Quick Links (things to do on Purim):

  1. Hear the Megillah: See our Purim Schedule and around the clock Megillah section
  2. Give Charity: give here.
  3. Gift your friends: see below for instructions
  4. Have a feast: Join us for 'Purim in Israel'  Here.

Time for Some Fun!

Purim, celebrated on the 14th of Adar, is the most fun-filled, action-packed day of the Jewish year. It commemorates our nation’s miraculous salvation more than two millennia ago.

The Purim Story in a Nutshell

The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made (hence the name Purim, “lots”).

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated.

How We Celebrate

Though we dress up in holiday finery, Purim doesn't feature holiday work restrictions. Nonetheless, all the better if you can take the day off from work and focus on the holiday and it’s four special mitzvahs:

1. Hear the Megillah (Where to hear)

The megillah, a.k.a. “The Book of Esther,” is the scroll that tells the Purim story. Listen to the public reading twice: once on Purim night, and again on Purim day. This year, that’s Wednesday night, March 23, and Thursday day, March 24, 2016. Pay attention—it is crucial to hear every word.

When Haman’s name is mentioned (following Chabad custom, only when accompanied with an honorific title), you can twirl graggers (noisemakers) or stamp your feet to eradicate his evil name. Tell your kids that Purim is the only time when it’s a mitzvah to make noise!

The megillah is read from a handwritten parchment scroll, using an age-old tune.

2. Give to the Needy (Click to Give)

One of Purim's primary themes is Jewish unity. Haman tried to kill us all, we were all in danger together, so we celebrate together, too. Hence, on Purim day, we place special emphasis on caring for the less fortunate.

Give money or food to at least two needy people during the daylight hours of Purim, March 24. In case you can't find any needy people, your synagogue will likely be collecting money for this purpose. At least, place two coins in a charity box earmarked for the poor.

On Purim, we give a donation to whoever asks; we don’t verify his or her bank balance first.

As with the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.

3. Send Food Gifts to Friends (Mishloach Manot)

On Purim, we emphasize the importance of friendship and community by sending gifts of food to friends.

On Purim day, March 24, send a package containing at least two different ready-to-eat food items and/or beverages (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage) to at least one Jewish acquaintance during the daylight hours of Purim. Men send to men and women to women.

It is preferable that the gifts be delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.

4. Feast!

During the course of Purim day, March 24th, gather your family, maybe invite a guest or two, and celebrate with a festive Purim meal. Traditionally, this meal begins before sundown and lasts well into the evening.

The table should be festively bedecked with a nice tablecloth and candles. Wash for bread or challah,and enjoy a meal featuring meat, wine and plenty of Jewish songs, words of Torah and joyous Purim spirit. Sing, drink, laugh, have fun together.