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Laws and lore of Purim

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By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO — Purim is referred to as Kabbalas haTorah miahavah – acceptance of the Torah out of love. This is the yesod (foundation) of Purim – returning to Hashem (G-d) and fulfilling His Torah with love. The practices of Purim, such as Shalach Manos (Gifts of Food) and Matanos L’evyonim (Gifts to the Poor) are designed to foster love and unity amongst the Jewish people. Loving and caring for each other is a hallmark of the Jewish people as the following true story illustrates:

There is a beautiful minhag (custom) that when one receives a bracha (blessings) or good wishes, they respond with their own increased bracha to the benefactor.

One year, after Havdalah on the Motzay Shabbat (Saturday night) before Rosh Hashana, Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, was in a great rush to go to the house of a fellow Yerushalmi (Jerusalem resident). Immediately upon arriving at the person’s house, he began showering him with brochos (blessings) for the upcoming year. Quite surprised by the arrival of this prominent Rav at his home on one of the last nights of the year, the gentleman asked why the Rav had bestowed him with such an abundance of blessings.

His answer was the explanation of this custom. The response to a bracha is to not only reciprocate, but in fact to bless the other person with an even greater bracha. When one receives the wish “a gut morgen – a good morning” the response is “a gutten tog – a good day”, even greater than they received. When one is wished “a gut voch – a good week” one gives back wishes for even more than a week, “ a gut yohr – a good year.”

Why was Rav Sonnenfeld in such a rush to greet the congregant? He said that on this Saturday night, the last of the year, he had received the man’s bracha for a good week – a full seven days’ bracha. He had responded with the customary “a gut yohr”, but this year was going to end in the middle of this week. Not only had he not wished him more than he had received, he blessed him with even fewer days!! The Rav wanted to immediately make amends and therefore rushed to offer even greater blessings for an entire year of life and happiness.

LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF PURIM 1. In observance of Taanis Esther (Fast of Esther) we fast on Wednesday March 7, 2009. Fast begins 4:58 a.m.  and ends 6:32 p.m.(San Diego Time).

2.  There is a mitzvah known as Machtzis Hashekel (half shekel coin). We each give three half-dollar coins to charity

3. The Megillah is read on Purim night (Wednesday March 7, 2009) and then again on Purim day (March 8).

4. We send Shalach Manos on Purim day, by giving a gift of 2 different types of food to 1 person.

5. Matanos L’evyonim. We must give charity to be distributed to poor people on Purim day.

6. We eat a festive meal (seudah) on Purim day.

7. It is a Mitzvah to drink wine on Purim day to the point that we do not know the difference between Cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai. The simplest way to accomplish this is to drink a small amount of wine and then take a nap. When you are sleeping you don’t know the difference between Cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai. There is no mitzvah to drink wine on Purim night.

Dedicated by Curt & Marj Stehley in honor of their children Aaron, Elie, & Talya.

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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