Peninei Halakha

Close this search box.
Peninei Halakha > Zemanim > 16 - The Mitzvot of Joy and Kindness

16 – The Mitzvot of Joy and Kindness

01. Joy and Kindness

On Purim, we are commanded: “To observe them as days of feasting and joy, of sending gifts (mishlo’aĥ manot) to one another, and presents to the poor (matanot la-evyonim)” (Esther 9:22).

The mitzva to rejoice on Purim is quite unique, as it finds expression even in the physical aspects of life. Just as Haman’s decree targeted our soul and body alike, so too our joy over our salvation should be both spiritual and physical. Therefore, in addition to the mitzva of reading the Megilla, which gives expression to man’s spiritual side, there is a mitzva to prepare a festive and joyous meal (se’uda). During this meal, an emphasis is placed on drinking wine to the point where one loses his mental capacity to a certain degree. This expresses the notion that the Jewish people are holy and that even in a state of diminished mental capacity, they remain connected and close to God.

This joy must be accompanied by a heightened sense of love and unity among Jews. This is true joy, as it expresses a broadening of life and its spread through the love of all people. However, one who eats and drinks for their own sake is considered narrow and limited, preoccupied only with gratifying his own desires; such a person will never attain genuine joy. Thus, we are commanded to send gifts of food, mishlo’aĥ manot, to one another.

We should not content ourselves with increasing love among friends; rather, we must also care about the destitute, who are unable to rejoice fully. Therefore, we are commanded to give gifts to the poor, matanot la-evyonim, so that they too can take part in the joy of Purim. Anyone who disregards the pain of the destitute – even if he thinks that he is enjoying himself with his friends – is in reality engaged in debauchery, ignoring the realities of life. He flees thoughts about the suffering in this world so that he can have some fleeting happiness. But the harsh reality will not disappear when he drinks wine and becomes intoxicated. Therefore, deep down, he knows that he does not deserve to be happy, and he will remain miserable. However, if one makes sure to bring joy to the poor and unfortunate, his life has value, and he can truly and rightfully rejoice. This is why we were commanded to give gifts to the poor on Purim.

02. Jewish Unity on Purim

Purim is a special day for displaying Jewish unity. Haman’s decree was aimed at the entire Jewish people, with no distinction between righteous and wicked, poor and rich. One can learn from the ambitions of Israel’s enemies – to kill every single Jew – that the unique properties of Israel inhere in every Jew. God saved us all, and in so doing, transformed our grief into joy. Therefore, the joyous celebration of Purim must include every Jew. Accordingly, we are commanded to give mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim.

Moreover, the disunity of the Jewish people at the time enabled Haman to denounce them before King Aĥashverosh: “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm…. If it please Your Majesty, let an edict be drawn for their destruction” (Esther 3:8-9). Similarly, Haman’s decree was foiled by Jewish solidarity, as Esther said to Mordechai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day” (ibid. 4:16). In this way, Esther succeeded in nullifying the decree.

Indeed, Jewish unity is a precondition for receiving the Torah, as it says in reference to the giving of the Torah, “Israel encamped (vayiĥan) there in front of the mountain” (Shemot 19:2). Noting the verse’s use of the singular verb vayiĥan, the Sages explain that Israel encamped there “like one man with one heart” (Rashi). They did this “so that they would love each other, and thereby receive the Torah” (Mekhilta ad loc.). Only then did God say, “Behold, the time has come for Me to give the Torah to My children” (Vayikra Rabba 9:9). Just as a Torah scroll that is missing a single letter is entirely invalid, so too, if one of the 600,000 Jews who stood at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given would have been missing, we would not have been privileged to receive the Torah. The same is true of Purim. As a result of the harsh decree that unified the Jewish people, we were redeemed and were even privileged to accept the Torah anew, as the Sages relate that Israel accepted the Torah anew in the time of Aĥashverosh, out of love (Shabbat 88a). The same is true each and every year: We are able to receive the Torah anew, joyously, because of the unity that is revealed on Purim.

03. Matanot La-evyonim

It is a mitzva for each and every Jew to give matanot la-evyonim on Purim. In order to fulfill this mitzva, one must give a minimum of two gifts – one each to two poor people – but it is praiseworthy to give more. The gift may be money or a food item, but not clothing or books, as some say that the gifts must be items that one can enjoy at the Purim se’uda. As such, one should give food items or money that can be used to purchase food. While the gift must be something that can contribute to the Purim feast, the poor person may do with the gift as he pleases. He is not obligated to use the gift specifically as part of his Purim feast (sa 694:1, Rema ad loc. 2, mb ad loc. 2).

Each gift must be worth the amount of money that could be used to purchase ordinary foods that would satiate a person eating a small, simple meal – for example, a sandwich. To discharge one’s obligation, one can give an amount of money that would purchase about three slices of bread for each gift (in Israel, this is about one shekel). This amount of bread is approximately equivalent to the volume of three eggs, which is enough to minimally satisfy a person. However, giving more matanot la-evyonim is praiseworthy (see below, section 8).

One may not count matanot la-evyonim toward the ma’aser kesafim he owes, as one may not fulfill this obligation with money that he is anyway required to give to charity. However, one may set aside the minimum amount of money per gift and then add to and increase the sum with ma’aser kesafim money.

An evyon is defined by halakha as a poor person who has insufficient funds for his family’s essential needs, as defined by the time and place in which he lives. There were times when a person who had bread to eat and two sets of clothes to wear was not considered poor, whereas today even one who has four sets of clothes and bread and cheese to eat is still considered poor.

