Purim Questions and Answers

Question:  What are women obligated to do on Purim?

Answer: Women are obligated to hear the Megillah reading both at night and in the daytime, to give portions of food- mishloach manot, to give gifts to the needy- matanot laevyonim and to participate in the festive Purim meal.

Question: Can a person dress up as an animal?

Answer:  You are allowed to dress up like an animal there's no problem.

Question: I want to know why we have the custom of masquerading on Purim. Are we obligated to get dressed up?

Answer:  There's no obligation to masquerade on Purim but it is a holy and ancient custom. I will quote the Book of our Heritage: “It is the holy custom of Israel that they change their clothing on Purim and dress up in costumes of non-jews and similar costumes that their friend should not recognize them. This custom of Israel is Torah and it wouldn't be done if there weren’t reasons of Truth and wisdom behind it. We dress up in costumes of non-Jews so people shouldn't differentiate between Haman and Mordechai in order to fulfill the dictum of the sages “until you don't know”.  In the same manner when you see a person in a costume you won't be able to know if he's Jewish or not. This shows that when the Jews sin and act similar to the nations of the world it's only on the outside and just like these people who dressed up as non-Jews are really God-fearing wholehearted people serving God, so too  the Jews of that generation were wholehearted devout Jews who served God. Even when they bowed down to the idol in the time of Nebuchadnezzar they only did it from the outside and did not mean to serve the Idol.

This custom is also based on the verse: “and I'll hide my face on that day”. The Talmud asks: “Where we find a hint to Esther in the Torah and answers, “I will hide my face- hastere aster” my face on that day” this hints to hiding on the face on the day of Purim.
Another reason is that the whole hatred of Amalek for Israel comes from his grandfather Esau that hated Jacob because Jacob wore his clothing and went in to get the blessings from their father Isaac. Now we again dress and his clothing and show that this was not a sin but we were worthy to receive that inheritance and even if Jacob is dressed in the clothing of Esau he is still blessed.

Israel and Amalek are two ends of a rope therefore sometimes they seem to be similar. One is evil and one is righteous. Esau and his grandson Amalek both have the characteristic that they wear clothing that is not really theirs. They dress up in finery and show themselves to be righteous and speak with a smooth tongue but they are only purely evil with deceit hiding under their tongue. The verse talks of it: Esau had game (he trapped) in his mouth” which literally it means he hunted and ate game but it also can read “he has traps in his mouth” meaning he traps (people) with his mouth. His mouth and his heart aren't the same.

On the other hand by the righteous of Israel you find the exact opposite; their hearts and words also we're not equal but I wasn't for deceit. King David considered himself a sinner but he was a great saintly person. Jacob's righteousness was hidden from all, even his father Isaac didn't recognize it until his mother Rebecca revealed Jacob’s treasures and made sure that the blessings would go to him as he was more worthy of receiving the blessings.

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Question: Is there a Mitzvah to drink on the night of forum and when do you read the Megillah?

Answer:  The Mitzvah of getting drunk and reaching the state of happiness is only in the daytime. We read the Megillah at night after the stars come out and in the morning. Each person should check when his synagogue reads the Megillah. It's important to note that Jerusalem has a different day for Purim; they celebrate the 15th of Adar instead of the 14th since it was a walled City in the time of Joshua. Because of this a person should consult with his rabbi about what he should do if he goes from a city keeping Purim on the 14th to Jerusalem or leaving Jerusalem on the 15th to a town that already had Purim the day before.

Question: Is everything written in the Megillah true? Are these facts backed up by General history too?  

Answer: The Megillah is backed up with many details according to researchers. The dates match the Jewish calendar, the King was called Xerxes the first, in Shushan he had a Winter Palace that that matches the description written in the Megillah. Shushan was not the real capital town and that's why it's always called Shushan the Birah. The word “birah” means Palace. King Xerxes had a senior officer in his government named Murdok which is Mordechai and many other details also fit into general history.

However, you should remember a simple point. Many Jews carry luggage of low self-esteem and scorn towards are scriptures. As long as they don't find any backup from some non-Jew or some ancient tablet that was found in archaeological digs they still have doubts about our tradition and the veracity of our texts. There's no reason for this it only comes from low self-esteem.

Take for example our Megillah; its current form or the dates back to the time of the Mishna- two thousand years ago. The miracle Purim happened only a few hundred years before. Anyone could check this out himself. If it had any lies or false claims it would not have been accepted by Israel and they would have laughed at it and scorned it. Anybody trying to make such claims and trying to add mitzvoth to what we already have can’t just do what he wants especially in light of the fact that Jews were very careful about the Torah and didn’t readily accept new things.  So I ask again, where's your room for doubt? Why should this Megillah that was handed down from generation to generations and which everyone comes to hear every year be any less valid and have its veracity questioned until it's backed up by some ancient archaeological find whose veracity and date can be debated by any researcher?


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