this article will attempt to prove a much deeper connection.
There is a widespread custom to make noise every time Haman’s name is mentioned in the Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther), a total of 54 times. What are the sources of this custom? Doesn’t it cause a halakhic problem of not being able to hear the Megillah?
One way to read the Book of Esther is as a comedy laden with twists of fate evolving in fast motion. In this genre, the putting on or taking off of masks serves to unveil the characters’ confused identities. So does the Book of Esther, as implied by the paradoxical combination of the words hester (‘hidden’) and galui(‘revealed’) in its title Megillat Esther, lead us from the hidden to the revealed. As the plot unfolds, we see exposed a series of roles, stereotyped masks, identities and conflicts, and all this within a complex structure of couples.. The threat of death hanging over the characters lends the plot a tragic dimension, while removing or donning a mask becomes a way of survival. This, at a time of the ‘hiding of God’s face’ (hester panim) and in the midst of the bloody struggle depicted in the Book of Esther’s “serious comedy”. In this article I will trace some of the unveiling processes, even if not all of the masks will be completely stripped away.
This article is part of a forthcoming book, An Ode to Salonika: The Coplas of Bouena Sarfatty. Bouena Sarfatty Garfinkle was born in Salonika, Greece in 1916 and survived the Holocaust by joining the Greek partisans. She spent most of the remainder of her life in Montreal, Canada, where in the 1960s she composed large collections of Ladino poems called komplas. One can learn a great deal from these poems about Jewish life in the “Jerusalem of the Balkans” in the first half of the twentieth century.
When the Megillah is read in public on Purim, it is customary for the congregation to recite aloud four verses of redemption (2:5, 8:15, 8:16, 10:3), which are then repeated by the reader. What are the sources for this custom? May we institute a new custom of reciting aloud four additional verses of redemption related to Esther?