One may give matanot la-evyonim even to a poor child, on condition that he is sufficiently intelligent not to lose the money. If one gives the equivalent of two gifts to a poor couple, he fulfills his obligation to give a minimum of two gifts. Similarly, if one gives the equivalent of two gifts to a widow and her young son who is dependent on her, he fulfills his obligation. However, one who gives two gifts to a single poor person does not fulfill his obligation, even if he gives the gifts one after the other, because one must give to two poor people.[1]

If one does not know two poor people, or if he is embarrassed to give them gifts, he should give his matanot la-evyonim to a reputable gabbai tzedaka (charity fund manager) to distribute to the poor on his behalf. The gabbai must attempt to give these gifts to the poor in a way that will enhance their joy at the Purim meal.[2]

[1]. Maĥzik Berakha states in the name of Zera Yaakov §11 that the value of each gift must be equivalent to the price of three eggs’ bulk of a food item, as this is the size of a minimal meal. It is preferable, however, for the value of the gift to be great enough to purchase a simple meal, such as a roll with a spread, a serving of falafel, or the like. In any case, one discharges his obligation with three eggs’ bulk worth of bread. mb 694:2 cites Ritva as saying that even a single pruta is considered a sufficient gift. The value of a pruta today is approximately three Israeli agorot or one us cent. However, since this is a case of uncertainty concerning divrei kabbala, one should be stringent. Besides, nowadays one cannot buy anything with a pruta, and perhaps even Ritva would agree that one does not fulfill his obligation today with a gift of a pruta. (Sma ĥm 88:2 is similarly uncertain whether one can betroth a woman nowadays with a pruta. Shakh yd 294:16 states similarly regarding neta reva’i [the redemption of fourth-year produce].) Therefore, one must give a sum of money that is large enough for the recipient to purchase something.

[2]. In the past, gabba’ei tzedaka would purchase calves and slaughter them for the poor people’s Purim meal. They were not permitted to purchase fewer calves in order to leave money over for the other needs of the poor. Rather, they would prepare an abundant amount of food for the Purim meal, and if there was extra money left over, they would direct it toward the other needs of the poor after Purim (bm 78b; sa 694:2).

04. Mishlo’aĥ Manot

Every person must send two gifts of food to a friend on Purim, in order to increase love between them. Increasing love between Jews is part of the essence of Purim, as it was on Purim that the Jewish people’s holiness was revealed. This holiness is expressed in the fact that they cling to God and His Torah, and a spark of this holiness exists in every Jew. Therefore, it is proper to actively express the love between Jews on Purim (see above, section 2).

These gifts must consist of food items in order to enhance the joy of Purim, as it is known that when a person eats good, tasty foods that he received from a friend, the love between them becomes strengthened. Another reason for mishlo’aĥ manot is that some people are not actually poor – they have the ability to purchase basic provisions for the Purim meal – yet are unable to buy foods for a more respectable Purim meal. By sending mishlo’aĥ manot, we can provide them with good food for the Purim meal in an honorable fashion.

The law is that one discharges his obligation by sending two portions of food to one person. The Sages enacted that one must send at least two portions so that the gift will be an expression of love. After all, a single portion of food can help a friend avoid hunger, but when one sends two portions, it means that he wants his friend to enjoy a variety of foods as well. One who gives more mishloĥei manot in order to increase feelings of love, brotherhood, peace, and friendship between oneself and one’s friends is praiseworthy.[3]

[3]. The main reason for mishlo’aĥ manot is to increase love and brotherhood among Jews, as that is the main focus of the day. So writes Maharal in Or Ĥadash 9:22 and R. Shlomo Alkabetz in Manot Ha-Levi. Terumat Ha-deshen §111 states that mishlo’aĥ manot are for the Purim se’uda and to help those who are in need.

Responsa Binyan Tziyon §44 states that, le-khatĥila, one should send mishlo’aĥ manot via a shali’aĥ (proxy), but many poskim do not mention this. Rema 695:4 writes that if one sends mishlo’aĥ manot to his friend and the friend refuses to accept it, one nevertheless fulfills his obligation, as he has still expressed his love just by sending the mishlo’aĥ manot. However, Pri Ĥadash and Ĥatam Sofer disagree. Most Aĥaronim are stringent on the matter.

05. Types of Foods for Mishlo’aĥ Manot

The two food portions must be different from each other. For example, one may send bread and meat, meat and rice, fish and eggs, or cake and apples. One may also send two portions of meat with different flavors, like cooked meat and roasted meat, or two cooked meats taken from different parts of the animal, such that their taste and shape differ. Similarly, one may send two types of cake, provided that they look and taste different from each other.

One who sends his friend a garment or a book does not fulfill his obligation. Even though these items surely bring joy and express love, the portions must consist of food items. However, once one fulfills his obligation with two food portions, he may add additional gifts, if he desires, in order to increase the level of love and brotherhood.

One who sends a live fowl to his friend does not fulfill his obligation, because it is not edible as is; it must first be slaughtered, cut, salted, and cooked. Some maintain that even if one sends raw, uncooked meat, he does not fulfill his obligation. Rather, one must send food portions that are ready to be eaten. One may send canned foods, because one can easily open the can and eat its contents.

Most poskim maintain that a bottle of a noteworthy drink, such as wine, beer, or a tasty juice, is considered a suitable food portion. Therefore, one may fulfill his obligation by sending two such drinks. However, some rule stringently and maintain that a drink is not considered a food portion. Even though the halakha follows the majority of poskim, one who wishes to discharge his obligation according to all viewpoints should send at least one mishlo’aĥ manot containing two portions of food.

