Purim Update 2 and Guidelines
Following on from last week’s announcement regarding Megillah reading this year (which can be viewed here: https://www.magenavot.com/content/purim-guidelines-5781) below is further guidance as to how to fulfil the remaining mitzvot of Purim, whilst strictly adhering to all necessary Covid restrictions. Please feel free to contact me for any questions or further clarification.
The requirement to hear the Torah reading of Parshat Zachor on the Shabbat before Purim is subject to a debate amongst the Rishonim. Many hold that one is required to hear the parsha from a Torah scroll, whilst others would deem acceptable reading from a Chumash. Normative Halachic practice as ruled by the Shulchan Aruch follows the former view (and in future years one should return to this).
At present shul remains closed and we will not be opening for Shabbat Zachor. Everyone should read these pesukim (Devarim 25:17-19) at home from a Chumash on Shabbat day. When we reach Parshat Ki Teitzei in the summer months, we will be”H have the opportunity to hear these pesukim from a sefer Torah as well.
It goes without saying that Purim this year should not be spent out on the streets or socialising in any way. Although the simcha of Purim is normally expressed through large social gatherings, this would obviously be irresponsible and inappropriate this year. The pandemic is unfortunately still with us and the utmost vigilance is required in order to prevent the further spread of infection.
The following passage of the Rambam (Hilchot Megillah 2:17) is always relevant but particularly apt to our current situation:
מוּטָב לָאָדָם לְהַרְבּוֹת בְּמַתְּנוֹת אֶבְיוֹנִים מִלְּהַרְבּוֹת בִּסְעֻדָּתוֹ וּבְשִׁלּוּחַ מָנוֹת לְרֵעָיו. שֶׁאֵין שָׁם שִׂמְחָה גְּדוֹלָה וּמְפֹאָרָה אֶלָּא לְשַׂמֵּחַ לֵב עֲנִיִּים וִיתוֹמִים וְאַלְמָנוֹת וְגֵרִים. שֶׁהַמְשַׂמֵּחַ לֵב הָאֻמְלָלִים הָאֵלּוּ דּוֹמֶה לַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נז טו) "לְהַחֲיוֹת רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לֵב נִדְכָּאִים":
One should rather spend more money on gifts to the poor than on his Purim banquet and presents to his friends. No joy is greater and more glorious than the joy of gladdening the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the strangers. He who gladdens the heart of these unhappy people imitates God, as it is written: "I am … to revive the spirit of the humble, and to put heart into the crushed" (Isaiah 57:15).
The halachic requirement of Mishloach Manot is to give two items of food to ONE recipient. Spending large parts of the day travelling far and wide in order to deliver multiple packages should, for obvious reasons, be avoided this year.
I would urge us all to go back to basics and suffice with one package, delivered ideally to a neighbour and thus avoid contravening the current “Stay at Home” guidance. Of course where possible priority should be given to those feeling alone or isolated this Purim. As mentioned in the above-quoted Rambam, the extra money one might normally spend on Mishloach Manot should be donated to Matanot La’evyonim.
Gifts to the poor should be distributed to 2 individuals on Purim day. In order to prevent social contact this should ideally be done via an online bank transfer, which may be set up in advance of Purim. This can be fulfilled through the US website by signing up for “Purim in a box” (https://myus.theus.org.uk/events/63598/buy-gift-donate-purim-in-a-box) and selecting the “Matanot La’ evyonim” option.
There is a mitzvah to partake of a festive meal on Purim day. As Purim falls on Friday this year this should be done early in the day – at home, with one’s immediate family/support bubble only. As Purim is not a Yom Tov on which melacha is forbidden, people are encouraged to interact with family and friends via virtual means in order to enhance the Purim atmosphere. Please remember that it is illegal and against current guidance to join with others for this meal, in your home or anywhere else. An appropriate use of the money saved on the Seudah would be as a contribution to the needy.
Whilst we will not be celebrating this year in the normal manner, I hope and pray that we will all merit to fulfil the words from the Megillah that we say in Havdala each week
ליהודים הייתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר – כן תהיה לנו!
“The Jews had light and joy, and gladness and honor.” – and so may we!