Purim in the Community
Another traditional feature of Purim observance is the Fast of Esther (Ta'anit Esther). It is one of the four statutory public fasts in the Jewish calendar. All of these other fasts are connected with tragic events related to the destruction of Jerusalem or to the loss of the Jewish state. The fast of the 13th of Adar, the day preceding Purim, is related rather to the threat to destroy the Jewish people. When Mordecai told Esther about Haman's plan to kill all the Jews, she asked him to proclaim a three-day fast. It is in commemoration of this that some Jews still fast on this day.
There is another unique feature to communal Purim observance. Purim is celebrated in most of the world on the 14th of Adar. However, in Jerusalem it is observed on the 15th of Adar, because of the interpretation of Esther 9:18-19, "But the Jews that were in Shushan assembled together on the 13th day thereof, and on the 14th thereof; and on the 15th day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore do the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the unwalled towns, make the 14th day of the month of Adar a day of gladness and feasting." The sages concluded that Purim was celebrated on the 15th of Adar, as in Shushan, in cities that had been walled since the days of Joshua.
In a leap year, when there is the additional month of Adar II, it is traditional to do everything that must be done in Adar during the first Adar. Purim is the exception to this rule and is celebrated during the second Adar.
On Purim the Megillah mandates that we give gifts to friends (mishloach manot), usually of food, and to the poor (matanot l'evyonim). It is a tradition for congregations to collect money in memory of the half shekel collected in ancient days for the upkeep of the Temple. Purim is a time for carnivals and parties and masquerades. Most Jewish congregations hold special carnivals for children, and children dress in costumes that commemorate the various characters of the Purim story. They perform humorous plays called Purim shpiels, which more often than not mock both the characters in the story and leaders in the Jewish community.
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