The laws of Purim.
1. Two and a half thousand years ago one enemy of the Jews, a descendent of Amalek (see Parshas Beshalach), the wicked Haman wanted to destroy all of the Jewish people from young to old. The date of the terrible pogrom was set on the 13th of Adar. Our people, led by Mordechai and Ester returned to the Creator with all their hearts and Haman was killed. On the 13 of Adar no Jew was killed – instead their enemies perished and ten sons of Haman where hung. It is interesting to note that when our ancestors found out about the danger, they did not start preparing for battle or learning how to hide but were busy with trying to improve their ways and repent. The Talmud tells us that if we don’t return to the Torah’s ways in the end of days, the Creator will prepare a second Haman who will try to destroy our nation. As we mentioned in Parshas Beshalach, Hitler exhibited the same traits as Haman, but unfortunately the Mordechais of that generation were not able to get our people to repent. The Jewish people were moving away from observance at a tremendous speed until we became witnesses of the terrible destruction. The righteous and the wicked suffered together as is usually the case with the punishments in this world – our nation is judged collectively and once the punishment is decreed everybody suffers. At the end of the war the allies judged many of the Nazi criminals and ten of them were hung. Interestingly, when the book of Ester describes the names of the ten sons of Haman, three letters are written small and one is bigger than usual. In general small or large letters are quite rare – altogether there are a few dozen in the entire Torah. The three small letters have the numerical value of 707 – the Jewish year when the Nazi criminals were executed, while the big letter has numerical value 6 – the millennia when it happened. Interestingly, one of the Nazis when led to the gallows, cried out in German: “Purim holiday, 1946”. In the end, after all of the suffering, our people started coming back exactly as predicted by the Torah. More and more people brought up in secular families are accepting traditional Judaism, and as their numbers grow, we hope for the speedy redemption.
2. The holiday of Purim is one of the happiest days in our calendar. Many things that we normally don’t do are permitted on this day, for example getting drunk. However even during our happiness we should not overindulge since the gladness of all the happy occasions is still before the Creator.
3. The main mitzvah of Purim is to hear the book of Ester being read from a scroll in the evening and in the morning. We have to keep in mind to fulfill our obligation and we need to listen very carefully to every word. Even the one who does not know the Holy tongue fulfills the mitzvah if he listened attentively. Since the custom is to make noise each time the name Haman is mentioned, the reader should not continue until it gets quiet. All the mitzvos of Purim are obligatory to both men and women. For this reason women have to either listen to the reading of the scroll of Ester in the synagogues or in somebody’s house.
4. On Purim one has to give charity to at least two poor people. The minimal donation should be sufficient for buying a meal – maybe 5 dollars. One should give at least some money to everybody else who asks – the poor people always expect to receive donations on Purim. Another Purim mitzvah is to send a gift with at least two types of food to a friend.
5. One should make a festive meal on Purim. It is preferable to eat bread during this meal and one should also drink some wine. Many people drink a little wine and go to sleep in order to fulfill the command of the Talmud: to drink until one does not know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai”.
6. We don’t do weekday work on Purim. The one who needs to go to work should discuss it with a Rabbi.