What is Purim and what does it celebrate?
Purim is a Jewish festival celebrated on the fourteenth of the Hebrew month of Adar which falls out in late winter\early spring. The holiday is the commemoration of the salvation of the Jewish people in the times of the Persian Empire from Haman, an influential character who wished to annihilate the Jewish people.There are several practices that Jewish people are meant to carry out on Purim in order to utilize the day in the best way possible:
Hear the Megillah x2
The Megillah is the scroll that is inscribed with the story of Purim. It is actually one of the books of the Bible and is called Megillat Esther after Esther, the Jewish heroine who was a central figure in the story. The Megillah should be heard by all Jewish people on the eve of Purim and also on Purim day. It is emphasized that in order to fulfill this commandment, people are obligated to hear each and every word of the Megillah. When hearing Haman’s name being read it is customary to make as much noise as possible so as to drown out his wicked name.
Give Needy People Money-Gifts
There is a central idea in Judaism of remembering the needy at all times, especially in times of happiness. On Purim there is a commandment to give at last two individuals charity on the actual day of Purim (and not on Purim eve).
Food-parcels are given on Purim day as a way to increase Jewish unity. There is an obligation to send at least one food-parcel containing at least two ready-to-eat foods on Purim day. It is customary for men to give men and for women to give women. There is also a custom to give these food-parcels via third parties and children are often the perfect, enthusiastic messengers.
Eat & Drink
Jewish people eat a special festive meal on Purim Day with their friends and family. There is also a special commandment to drink inebriating drink at the meal until one cannot tell the difference between the hero of the story- Mordechai and the enemy Haman.
On Purim there is a special paragraph that is added to prayers and grace after meals. The paragraph describes the events of the Purim story. In addition, in the Morning Prayer services there is a special reading from the Torah that is read in the synagogue.
There is a well-established custom for everyone to dress-up on Purim. This custom stems from the fact that the miraculous Purim story took place under the guise of natural events.
In walled cities- such as Jerusalem- the festival of Purim is celebrated not on the fourteenth of Adar but on the fifteenth of Adar. This is because in the ancient city of Shushan the battles between the Jewish people and their enemies lasted for an additional day and it was therefore traditional in Shushan (a walled city) to celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar. The fifteenth of Adar is known as Shushan Purim and even in places that do not celebrate it (the majority of places) it is considered a day of celebration and happiness.