Learning the Four Mitzvot of Purim

Purim, like many Jewish holidays, is a celebration of the Jewish people’s redemption from catastrophe. It’s also a noisy, riotous, carnival-like festival, which makes it especially fun for kids! Children and grown-ups alike dress up in costume and get ready to party. The story of Purim – how the Jewish queen of Persia, Esther, saved her people from doom – is told in the Book of Esther, known as the Megillah in Hebrew. In addition to the fun traditions surround Purim, there are also four commandments or mitzvot – the plural of mitzvah – to fulfill. All of the mitzvot associated with Purim are related to taking care of one another:

Reading the Megillah

On Purim, the Megillah is read aloud in synagogues all over the world – and this is one time when no one is discouraged from making noise during the service! In fact, listeners shake their groggers (Yiddish for “noisemakers”) every time they hear the name of the villain of the story, Haman. Many communities also stage funny purimspiels (Yiddish for “plays”) to accompany the Megillah reading.

Giving Gifts to Friends and Neighbors

The second mitzvah is sending gifts, or mishloach manot which is Hebrew for Purim gift baskets. Gifts of food to friends and colleagues ensure that everyone has the means to be happy, further foiling the evil plans of Haman. Here are some easy gifts in a jar to assemble with your family for your mishloach this year. Don’t forget to add a special gift tag too!

Eating a Special Meal

In addition to the purimspiel, the costume parade, and baking hamantaschen, many families also enjoy the Seudah, or the Purim feast. Basically, this commandment is to “eat, drink, and be merry.”

Giving to the Needy

Giving gifts to the poor, matanot l’evyonim, is the fourth mitzvah. Giving to others, especially on Purim, ensures that everyone has the means to celebrate during the holiday and also honors Esther and Mordechai’s legacy of saving the Jewish people. Fulfilling the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim can be as simple as dropping coins into a tzedakah box or making donations of food or clothing to a local pantry or shelter.

Visit the PJ Library Purim Hub for easy costume ideas, book lists, and more.