The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (the 15th in Jerusalem and other walled cities). It commemorates the redemption of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plan to destroy and annihilate all the Jews. This year it will take place on February 28th-March 1, with celebrations beginning the night before.
There are 4 main commandments to properly celebrate this holiday:
1) Hear the Megillah!
It is a Mitzvah to hear the Scroll of Esther read twice on Purim, once in the evening and once during the day.
Jews are commanded to hear the complete story of how Mordechai and Queen Esther helped save the Jewish people from the hands of the wicked Haman. During the reading it is customary to scream out and “boo” at the name of Haman.
2) Give gifts of food!
This Mitzvah is called Mishloach Manot. It is customary to send gifts of food to others that include at least two different types of food. This is done to ensure that everyone has sufficient food for the Purim feast. This mitzvah also increases unity among Jews, thereby defying Haman’s decrees.
3) Give Tzedakah (Charity)!
Giving charity to the poor is always a requirement of a Jew, but especially on this day one is required to give, making sure the money given is enough to provide at least 2 different people with a meal in order to celebrate the holiday.
4) Eat and Rejoice!
Participate in a festive meal on the day of Purim with family and friends. It is traditional to bake and east triangular shapes cookies called hamentashen which are in the shape of Haman’s hat to remember his wicked decrees.
The Fast of Esther
The Fast of Esther is held one day prior to Purim, on the 13th of Adar. The fast is meant to help one focus on his spiritual self. This is a common form of Jewish teshuva, repentance. The purpose of the fast is elevation and inspiration.