Purim, which falls on the 14th of Adar (the 15th in walled cities like Jerusalem), celebrates the deliverance of Persian Jewry 2,400 years ago, during the reign of King Ahasuerus.
On the 13th of Adar, Jews across the kingdom assembled and defended themselves. Thousands of their enemies were killed, including Haman's 10 evil sons who were hanged from a tree. Unlike the Persians who planned to take money and property, the Jews took no loot at all. On the 14th of Adar, they gave thanks to God and celebrated.
But in the walled capital city of Shushan, the Jews continued to fight an additional day. On the 15th of Adar the Jews of Shushan celebrated their victory. Therefore we celebrate:
The Fast of Esther on the 13th of Adar
Purim Day on the 14th of Adar
And in the walled city of Jerusalem, the main celebration is:
Shushan Purim on the 15th of Adar.There are four requirements for celebrating Purim:
1. We hear the story of Esther as recounted in the Bible.
2. We have a festive meal with more wine than usual.
3. We deliver two different kinds of food to friends and neighbors.
4. We give gifts to the poor.
Purim is celebrated by reading the megillah, or the scroll of Esther, where the story is found in the Torah. Every time Haman's name is mentioned during the reading, congregants stomp their feet and use noisemakers called greggars to drown his name.
According to the megillah itself, one is "to observe [Purim] as days of feasting and merry-making, and as an occasion of sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor" (Esther 9:22). Three central traditions of the holiday are therefore the Purim banquet (se'udah), the giving of charity (matanot la'evyonim), and the presenting of gifts of food and drink (mishloah manot) to one's friends.
The Talmud says:
“One is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he no longer knows the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai”In addition, we are commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as shalach manos (lit. sending out portions).
Purim will occur on the following days of the Gregorian calendar:
- Jewish Year 5770: sunset February 27, 2010 - nightfall February 28, 2010
- Jewish Year 5771: sunset March 19, 2011 - nightfall March 20, 2011
- Jewish Year 5772: sunset March 7, 2012 - nightfall March 8, 2012
- Jewish Year 5773: sunset February 23, 2013 - nightfall February 24, 2013