07. Purim

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Women are obligated in all four mitzvot of Purim – reading the megilla, mishlo’aĥ manot (sending gifts of food to a friend), matanot le-evyonim (gifts to the poor), and a festive meal.

Mishlo’aĥ manot is fulfilled by giving two portions to one person. Matanot le-evyonim is fulfilled by giving two poor people two gifts each. Married women are obligated in these two mitzvot, so a married couple bust give mishlo’aĥ manot to two different people, one from the husband and one from the wife. Likewise, together they must give matanot le-evyonim to four poor people, two from the husband and two from the wife (MB 795:25). Nevertheless, some poskim say that a couple fulfills the mitzva jointly, by giving one mishlo’aĥ manot and two matanot le-evyonim. Even according to this opinion, however, adult sons and daughters do not fulfill their obligation through their parents (AHS 794:2). Halakhic practice follows the majority opinion, and even married women must give mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot le-evyonim of her own (see Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 16:6).

Women are obligated to rejoice on Purim by drinking wine. However, they should take care not to get drunk, since drunkenness is more shameful for women than for men and constitutes a breach of tzni’ut, a trait for which women are praised (Ketubot 65a; Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 16:11).

Concerning the custom of giving tzedaka before Purim to commemorate the half-shekel that was contributed to the Temple while it stood, some poskim exempt women whereas others obligate them. The common custom today is to give at least a half-shekel for each member of a household, even a fetus (Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 14:10).

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