This question will collect questions, formatted for the book, for questions about Purim mitzvot and customs.

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6 Answers 6


How did the Sages know that Jerusalem had a wall in the times of Joshua?

Shalom asked: The criterion for whether a city celebrates Purim on 14 Adar or Shushan Purim on 15 Adar is whether it was walled in the times of Joshua (about 3300 years ago). (Shushan itself is an exception.)

If Jerusalem was not in Jewish hands until the times of King David (about 3000 years ago), how do we know that at the time Joshua entered Israel, 300 years prior, it had a wall? Did King David find Jebusite documents inside the city proving it was over 300 years old? Was there sufficient knowledge of geography in the times of Joshua that the Jews knew Jerusalem existed as a walled city, even though they didn't conquer it?

Alex explained: Parts of the city were indeed conquered already in Yehoshua's times or shortly thereafter. Joshua 15:63 states:

וְאֶת הַיְבוּסִי יוֹשְׁבֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֹא יוכלו (יָכְלוּ) בְנֵי יְהוּדָה לְהוֹרִישָׁם וַיֵּשֶׁב הַיְבוּסִי אֶת בְּנֵי יְהוּדָה בִּירוּשָׁלִַם עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃

The children of Judah were unable to dislodge the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem. The Jebusites dwelled among the children of Judah in Jerusalem to this day.

Rashi and Radak there explain that the Jebusites lived in the Fortress of Zion, and that this is the specific part of the city that remained in non-Jewish hands until King David conquered it.

Malbim (to Judges 1:8) reconstructs the events as follows: the Judahites made a first attempt to conquer the entire city in Yehoshua's times (after its king joined a confederation to fight against the Jews and was killed in the attempt, Joshua chapter 10), but failed to do so, so it became a mixed Jewish-gentile city. (Not much has changed in 3000 years!) Later on, in the period of the Judges, the non-Jewish inhabitants revolted against the Jews, so the Judahites burned the city in reprisal, but were still unable to conquer the fortress, and so that became the city's non-Jewish quarter. (Part of the city was also in the territory of the Tribe of Benjamin, and by rights they should have done their part to drive out the non-Jews too, but didn't; Judges 1:21 criticizes them for this.)

At any rate, the main point for our purposes is that Jews were present in Jerusalem not long after their entry into Eretz Yisrael.

Original question: How did the Sages know that Jerusalem had a wall in the times of Joshua? mi.yodeya.com/q/4679

- Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21
- Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37


Eating a meal Purim night

SimchasTorah asked: Is there a requirement to have a meal on the night of Megilah reading (the night of Purim)? If not, why is there a custom to eat one?

He and Double AA answered: The Talmud (Megillah 7b) very clearly rules that one who ate his Purim meal at night has not fulfilled his obligation to have a meal on Purim.

The Mordechai (Moed, Remez 787) quotes the Raavyah who (as understood by the Bach OC 695) rules that the night of Purim should have a meal, and the Talmud is only saying that the obligation for the main meal must be during the day, parallel to Shabbat where one must eat a meal at night and during the day but the day meal is considered more significant (see Talmud, Pesachim 105a). Rama (OC 695:1) rules that one should be joyous and have a slightly larger meal than usual on Purim evening.

Interestingly, the Beit Yosef (OC 695) quotes Rav Hai Gaon that one who took an oath not to eat on Purim day, should eat his obligatory meal on Purim night, and not break his oath, implying that there is value, at least post facto, to a meal at night.

Just to present the other side, the Kol Bo (45) mentions a custom not to eat meat on Purim night lest one think one has fulfilled one's obligation. However, the Elya Zuta (695:3) already notes that this custom is no longer followed, but rather festive meals are held per the Bach/Raavyah/Mordechai quoted above.

Original question: Nighttime Seudah on Purim mi.yodeya.com/q/6421

- SimchasTorah mi.yodeya.com/u/87
- Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759


Different miracle-publicization strategies on Chanuka and Purim

Isaac Moses asked: There are two commandments during the year that are explicitly associated with "publicizing the miracle" ("פירסומי ניסא"): lighting Chanuka candles and reading Megilat Esther on Purim. These are the two commandments that are associated with the blessing "... Who performed miracles for our ancestors on those days, in this season." Given that these two commandments share a goal (though they might each have other goals), I am wondering why they seem to take very different approaches to that goal, each with its own apparent strengths and weaknesses with respect to accomplishing it.