Each portion must contain an amount of food worthy of being served to a guest in a respectable manner (ahs 695:15). Thus, a single plum, for example, is not a large enough portion with which to honor a guest. Therefore, a person who wants one of his portions to consist of plums must combine a few plums together in order for them to be considered a food portion.

Some maintain that the volume of each portion must be equivalent to approximately three eggs’ volume. Others add that the portions must be significant according to the status of the giver and the recipient. That is, if they are wealthy, the portions must be distinguished and enjoyable according to their prestige. If, however, they do not view the portions as significant, they fail to fulfill their obligation. Le-khatĥila, one should take care to ensure that each food portion contains a volume equivalent to at least three eggs and that it should be significant and respectable in the eyes of both the sender and the recipient.[4]

[4]. According to ma, quoting Maharil, the portion must be ready to eat. Therefore, one does not discharge his obligation with raw meat. Pri Ĥadash, however, rules that one may send raw meat. mb 695:19 cites both opinions. One certainly does not fulfill his obligation by sending non-food items, as the portions must be of a kind that causes their recipient to rejoice by eating them on Purim. According to Halakhot Ketanot 2:163, however, one may fulfill his obligation with money or clothing, if the clothing can be sold immediately and the proceeds used to purchase food items. As indicated above, most poskim disagree with this.

Even though the portions are meant to be eaten at the Purim meal, and it would seemingly be preferable to send foods that are appropriate for the meal, many have the custom to send cakes and various types of sweets. So state Sheyarei Knesset Ha-gedola, Ĥida, and R. Ĥayim Palachi. The reason for this is that these foods bring joy and can be kept for a long time. In contrast, if one sends meat, it may be superfluous and difficult to preserve.

Most poskim maintain that a drink is considered a portion of food for this purpose, including Terumat Ha-deshen §111, Taz 695:4, Levush, Pri Ĥadash, and mb 695:19. ahs 695:14 concurs, stating that one may discharge his obligation with two drinks. According to Rabbeinu Ĥananel, however, one does not fulfill one’s obligation with a drink.

Ben Ish Ĥai (Tetzaveh 16) states that one must place the two food portions in two separate vessels, but most poskim do not mention this. The only thing that seems to be required is that the food be recognizable as two portions. However, the need for two separate vessels is more understandable according to the opinion that one fulfills his obligation with two portions of a single type of food. Tzitz Eliezer 14:65 follows this approach, stating that the minimum shi’ur for each portion is the volume of approximately three eggs, and one may fulfill his obligation by giving two such portions of one type of food. In such a case, though, the giver would need to separate the two portions. However, according to ahs 695:14 and Eshel Avraham (Buczacz), one does not fulfill his obligation with only one type of food. This is also the opinion of Mikra’ei Kodesh (Frank) §38.

ahs 695:15 states that one does not discharge his obligation with a kezayit of food or with a revi’it of drinks. Rather, each portion must be of a respectable size. Eshel Avraham (Buczacz) concurs, while Maharsha rules leniently that one may send less. Nevertheless, the simple understanding is that one should be stringent and ensure that the portions are fit for serving. Furthermore, we already learned that some maintain that each portion must be the size of three eggs (Tzitz Eliezer 14:65). According to Ritva and Ĥayei Adam 155:31, the portions must be respectable in the eyes of the giver and the recipient.

06. Who Is Obligated in Mishlo’aĥ Manot and Matanot La-evyonim?

Every Jew is obligated in mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim. Even though women are ordinarily exempt from positive time-bound mitzvot, they must fulfill the mitzvot of Purim, since they too participated in the miracle. For reasons of modesty, one should take care that women send mishlo’aĥ manot only to women and men send only to men. However, one does not need to be particular about this when it comes to matanot la-evyonim, as giving charity does not engender excessive familiarity (Rema 695:4 mentions concern for an accidental betrothal through mishlo’aĥ manot).

Even a married woman must fulfill these mitzvot. Therefore, a married couple must send two mishloĥei manot – one from the husband and one from the wife – and each mishlo’aĥ manot must contain at least two portions of food. Even though the main objective of sending mishlo’aĥ manot is to foster friendship between the sender and the recipient, it seems that it is unnecessary to specify explicitly that one mishlo’aĥ manot is from the husband and the other is from the wife. This does not detract from the goal of fostering friendship, because it is clear that the mishlo’aĥ manot are from both of them, since they are a married couple. The friendship engendered will thus extend to both of them.

For matanot la-evyonim, a married couple must give the equivalent of four gifts – two from the husband and two from the wife. It is unnecessary for the wife to give her gifts in person; her husband can distribute them on her behalf. A man may also give these four gifts to two poor people, each one receiving one gift from him and one gift from her. The custom today is to give the equivalent of four gifts to a gabbai tzedaka, who then distributes them to two poor people on the couple’s behalf.

Children who have reached the age at which they are obligated to observe mitzvot are obligated in mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim, even though they are still dependent on their parents for support. Since the purpose of mishlo’aĥ manot is to increase love among Jews, the child must send them explicitly in his or her name. Regarding matanot la-evyonim, however, the parents may give on their child’s behalf.

It is proper to train children who have reached the age of ĥinukh to observe these mitzvot. Some do so by sending them to deliver the mishlo’aĥ manot. Others even give their children food items of their own, so that they can then send to their friends. Regarding matanot la-evyonim, some parents give their children money to give to poor people, while others give money to the poor themselves on behalf of their children. In such a case, the parents educate their children to observe mitzvot by telling them what they did.[5]

A poor person who is supported by charity is still obligated in mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim. If he has only enough food for his own Purim meal, he should trade with a friend, meaning that each one should give the other the contents of his meal. This way, they both fulfill the mitzva of mishlo’aĥ manot. They should do the same thing regarding matanot la-evyonim (sa 695:4, mb 694:1-2).

