From start to finish, Purim delivers on fun. It’s one big ‘ol party, dedicated to celebration, storytelling, tumult-making, and costumed festivity. The holiday celebrated on March 4th this year (2015), on the 14th of Adar (marking the day of a great battle, as told in the Book of Esther).
The complicated tale of Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. It’s a story of triumph over evil, strong women, and serious chutzpah. Talk about wonderful lessons! No wonder we live it up on this happy day. Beyond the fun and games, though, this holiday comes with responsibilities…a to-do list, if you will. Nu? What did you expect! According to Jewish tradition, there are four important mitzvot to fulfill at Purim (frailach celebration included!):
1. Hear the Book of Esther (The Megillah) read aloud:
The Megillah is read twice on Purim. This is part of the fun, often spilling over into community plays and pageantry. During the reading, people stomp their feet and make noise when HAMAN, the name of the story’s evil villain, is mentioned. Groggers (Purim noisemakers) help everyone whoop up a racket to drown out the terrible name.
2. Give gifts of food (Shalach Manot).
Items of immediately edible kosher food are given on Purim day. Fruits, nuts, and hamantaschen are traditional. Hamantaschen are tasty filled pastries, known for their triangular shape. They resemble the 3-cornered hat of villainous Haman (boo!). In Israel, hamantaschen are called Oznei Hamen (Hebrew: אוזני המן) for “Haman’s ears”. Filled with poppy seed, fruits, chocolate, caramel, or cheese, they are fantastic gifts, enjoyed and recognized by all who celebrate. Olives, crackers, rugelach, Babka, and smoked salmon are other examples of geshmak (delish) food gifts to share. Challah Connection has a variety of Purim Gift Baskets, brimming with happiness.
3. Offer Purim gifts to the poor.
Remembering the poor (Matanot l’evyonim) means giving to people less fortunate than you. This is a year-round mitzvah, but on Purim, it’s an obligation. The gift of food is a lovely, generous way to do good and give back to the community.
4. Have a festive meal on Purim Day.
Eat, drink, and be merry! The Purim feast is to be filled with lots of good food and kosher wine. The whole atmosphere is fun and even raucous–a gift of pleasure to our bodies and souls. Challah Connection can provide a beautiful feast, with chicken soup and matzah balls, brisket, roast chicken, latkes, tzimmes, and challah for 4-6 people. A traditional holiday dinner is a marvelous mitzvah indeed! Add a kosher wine basket, too? Never a bad thing!
The Purim to-do list is all about giving and receiving joy. So, think spring! Think Purim! Think happiness! When it comes to a gut yontiff, that’s the whole megillah!
Jane Moritz is Owner and Chief Maven Officer of Challah Connection, the premiere online purveyors of traditional kosher gifts for Jewish holidays, shiva, Jewish birthday celebrations and all Jewish gift giving occasions. Her company has been “Creating Kvells Since 2002.” www.challahconnection.com