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511 Ave. R Brooklyn, NY 11223-2093 718 998 8171 Fax: 718 375 3263 Rabbi Moshe Shamah, Director Rabbi Ronald Barry, Administrator Halakhot of Purim
I. Overview
subsequently toward the service performed in it, later Subsequent to the destruction of the First Temple in transposed to that of the Temple. Since Haman Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 B.C.E.) the proposed to pay 10,000 sheqalim to the king’s Persians defeated the Babylonians in war (538 treasury to destroy the Jewish People, this misvah has B.C.E.) and became the ascendant power in the been seen as symbolizing our intentions to counteract Middle East. The northern tribes of Israel had already the negative intentions of the enemies of the nation. been exiled by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. Most of the remaining remnant of Israel, essentially the tribe 2. On the Shabbat immediately before Purim, after of Judah together with Benjamin, had been exiled the regular Torah reading, we read Parashat Zakhor. from the land of Israel by the Babylonians and now This portion calls upon Israel to remember what lived in the huge Persian Empire. The setting of Amaleq did to us upon our leaving Egypt, while we Megillat Esther is in the city of Shushan, capital of were traveling in the desert, fatigued and weary. Persia, during the time period between the Unprovoked, Amaleq perpetrated evil acts against Babylonian exile and the Return to Zion (later during Israel, specifically attacking the stragglers and weak, that sixth century B.C.E., perhaps 516 B.C.E.). The having no fear of G-d. We are told to eliminate megilla contains an account of a major attempt Amaleq - understood to represent evil-doers - from during that epoch to annihilate the Jewish People, the world. (On Shabbatot following Purim we read men, women and children, undertaken by Haman, Parashat Parah and Parashat Hahodesh.) chief advisor to King Ahashverosh. In a beautiful narrative it describes Esther’s ascension to becoming 3. Adar 13, usually the day before Purim, is Ta`anit queen, Haman’s reason for his diabolic intent (the Esther, a day commemorating the fast the Jewish steadfast refusal of Mordechi, a Jewish leader, to bow People observed, according to tradition, to prompt to him), details of the decree, and the amazing repentance when battling their enemies. When Purim confluence of events including Queen Esther’s falls on Sunday, the fast is observed on the Thursday intervention that brought about the miraculous saving of the Jewish People. Their extraordinary victory over their enemies was achieved on the fourteenth 4. From the entry of the month of Adar, anticipating and fifteenth days of Adar, days ever since celebrated the coming of Purim, to be followed by Pesah, we II. Prior to Purim
5. One going on a trip to where he does not expect to find a megilla, should try to take a megilla with him. 1. On the Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh Adar, or on If not practical, he may read the megilla from Rosh Rosh Hodesh Adar itself when it falls on Shabbat, we Hodesh Adar onwards, but without a berakha. read Parashat Sheqalim. After the regular Torah Nevertheless, the other misvot of Purim should be reading for that day, we read about the past fulfilled on Purim day. requirement of contributing a half-sheqel, originally III. Reading of the Megilla
to every word said by the hazzan and have in mind to fulfill his/her obligation. It is important the hazzan be 1. Both men and women are required to read or hear the megilla read from a kosher megilla scroll twice on Purim, once at night and again during the day. 7. Every person who reads Hebrew should preferably have at least a printed text of the megilla in front of 2. The misvah of reading the megilla is more him/her to follow along quietly. If one misses some properly fulfilled in the presence of a congregation in of the words read by the hazzan, it is permitted to order to participate in publicizing the miracle read them from the printed text and catch up (pirsume nissa). If one cannot come to the synagogue providing this is only done with a minority of the or otherwise participate in a minyan, he/she may read 8. From the recitation of the first berakha until the 3. Berakhot: Three blessings are recited on the
conclusion of the last berakha there should be no megilla prior to the evening reading: talking or interruptions. Stamping feet during the reading is disturbing and inappropriate and should a) `Al Mikra Megilla (for the reading itself) not be done. Very young children or those with b) She`asah Nissim La’abotenu (mentioning the noise-making toys, who will possibly create a miracles Hashem performed for our fathers) disturbance and interfere with the fulfillment of the c) Shehehiyanu (expressing gratitude that Hashem misvah, should not be present in the synagogue has kept us alive to participate in this occasion). during megilla reading. If such children are in the synagogue, a baby-sitter should be provided in One blessing is recited at the conclusion of the reading, Harab et Ribenu (acknowledging that it was 9. Unlike the case with the Torah, it is permissible to directly touch the megilla scroll when reading (with The same blessings are recited for the daytime reading except for Shehehiyanu. If one omitted Shehehiyanu in the evening it should be recited in the 10. Since in the megilla the text is termed a “letter,” it is a widespread custom that as a page is read it is not immediately rolled up as is the case with a Torah 4. The berakhot before the reading are recited even scroll. At the conclusion of the reading it is rolled up when the megilla is being read individually (that is to before beginning the concluding blessing. say, without a minyan), whereas the berakha at the conclusion of the reading is only recited in a minyan. 11. The time for reading the megilla in the evening begins at ‘set hakokhabim’ (the appearance of stars), 5. The same berakhot are also to be recited by or for the time that the fast ends. One should not eat until women who are reading or hearing the reading performing the misvah. As the day concluding with without a minyan. If ten women are hearing the ‘set hakokhabim’ is usually Ta`anit Esther, it may be reading together, although it doesn’t constitute a that one is hungry or thirsty. If necessary, one may ‘minyan’ for other rituals, it is pirsume nissa and the concluding berakha is also recited. IV. Mahasit Hashekel - It is customary to give a