[5]. The obligation of women in these mitzvot is explained in Rema 695:4. However, Pri Ĥadash states that they are exempt, since it says in regard to mishlo’aĥ manot, “ish le-re’ehu” (lit. “a man to his friend”). The Vilna Gaon seems to concur, but the vast majority of poskim maintain that women are obligated in these mitzvot, because they too participated in the miracle of Purim. So states Sha’arei Teshuva 695:9 in the name of Responsa Shvut Yaakov 1:45 and She’eilat Yaavetz 1:108. ma 695:12 notes his observation that married women are not careful in their observance of these mitzvot, perhaps because of the principle that one’s wife is considered like himself. He concludes, however, that women should be stringent in this regard. Eliya Rabba, mb 695:25, Ĥayei Adam 155:33, and ahs 695:18 all concur.

Eshel Avraham (Buczacz) states that children are exempt from matanot la-evyonim, because they have no money of their own; we educate them only in the mitzva of mishlo’aĥ manot. Pri Megadim and Siddur Beit Yaakov, however, maintain that one must also educate children in the mitzva of matanot la-evyonim.

A mourner, even during shiva, is obligated in all the mitzvot of Purim, including mishlo’aĥ manot. According to Sephardic custom, one may send mishlo’aĥ manot to a mourner. According to Ashkenazic custom, however, one must not send mishlo’aĥ manot to a mourner during the entire year of mourning for a parent or during the shloshim period for other relatives. When one member of a couple is in mourning, one may send mishlo’aĥ manot to that person’s spouse.

07. The Proper Time for Matanot La-evyonim and Mishlo’aĥ Manot

One must send mishlo’aĥ manot and give matanot la-evyonim on Purim day, as it says, “To observe them as days of feasting and joy, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor” (Esther 9:22). If one gives these gifts on the night of Purim, he does not fulfill his obligation.[6]

If one cannot find poor people to receive matanot la-evyonim on Purim, he should set aside his gifts and save them until he finds poor people. Thus, he fulfills the mitzva by the very act of setting the gifts aside. Similarly, a gabbai tzedaka who does not manage, on Purim, to distribute all the funds he collected should distribute them to the poor after Purim (sa 694:4).

However, the mitzva of mishlo’aĥ manot applies only on the day of Purim itself, as that is when there is a mitzva to increase love and happiness between friends. Therefore, if one is alone on Purim and has no one to receive his mishlo’aĥ manot, he cannot compensate for the mitzva after Purim. But now that we have telephones and internet, one may call a friend or write an e-mail and ask him to send mishlo’aĥ manot on his behalf on Purim, thus fulfilling one’s obligation.

One who is concerned that he will not find poor people on Purim may give money to the gabbai tzedaka before Purim, but the giver must stipulate that he maintains ownership over the money until Purim. Then, the gabbai acts as his shali’aĥ and gives the money to two poor people on Purim day on his behalf. Similarly, one who will be alone on Purim may prepare mishlo’aĥ manot in advance, leave them with a friend, and appoint him as his shali’aĥ to give them to another friend on Purim, on his behalf.[7]

[6]. Megilla 7b explains that one does not discharge his obligation to feast on Purim by eating at night, since the verse says, “To make them days of feasting and joy,” and since the mitzvot of mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim appear in the same verse, the same rule applies to both mitzvot. Rosh, Rashba, Rema 695:4, Vilna Gaon, and mb 695:22 concur. It goes without saying that if one gives these gifts before Purim, he does not discharge his obligation.

[7]. ma 694:1 quotes Ha-ma’or as saying that one must not give matanot la-evyonim before Purim, lest the recipients consume them before the holiday. This implies that if the poor people eat the food purchased with such gifts on Purim, the giver discharges his obligation. Pri Megadim ad loc. comes to the same conclusion. However, Maĥatzit Ha-shekel seems to maintain that one must give the gifts specifically on the day of Purim, and bhl 694:1 cites this opinion. Furthermore, there is uncertainty about what the law is in a case in which one sends mishlo’aĥ manot before Purim but they reach the recipient on Purim: Yad Aharon states that one fulfills one’s obligation in such a case, but Torah Lishma §188 maintains that one does not fulfill one’s obligation, because one must increase love on the day of Purim specifically. ahs 695:16 rules according to the latter opinion with regard to both mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim. There is further uncertainty in a case where one gives the gifts before Purim, telling the recipient that they are merely a deposit until the day of Purim. Mahari Algazi maintains that such a person fulfills his obligation, whereas Devar Eliyahu §69 maintains that he does not fulfill his obligation, because both types of gifts must be given on the day of Purim. If, however, one sends these items via a shali’aĥ on Purim, he discharges his obligations according to all opinions.

08. Between Mishlo’aĥ Manot and Matanot La-evyonim

The mitzva of mishlo’aĥ manot is designed to increase love and harmony between fellow Jews. Therefore, one who sends mishlo’aĥ manot to his friend anonymously does not fulfill his obligation. Matanot la-evyonim, on the other hand, is like charity and is designed to help the poor in the best possible manner. Therefore, when possible, it is preferable to give matanot la-evyonim anonymously.

One can fulfill the mitzvot of mishlo’aĥ manot or matanot la-evyonim by inviting one’s friend to the Purim meal. If one wants this meal to count as mishlo’aĥ manot, he should place two portions of food in front of his friend, simultaneously, and tell him that this is his mishlo’aĥ manot (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 695:42).

