Purim has something for everyone, even if you don’t enjoy getting dressed up in costume and engaging in Purim festivities (and if you do, great! There is even more!).
In celebrating Purim, our tradition outlines four special mitzvot for the holiday.
This article will go through each of the four mitzvot with an explanation of “how-to” and some ideas about how to make it fit into your lifestyle and availability.
In celebrating the survival of the Jews of Shushan thanks to Mordechai and Esther, we take the opportunity to look beyond ourselves and bring others into the celebration as well.
1. Hearing the Megillah
The first mitzvah of Purim is hearing the reading of the megillah, the scroll of Esther.
This mitzvah opportunity occurs two times during the holiday, once at night the evening that purim starts and once during the day. The timing isn’t super specific, the nighttime one should be after dark (but it could be at 1am or 3am at night) and the daytime one any time during the day.
Many synagogues will have readings at night and during the day done from the scroll.
Hearing the reading from a scroll, in person is the ideal way to perform this mitzvah. However it’s not always possible to observe the ideal so here are some other options.
If you can’t make it to one in person, a good option would be to find a live reading on zoom or a live streaming option. If that isn’t possible, the text of the megillah is readily available online, take some time to read the full story (it’s wild!).
2. Mishloach Manot – Giving food to friends
Yes, it is as fun as it sounds! Make some food and give it to someone.
The most basic requirement is two different types of foods to one person. If you love to bake or cook you can also get into this mitzvah and make a whole bunch of foods to give away to different people.
If you are into crafting you can make fun bags or boxes to put the food into. Go all out with some pinterest suggestions.
If that does not sound appealing, something more simple is great as well! Grab an orange and a chocolate bar and give it to your neighbor on Purim – and you’ve done a mitzvah!
Many synagogues will put together mishloach manot, which is another easy way to get in on this mitzvah.
This mitzvah comes straight from the megillah (as do the next two). Mordechai in speaking about how to celebrate suggests we should give food to one another (see Esther 9:22). Food is a way to celebrate and build community, which is exactly what this mitzvah is all about.
3. Matanot LaEvyonim – Giving gifts to the poor
Another important Purim mitzvah is matanot la’evyonim, giving gifts to the poor. This mitzvah is about remembering those who are less fortunate, even while we are celebrating.
The ideal for this mitzvah is giving money or food to at least two separate people on Purim day. This could mean giving money to two unhoused individuals in the area, or two people you know could use help getting food. If there is a community fridge in your area, stocking it up with some food is a beautiful way to do this Purim mitzvah.
Other options are donating to funds that will go towards feeding those in need. Some of our sources even say that this is the most important mitzvah of the four, and if one has a choice, spending more energy on this mitzvah is the way to go (see Mishneh Torah, Scroll of Esther and Hanukkah 2:17).
4. Purim Seudah – A special Purim feast
The last of the four Purim mitzvot is the Seudah (Hebrew for meal). This is a special meal eaten on Purim day. The whole idea of this meal is for it to be extra festive.
Traditionally that meant meat and wine were served, but there are other great ways to have a festive meal in your community, or make your own with some friends. I personally love a brunch themed seudah (breakfast potatoes make me feel festive).
If Purim is on a day that you have work, think about ways to make a festive meal at the office (or at home or wherever work is).
Can you invite a few people to enjoy lunch break with you?
Maybe have each person bring in a little something special to share?
Or invite a few people to hit up a favorite restaurant.
If that isn’t an option, think of another way to make the meal feel a little different and more festive (maybe a special snack or a favorite dish, or splurging on a fancy milkshake, etc).
During the Seudah besides eating, some will share jokes and “Purim Torah” to be funny and help add to the festive vibe. Costumes can also add to that festive feeling. For some drinking alcohol is a part of this seudah, but also a sober seudah is a lovely option as well. (Drinking and Purim is a whole different article.)
There are so many ways to celebrate Purim and do these four mitzvot, and also ways to make them meaningful and fun. This is only the beginning! If you have fun Purim customs or traditions, please share, or maybe this is the year to create a new one.