Shabbat Parshat Zachor, 11 Adar, March 7th
The Shabbat immediately preceding Purim is called Shabbat Zachor. It is very important that everyone comes to synagogue to hear the Torah reading of this special Maftir, since it is a fulfillment of a law found in the Torah. Please bear in mind that hearing Parshat Zachor is a fulfillment of this mitzvah.
Fast of Esther, 13 Adar, Monday, March 9th
This fast commemorates both when the Jews fasted at the behest of Queen Esther in response to the evil decree from the Persian empire and when the Jews fasted on the 13th of Adar in preparation for their defense against Haman's decree. There are leniencies for women who are pregnant, nursing or anyone not feeling well. If you have any questions about whether to fast, contact Rabbi Hassan.
Machatzit Hashekel: In remembrance of the half-shekel given by all males to the Beit Hamikdash in Adar, it is customary to give three coins with a denomination of half of the primary local currency. In the United States, the custom is to give three half-dollars. The machatzit hashekel is given in the synagogue after Mincha on the Fast of Esther or during Purim.
Reading the Megillah
Both men and women must hear the reading of the Megillah at night and day. It is customary to bring children to the synagogue to hear the Megillah. However, they should be prevented from making a disturbance. One who is unable to go to the synagogue, should hear the Megillah from someone who is reading from a kosher parchment scroll. Each word of the Megillah must be heard to fulfill the mitzvah of listening to the Megillah. Even missing one word invalidates the mitzvah.
On Purim day (and not at night), men and women must send to a fellow Jew at least one food parcel containing two kinds of food or drink which are ready to eat without further preparation. Although one is required to send only one parcel, it is praiseworthy to send parcels to many friends. It is preferable that one parcel is sent via someone else and not delivered personally. Do not send a parcel to a person within one year of the death of a parent, or within thirty days of the death of other immediate relatives. However, one can send to the person's family members who are not in mourning.
All men and women must give gifts to the poor on Purim day. The minimum requirement is to give gifts (money or food) to at least two poor persons. Those who are liberal with their giving on Purim will be blessed. The Nathan Etkin Chesed Fund distributes Matanot La'evyonim to local poor people on Purim day.
The Purim Feast
Men and women are obligated to have a festive bread meal on Purim day. It is preferable to have a meat meal. A man should drink a little more than usual at the Seudah.
Purim Allegre and Purim Sameach