If he wants to fulfill the mitzva of matanot la-evyonim through this meal, it is preferable not to state this outright to the poor person, so that he receives the gift in a more respectable manner, with love and joy. Indeed, this is a very beautiful way to fulfill the mitzva. Similarly, one can anonymously give gifts to the poor in the form of mishlo’aĥ manot containing good and useful food, such that the poor person will not be embarrassed and will even think that the mishlo’aĥ manot was given to him out of love, not due to his poverty.[8]

Rambam writes:

It is preferable for one so spend more liberally on his gifts to the poor than with his festive meal and with sending portions to his friends, for there is no greater or more glorious joy than gladdening the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts. One who gladdens the hearts of these unfortunate people resembles the Divine Presence, as it says: “Reviving the spirits of the lowly, reviving the hearts of the contrite” (Yeshayahu 57:15). (mt, Laws of Megilla 2:17)

In other words, technically, everyone may decide how to prioritize his expenditures – in mishlo’aĥ manot and the se’uda or in matanot la-evyonim. However, one who wants to fulfill the mitzva according to the guidance of our Sages should, le-khatĥila, give precedence to spending more on matanot la-evyonim. Thus, one should calculate how much he will spend on mishlo’aĥ manot and the Purim meal and give more than that to the poor. One who gives ma’aser kesafim each month to the poor or to Torah students may include ma’aser kesafim in this calculation. Therefore, if, together with ma’aser kesafim, one gives more to the poor than he expends on mishlo’aĥ manot and the Purim meal, he has beautified the mitzva in accordance with the guidance of the Sages, and he will, consequently, be privileged to experience the “great and glorious joy” that Rambam mentioned.

[8]. Ketav Sofer, oĥ 141:4, states, based on Rema, that one who sends mishlo’aĥ manot anonymously does not fulfill his obligation. ahs 696:3 seems to concur with this view. It is worth adding that one who wishes to give matanot la-evyonim by sending food should find a way to send it anonymously, because if the poor person knows the sender’s identity, he will presumably want to reciprocate by sending his own mishlo’aĥ manot in return. Then, the poor person will not gain anything from the food sent to him. Nevertheless, if this actually occurs, the sender fulfills his obligation, be-di’avad, as we explained above, at the end of section 6, despite the fact that his good intention to help the poor person did not come to fruition.

According to some Aĥaronim, one cannot give both mishlo’aĥ manot and matanot la-evyonim to the same person.

09. The Mitzva to Rejoice and Eat a Se’uda

We are commanded to observe Purim as a day of feasting and joy. Even though the mitzva of rejoicing continues throughout the night and day of Purim, it reaches its climax at the se’uda, the festive meal. The proper way to express joy is through a large meal, during which the participants drink a good deal; conversely, the proper and most joyful way to drink is in context of a se’uda. Therefore, everyone is obligated to participate in one set meal on Purim, for feasting and joy. This meal must be conducted during the day; if one holds the meal at night, he does not discharge his obligation, as it says, “To observe them as days of feasting and joy” (Esther 9:22, Megilla 7b).

Even though the obligation is to conduct one festive meal during the day, there is nevertheless a mitzva to conduct a meal on the night of Purim, serving foods that bring joy, and to eat and drink a little more than usual. Some have a custom to eat seeds and legumes on the night of Purim, to commemorate the food that Daniel, his colleagues, and Esther ate in the king’s palace. All of the cooked foods were prohibited to them, so they ate seeds and legumes in order not to defile themselves by eating prohibited foods.

There is a mitzva to increase one’s joy throughout the night and day of Purim. The more one rejoices, the more he enhances the mitzva. Thus, the Jewish people have a custom to sing, dance, get together with friends, study Torah, eat good food, and drink beverages that make one happy throughout the holiday of Purim.[9]


One must ideally prepare meat for the main se’uda during the day, because most people agree that eating meat makes one happy. One who has difficulty eating meat should try to eat poultry, as poultry brings people joy as well. If one cannot obtain poultry or does not like it, he should prepare other tasty foods and rejoice in eating them while drinking wine.

One must formalize the meal (kove’a se’uda) with bread, because according to some of the greatest poskim, a meal without bread is not considered a significant meal.[10]

It is a mitzva to eat the meal together with others – family members or friends – in order to enhance its joy. After all, one who eats alone cannot rejoice properly (Shlah; mb 695:9).

There is a mitzva to engage somewhat in feasting and joy on the second day of Purim as well, as it says, “days of feasting and joy.” In other words, residents of Jerusalem should rejoice somewhat on the fourteenth of Adar, and people who live elsewhere should do the same on the fifteenth (Rema 695:2).

[9]. The mitzva to eat a se’uda is elaborated upon in Megilla 7b. By eating a meal, one fulfills the injunction of the verse, “To observe them as days of feasting and joy” (Esther 9:22). While it is true that the Sages derive from here that one may not fast or deliver eulogies on Purim (Megilla 5b), there is certainly also a mitzva to rejoice actively, which one accomplishes by partaking in a joyous meal. So explains Shibolei Ha-leket §201. (Some maintain that the festive meal is a rabbinic mitzva; Binyan Shlomo §58 discusses this.) The mitzva includes eating meat and drinking wine, which is why sa 696:7 rules that even an onen (a mourner whose deceased relative has not yet been buried) must observe it.