6. One holding a kosher megilla scroll may read half-shekel or half-dollar to charity for each family along with the hazzan. One who does not have a member before or on Purim, in commemoration of kosher megilla scroll should not read along but listen V. Mishlo’ah Manot
2. As the miracle of Purim came about through festive banquets with drinking of wine, to some 1. Each man and women must send a food gift extent the Purim seuda should have such a quality, composed of at least two types of food or drink that including alcoholic beverages for the adults. The may be used for that day’s festive meal to at least one Talmud states that one should become so joyous until person. The primary purpose of this misvah is to he doesn’t know the difference between “Cursed is increase friendship between people. To some extent it interpretation is given to this statement, and there are many, it is absolutely clear that one may only drink to 2. It is praiseworthy to send mishlo’ah manot to the extent that he doesn’t violate a halakha and is many people and to send portions according to the able to recite bircat hamazon and relevant prayers standards of the giver, increasing harmony and amity VIII. Prayers
3. At least the primary food gift that one sends to fulfill the misvah must be sent and received during 1. In the amidah of Purim and in birkat hamazon we recite `al hanissim followed by Bimeh Mordechai VeEsther in their proper places as specified in all 4. The misvah is not fulfilled by sending money. siddurim. If one forgot to recite them, he does not repeat the amida or birkat hamazon. If one 5. A mourner is required to fulfill the misvah of remembered before having mentioned Hashem’s mishloah manot. Others do not send to the mourner name in the berakha following them, he may “return” but may send to a spouse or other member of the and say them at that spot and then proceed from there. One who remembered too late, but still in the amida or birkat hamazon, should insert them at the VI. Matanot La’ebyonim
end of the amida before `oseh shalom or in the harahman portion of birkat hamazon. 1. In addition to mishlo’ah manot, during the day of Purim we must give food, substance or monetary gifts to at least two poor people or their representatives. 3. Hallel is not recited on Purim. Some Talmudic sages say the megilla takes the place of Hallel. 2. If one can afford it, it is appropriate to give to Others say Hallel is reserved for miracles that occur many more than the minimum two poor people or in the Land of Israel (subsequent to having originally entered the land). Others explain that we didn’t achieve freedom on Purim to be fully “servants of the 3. On Purim, we are not very particular with the Almighty,” but remained under the rule of recipients of charity – “Whosoever extends his hand, 4. Tahanunim are not recited on Purim and Shushan VII. Seudat Purim
Purim. There is no musaf on Purim. 1. Everyone must partake of a festive meal on Purim. 5. Before arbit and in shahrit we recite Psalm 22. This misvah is not fulfilled at night but only during Here, the psalmist is in a grievous, life-threatening situation from his enemies and is ill from the troubles besetting him. He recalls G-d’s saving intervention IX. General Halakhot
on behalf of the nation in the past and His caring for him from birth and is able to overcome his despair 1. Purim is celebrated on Adar 14 in most of the with prayer that obviously leads to salvation. The world. In order to commemorate the one-day-later Sages applied this psalm to Haman’s attempt to celebration of Shushan, where the battle continued annihilate the Jewish People and Mordekhi and for a second day, cities that were walled (like Esther’s endeavors that brought salvation. Shushan) when Joshua led the nation into the land of Israel (for example, Jerusalem), celebrate Purim on 6. In arbit, the megilla is read after the amida followed by “ve’ata qadosh.” In shahrit, it is read after the Torah, just before ve’ata qadosh. (The verse 2. It is prohibited to fast or have eulogies on Purim. of “veata qadosh” is from the psalm we read on Purim (Psalm 22:4), and immediately follows the verse 3. Public aspects of mourning are suspended for the which the Talmud links to the halakha of reading the day similarly to Shabbat. This is one of the cases megilla by day and night.) On Saturday night, the where Shulhan Arukh codifies the halakha differently blessing ‘boreh me’oreh ha’esh’ is recited before the in two different chapters. We follow the later, lenient 7. There are three `olim to the Torah on Purim. The 4. Working is permitted on Purim except in those portion read - from Parashat Beshalah - speaks of places that have a specific custom not to work. In any Joshua’s battling and weakening Amaleq. It contains event, doing business by buying and selling the famous scene of Moshe on the mountaintop. When his hand was raised Israel was ascendant, when lowered, Amaleq was ascendant. The Mishnah 5. It is permitted to have weddings on Purim. (R.H.3:8) explains this as an allegory meaning that when Bene Yisrael turn their hearts to Hashem, they 2006 Sephardic Institute



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