  • Lighting candles is a purely symbolic act that seems to mean nothing to someone who doesn't know the story, while reading the Megila explicitly tells the story. It would seem that the latter more directly publicizes the miracle.

  • We light candles, preferably, facing the public thoroughfare, while we read the Megila, typically, inside a synagogue, out of the public's eyes. It would seem that the former gets the message out to more people.

So, why do these two practices use such different modes to accomplish the same goal? Why don't they both combine the apparent strengths of both, so that we'd do something like shouting both stories from megaphones in the public square or putting both stories on big, lit billboards?

Gemini Man said: Rabbi Shlomo Kluger writes that a miracle which breaks the laws of nature (a revealed miracle) is greater than a miracle that takes place within the laws of nature (a hidden miracle). The miracle of Chanukah was of the first type, and therefore we publicize it greatly for all the world to see.

But the miracle of Purim was clothed in the laws of nature, and thus made it possible for those who deny G-d to deny those events also and to say that they were merely natural events and not the actions of G-d. Therefore, although we are required to publicize the miracle, since is shameful to us that we did not merit the greater miracle (he explains from the gemara in Megillah 11a that this was because that they did not toil in Torah at that time) we do not publicize it so openly.

Yishai answered: You may find this answer interesting (from Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, paraphrazing a Sicha (speech) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's):

Whenever a Jew is thankful about his physical survival, he does not have to communicate it to non-Jews, since physical self-survival is a common instinct among all humans and animals, and it is understood that Jews will fight for their physical survival. This type of miracle does not require publicizing among non-Jews. Thus, Purim and Pesach, which commemorate our rescue for physical annihilation and slavery, need not be shared with non-Jews since they are well cognizant that Jews like any other human beings will fight ferociously for their physical survival.

On Chanukah, however, the Jews' spiritual survival and not their physical survival was at stake. The message which we wish to convey to non-Jews is that Jews are willing and able to fight for their spiritual survival as well as their physical well-being, and that the Jews returned from the brink of total assimilation and adopted the Torah, and reestablished their unique relationship with G-d.

The message of Chanukah is more of a sensation to non-Jews than is the message of Purim and Pesach, and thus, the pirsumei nissa conveyed by the Chanukah lights is directed at non-Jews as well.


Original question: Different miracle-publicization strategies on Chanuka and Purim mi.yodeya.com/q/33371

- Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
- Gemini Man mi.yodeya.com/u/4523
- Yishai mi.yodeya.com/u/440


Is indirect matanot l'evyonim ok?

Monica Cellio asked: I was under the impression that the mitzvah of matanot l'evyonim, giving gifts to the poor, had to be done directly -- find two or more poor people and give to them. But I have heard of tzedakah funds that collect money for this purpose. Does an indirect gift like this fulfill the mitzvah? If so, do we have to give early enough to ensure that they will distribute the funds in time, or is my giving the gift (in time) sufficient and I can rely on the tzedakah fund to eventually distribute it? Do I need to tell the tzedakah fund that this is specifically for Purim? Sources, please.

Gershon Gold answered: Aruch HaShulchan 694:2 says that it is clear to him that it does not have to be given directly to the poor man, and can be given through a messenger (Shaliach) on Purim day.

Nitei Gavriel Purim 68:6 mentions in the name of the Yad Aharon 694, Chug Eretz 15, and others that if money is given to a messenger (Shaliach) before Purim to give to the poor man on Purim you are fulfilling your obligation.

So it seems like a messenger is definitely permitted. Perhaps in many cases people do not know a bona fide poor person and therefore even prefer a messenger. The messenger would have a responsibility to give the money to the poor person on Purim, this way the giver is fulfilling their obligation. If the Tzedaka fund does not know it is for Purim they may not give it out on Purim, so it is advisable to make sure that the Tzedaka fund is aware, and will distribute it on Purim.

msh210 added: And besides "people do not know a bona fide poor person and therefore even prefer a messenger", there's also the general preference of anonymous tz'daka.

Seth J commented: Most people I know fulfill the Mitzvah through a messenger or an organization. There are many such organizations, some of which are all-volunteer (meaning that your dollar goes farther). The only issues I've heard of for fulfillment are whether the money needs to leave your hand and enter the recipient's on Purim itself, and whether the money is fungible. I've heard yes on all counts. (No source.)


Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/26543

- Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472
- Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
- msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170
- Seth J mi.yodeya.com/u/5

  • I included the link for Nitei Gavriel because I don't know it to be a common source. I included the link for Aruch HaShulchan for consistency. I defer to others on whether either or both should be included. Feb 17, 2014 at 1:58
  • 1
    Nit'e Gavriel is a well-known source, but most people don't have a copy. I agree with putting in its URL.
    – msh210 Mod
    Feb 17, 2014 at 4:15

Sending Mishloach Manos to a Mourner

Gershon Gold asked: The Rama in Orach Chaim 696:6 says we do not send Misloach Manos to an Aveil (mourner). The way people send is to send it to the family, rather than directly to the Aveil.

  1. If you do not know anyone else in the Aveil's family, can you still send it to such a family member?
  2. Suppose someone is in Aveilus (mourning) and a person shows up delivering Mishloach Manos. How should he respond?

He answered: Regarding sending to other family members even if you do not know them, see Shaalos UTshuvos Tshuvos VHanhogos Chelek 1 Siman 692:44, by Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, which says that you can not give to other family members if you do not know them. However, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein (quoted by Rabbi Avrohom Aba Freundlich) has ruled that you may.

Regarding someone who shows up with Mishloach Manos to give to someone that is in mourning, the Shaarim Metzuyanim B'Halacha, Siman 143:12, says in the name of the Ksav Sofer that the Aveil may accept it.

Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/6303

- Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200


How to teach the Purim story to children?

Aryeh asked: As a parent raising a small child, I find it difficult explaining the story of Megillat Esther. Are there any methods (rabbinic precedence or otherwise) of explaining to a pre-bar mitzvah-age child the violent elements of the story, such as Haman's drive to exterminate the Jews, the war, and Haman's hanging?

These are crucial to learning the story of Purim and yet I find it inappropriate to otherwise talk to my child about such violence.

The same problem occurs in many others places when teaching Torah to children (Dina's rape is the first that comes to mind). However, since I'm now preparing for Purim, I would be happy to hear of a proper, sensitive approach to teaching the story.

Seth J said: When I was telling the story to my son when he was younger (he's still pretty young, so even younger), I used the following euphemisms:

  • King Ahashverosh wanted to show everyone how pretty Vashti was, but she didn't want everyone looking at her so she said no, and he got angry and sent her away.

  • Bigthan and Teresh wanted to hurt the king, and when Mordechai heard them talking about it he told Esther ... and they got punished.

  • Haman wanted to get rid of all the Jews.

  • Haman got mad at Mordechai for not bowing down to him.

  • Esther told the king that Haman wanted to get rid of her and her people, and the King punished him.

(I may have also mentioned the hanging. I can't remember for sure, but I remember thinking about the fact that, as far as a child that small knows, hanging from a tree sounds like an awfully uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing experience, but there's not necessarily an assumption that it is fatal.)

jake said: I'm assuming this question is based on the assumption that you don't want to have to explain murder to your child by exposing him to such violent imagery, rather than a question about how to do exactly that. (One does not have to venture too far into the Torah to find murder, so the time to explain these things comes quite soon. Most schools I'm familiar with don't even bother to put these things in context; they just present the text as is. And the children are certainly younger than bar-mitzva-age. But let's not get into a parenting discussion here about the proper age at which to teach children about these things.)

Although the story of Purim revolves around murder and violence, the spirit of the story is not lost if you replace any element of murder with some other form of less-violent unpleasantness, such as being banished (perhaps to the "Island of Perpetual Tickling"!)

I'm not sure how old your child is, but if s/he is even somewhat resourceful, and there is access to a Megillas Esther with English translation (which are usually quite accessible in the average American shul), perhaps better not to pretend that the story does not contain violent elements.

Shraga commented: I'm not sure about the appropriateness of teaching children something that didn't really happen. Children have a better memory than many people realize, and if a child grows up knowing that Haman wanted to banish the Jews, he might get very confused when he starts understanding the Megila on his own...

Original question: (How to teach the Purim story to children?) mi.yodeya.com/q/26260

- Aryeh mi.yodeya.com/u/1865
- Seth J mi.yodeya.com/u/5
- jake mi.yodeya.com/u/489
- Shraga mi.yodeya.com/u/2337

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