According to Rambam (mt, Laws of Megilla 2:14), Rashba, and Ritva (Megilla 4a), the mitzva of eating and drinking is only during the day, as the verse in Esther says “days.” ma 695:6 cites Kol Bo as stating that some have a custom not to eat meat at night, so as not to mistakenly think that this counts as the Purim meal. On the other hand, Raavya maintains that one must have a meal with meat and wine at night, just as it is a mitzva to read the Megilla at night in addition to the main reading of the day. The only difference is that the main, more dignified meal must take place during the day. Baĥ concurs. Tosafot (Megilla 4a) also seem to agree that there is a mitzva to have a festive meal at night as well. Rema 695:1 rules similarly in the name of Mahari Brin, as do mb ad loc. 3, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 695:4. Either way, it is clear, according to the simple understanding of the issue, that one enhances the mitzva by engaging in all types of joyous activities throughout the day, as is customary.

[10]. It is a mitzva to make an elaborate Purim meal, as Rambam, Tur, and Rema state. It seems that according to these authorities, the meal should be even more elaborate than a Yom Tov meal. The term “joy” includes eating meat and drinking wine, as the Sages state in Pesaĥim 109a regarding Yom Tov. Even though the obligation to eat meat on Yom Tov used to relate specifically to the meat of a peace offering (shelamim), there is nonetheless a mitzva to eat meat on Yom Tov even after the destruction of the Temple, since doing so makes one happy, as sah 529:7 and bhl 529:2 explain. See Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:33. Eating chicken also brings joy, as the Gemara and Tosafot in Beitza 10b indicate.

The poskim disagree about whether one must eat bread at the Purim meal. According to Me’iri, Raavya, Maharshal, and Mor U-ketzi’a, one must eat bread, just as it is a mitzva to rejoice on Yom Tov and to eat bread at the meals. Terumat Ha-deshen and ma 695:9 maintain that one does not need to eat bread. They explain that the obligation to eat bread on Yom Tov is not based on the obligation to rejoice, but on the concept of honoring Yom Tov, which the Torah calls, “sacred occasions” (Vayikra 23:4). They similarly disagree about one who forgot to recite Al Ha-nisim in Birkat Ha-mazon (see above ch. 15 n. 19). Nevertheless, mb 695:12 states that one should not repeat Birkat Ha-mazon, since we are lenient in cases of uncertainty about berakhot, and ahs 695:7, 12 rules, on the one hand, that it is a mitzva to eat bread at the Purim meal, but on the other hand, one who forgets Al Ha-nisim does not need to repeat Birkat Ha-mazon, as the obligation to recite Al Ha-nisim in Birkat Ha-mazon cannot be more stringent than the obligation to recite it in the Amida. See Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:89.

10. The Mitzva to Drink

The mitzva to rejoice on Purim is very unique. It is even greater than the mitzva to rejoice on the festivals (Sukkot, Pesaĥ, and Shavu’ot), about which it says, “You shall rejoice in your festival” (Devarim 16:14). Since most people enjoy drinking wine, it is a mitzva to drink wine on the festivals; however, there is no mitzva to drink a lot (sa 529:1-3). Regarding Purim, however, there is an explicit mitzva to drink a lot. Moreover, the essence of Purim is that it should be “days of feasting (mishteh, lit. ‘drinking’) and joy” (Esther 9:22). Therefore, the Sages said, “A person is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’” (Megilla 7b).

There are many opinions regarding the parameters of this mitzva, and they can be divided into two main categories. Some take the words of the Sages literally, meaning that one must get so drunk that he actually cannot differentiate between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” (Rif, Rosh). That is, he should reach a state of simple joy, in which there is no distinction between different levels. In the eyes of one who has reached such a state, “Cursed is Haman” is the same as “Blessed is Mordechai,” since everything is good and everything is for the good. This is the nature of drunk people: They cannot perceive details; everything seems the same to them. However, if one knows that he is liable to do prohibited or disgusting things while he is in a state of drunkenness, he must refrain from reaching such a state. Rather, he should drink heavily until he falls asleep as a result, and while he sleeps he will not be able to differentiate between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”—that is, between good and evil.

Others maintain that the mitzva is to drink more than usual, until one becomes tipsy, but one should not become so drunk that he is liable to act unbecomingly. The reasoning behind this viewpoint is that the halakha does not follow the talmudic opinion that one must drink “until he does not know” (Rabbeinu Ephraim). Alternatively, we accept that opinion, but we interpret it to mean that one should drink until he cannot pronounce his words properly, and when he has to repeat the phrase “Cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai” several times, he will occasionally stumble (Tosafot, Ran).

In practice, each person must choose for himself the way that will best allow him to drink and rejoice for the sake of heaven. Since people’s natures are different from one another, there are varying opinions as to how one should drink and rejoice.[11]

[11]. There are three levels of intoxication: tipsy, drunk, and as drunk as Lot. 1) An tipsy person is one who drinks wine until he feels somewhat happy and disoriented, but is still capable of standing respectfully before a king. Such a person may not recite the Amida until the effects of the wine dissipate, but if he nonetheless prays, his prayer is valid. 2) A drunk person is one who drinks so much that he cannot stand before a king because he is incapable of acting respectfully. If he recites the Amida, he does not discharge his obligation, because his prayer is an abomination. Nevertheless, he may recite Birkhot Ha-nehenin (berakhot recited upon deriving pleasure from something) even in his state of drunkenness. 3) A person who is as drunk as Lot is one who drinks so much that he does not know what is happening to him. He is like a shoteh (a mentally impaired person), who is exempt from all mitzvot. See Peninei Halakha: Prayer 5:11.

We can now apply these levels to the mitzva of drinking on Purim. Rif and Rosh cite Rava’s statement that “a person is obligated to get drunk (livesumei) on Purim until he does not know…” implying that they understand the mitzva according to its simple meaning. The Aramaic word livesumei means to get drunk, as Rashi explains (Megilla 7b). Apparently, this relates to the second category mentioned above – that of a drunk person. In contrast, a person who is as drunk as Lot cannot discern anything, let alone the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai.” However, even within the category of a drunk person, there are different levels: 1) one who cannot stand before a king and speak properly; 2) “until he does not know,” which is as I explained in the main text: He cannot discern details, but instead shows an indiscriminate perspective. As the Sages state, “One who puts his eye on his cup (i.e., is drunk), the whole world appears to him like a plain” (Yoma 75a). Such a person forgets his troubles, and everything is for the good in his eyes – both “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai.” Such a drunk person is liable to disgrace himself. Many authorities maintain that the mitzva to get drunk on Purim refers to this level of drunkenness, and Taz and the Vilna Gaon seem to agree. Ĥakham Zvi and many other great scholars adopted this approach in practice. Raavya 2:564 states that it is a mitzva to get drunk “until he does not know,” but one is not obligated to do so. Apparently, his reasoning is that it is possible to fulfill the mitzva of drinking without reaching this level of drunkenness. From the words of Rif and Rosh, however, it seems that it is obligatory. Even though the Talmud relates that Rabba slaughtered R. Zeira because he was so drunk, implying that it is bad to drink in excess, the fact that Rabba invited R. Zeira to join in his Purim feast again the next year and that R. Zeira was apprehensive about going implies that the mitzva is indeed to get drunk “until he does not know,” in the literal sense (Eshkol, Pri Ĥadash).

mt, Laws of Megilla 2:15 states, “One should drink wine until he gets drunk and falls asleep in his drunkenness.” This, in essence, is an intermediate opinion. On the one hand, one must reach the level of “until he does not know,” but he should not do so while awake, because that would mean he is very drunk. Rather, he should fall asleep as a result of his drunkenness. Mahari Brin concurs with this opinion, and it is cited in Rema 695:2.

Others maintain that one does not need to get so drunk, because drunkenness is shameful and liable to bring one to commit serious transgressions. So states Orĥot Ĥayim. Similarly, Me’iri states: “We are not commanded to get drunk and degrade ourselves in the process of rejoicing, for the type of joy we are commanded to achieve is not one of debauchery and folly, but one of pleasure that leads to loving God and thanking Him for the miracles He performed on our behalf.” Ha-ma’or states in the name of Rabbeinu Ephraim that the fact that the Gemara related the story of Rabba slaughtering R. Zeira implies that the halakha does not require us to drink “until he does not know.” However, it is clear that even these opinions agree that one must drink enough to become tipsy to the point that it would be forbidden to pray. This is clearly indicated from the discussion concerning the timing of the meal, which the poskim determine should take place a significant amount of time before the time of prayer, since one may not pray immediately after the meal. Furthermore, it is a mitzva to drink more on Purim than one does on Yom Tov, since Purim is a day of mishteh. It is a mitzva to drink on Yom Tov in order to rejoice, and it seems that one must drink at least a revi’it measure (Torah Or 99:3). And since one becomes tipsy after drinking only a revi’it, it follows that on Purim one must drink until he nears the level of drunkenness.

Tosafot and Ran explain that one must drink enough to occasionally stumble on the words “Cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai.” Abudraham explains that there was once a song that required the audience to respond accurately – sometimes “Cursed is Haman” and sometimes “Blessed is Mordechai”; people who were intoxicated would often get confused. Aguda and Rabbeinu Yeruĥam explain that the numerical value of both phrases is the same, and when people drink they find it hard to calculate the numbers. Nimukei Yosef explains that one must drink and joke around until he makes himself appear as if he does not know the difference between Haman and Mordechai. According to these opinions as well, the mitzva is to become tipsy, not drunk. They maintain that the halakha follows Rava, that one must drink “until he does not know,” but that this does not mean getting totally drunk. Shlah and Responsa Rema Mi-Fano maintain a similar position. Upon examining these opinions, we find that the mitzva is to become tipsy or even slightly drunk. This fits with the opinion of Baĥ, which accepts the position of Rabbeinu Ephraim in practice, but states, “One should become tipsy or even drunk to the point that he cannot speak before a king, but he should retain his faculties.” Yad Ephraim also is in this vein, but maintains that Rava’s statement was not rejected. Rather, he meant that one should get drunk until “he does not know,” without actually reaching that extreme level of drunkenness (“ad ve-lo ad bi-khlal”). Sefat Emet and R. Yisrael Salanter also write along these lines, explaining that one must drink all day long, with the goal of being happy, but if he reaches the state of “he does not know,” he becomes exempt from the mitzva of drinking and does not need to continue.

11. Laws of Drinking

One fulfills his obligation to drink on Purim with any intoxicating beverage. However, it is preferable to drink wine, because the miracle came about through wine. If one derives greater joy from drinking other beverages, he should drink mostly what he likes best, as, fundamentally, the mitzva is to rejoice. But if he enjoys drinking wine even a little bit, it is best to begin by drinking wine, in commemoration of the miracle.[12]

It is a mitzva even for women to drink a lot of wine that brings joy on Purim. However, they must be careful not to get drunk, because drunkenness is more degrading for women than it is for men, and it constitutes a breach of the mitzva of tzni’ut (modesty), for which women are praised.[13]

If one knows that drinking a lot of wine causes him to cry and become depressed, or causes headaches, it is preferable for him to fulfill the mitzva by drinking just a little more than usual. This is because the main objective of the mitzva is to be happy, and if drinking makes one sad, he undermines the mitzva. If, however, he cries out of joy – for example, if he is happy to cry about important things, like the present state of the Jewish people, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, or his own unrepentant spiritual state – he may fulfill the mitzva by drinking “until he does not know.”

If one knows that when he gets drunk he goes wild and hurts others, or he ends up wallowing in his own vomit and degrading himself in public, he should not get drunk. Rather, he should fulfill the mitzva by drinking more than usual. Such a person need not bemoan the fact that he cannot control himself when drunk. Even though the Sages state that “When wine enters, a secret comes out” (Eruvin 65a), and thus his actions while drunk seemingly show that he has a deep-seated inclination toward violence and rowdiness, nevertheless, the Sages also say, “The reward is proportionate to the exertion” (Avot 5:23). Since he actually manages to curb his impulses in the course of daily life, it is clear that he continually makes great improvements.[14]

In order to fulfill the mitzva properly, one must understand that alcohol reaches the height of its influence around twenty minutes after it is ingested. This delay causes some people to make a mistake: When five minutes pass after drinking a cup of wine or hard liquor, and they do not feel any significant change, they think that they need to drink another cup. And when, even then, they feel that they have not fulfilled the mitzva, they drink another cup, and – just to be sure – one more. Then, all of a sudden, the first cup starts taking effect, and then the second, the third, and the fourth. All at once they become very drunk, behave like animals, and begin to vomit, causing much shame and degradation. Therefore, one must know how to drink and rejoice, waiting at least a half-hour between drinks and incorporating one’s drinking into the meal. This way, people will be able to rejoice properly throughout Purim.

[12]. See Mikra’ei Kodesh (Frank) §44, which cites sources indicating that one must drink wine specifically. However, it seems that in practice, this requirement is only le-khatĥila. After all, the mitzva mentioned in the verse and in the writings of the Rishonim is that “A person is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know,” with no mention of wine whatsoever. The main thing is to rejoice through drinking.

[13]. See Ketubot 65a, which indicates that wine and drunkenness are more degrading for women than they are for men. Perhaps this is why the Sages say in Pesaĥim 109a, regarding the mitzva of rejoicing on the festivals, that people should rejoice through what is appropriate for them: men through wine and women through nice clothing. This implies that women cannot rejoice through wine, because drunkenness is degrading for them. See Peninei Halakha: Pesaĥ 16:7 and n. 3, regarding the Four Cups. Nevertheless, it is a mitzva for women to drink a small amount, without getting drunk.

[14]. Ĥayei Adam, quoted in bhl 665:2, s.v. “ad,” states that one should not reach a state of drunkenness in which he sins. It is true that I write later on in the name of Rav Kook that, when it comes to missing prayers, we apply the rule “One who is engaged in performing a mitzva is exempt from performing another mitzva.” Nevertheless, all agree that one may not cause oneself to sin. It is true that Rav Kook writes in Mitzvat Re’iyah (Omissions §695) that the performance of a mitzva protects one from harm, proving this from a statement of Rashba; nevertheless, it seems that everyone agrees that one who knows from experience that getting drunk leads him to sin or degradation should not get drunk. It is also obvious that one who feels sad when he drinks heavily should not drink, as Purim is supposed to be a day of feasting and joy. However, if he cries for good things, and enjoys doing so, he may get drunk, and it is even a mitzva to do so. A proof for this is found in Shibolei Ha-leket §93, which cites an aggadic teaching that R. Akiva used to cry on Shabbat, saying that it gave him pleasure. This is quoted in Beit Yosef and Rema, oĥ 288:2, and in mb ad loc. 4.

12. The Meaning of the Mitzva of Drinking

It is reasonable to ask: Both in Tanakh and in rabbinic literature (Bamidbar Rabba ch. 10, Vayikra Rabba 12:1), it is made clear that drunkenness is disgraceful and liable to bring one to sin. Why, then, are we commanded to get drunk on Purim? The reason is that all the miracles that God performed for the Jewish people on Purim happened through wine. Vashti was removed from her reign at the wine feast, and Esther then took her place. Haman’s demise occurred at a wine feast as well. We must therefore conclude that although drunkenness is generally disgraceful, one cannot ignore its positive aspects. Through wine, simple joy is made manifest and unconstrained material happiness, filled with strength and vitality, is expressed. Throughout the year, the disrepute and rowdiness that associated with drunkenness overshadow its positive aspects, and thus drunkenness causes many problems. On Purim, however, when we drink and rejoice over God’s salvation, in commemoration of the miracles He performed through drinking – the positive aspects of drinking are expressed.

There is a deeper reason as well. On Purim, the eternal sanctity of Israel is revealed, and it becomes clear that everything God does to the Jewish people is for the good. Even things that initially seem bad eventually turn out to be for our benefit. Drinking wine for the sake of a mitzva shows that even the material aspect of Israel is holy at its core. Even though the body and its senses seem to impede the service of God, this is reversed on the sublime plane of Purim, when these physical elements greatly enhance our service of God, with joy and vitality.

Let us delve even deeper. In general, Torah and intellect must guide our lives, and when one follows this path, he is happy, but his happiness is limited by his perception. However, on the lofty level of faith that we reach on Purim, we recognize that God runs the world for the good. Even if His ways are sometimes incomprehensible to us, we disregard our own perceptions and happily accept God’s governing of the world. This is the level of “until he does not know”: cleaving to God Who is beyond human comprehension. This is connected in its entirety to faith through self-sacrifice. With such sublime faith – the faith of the people of Israel – we achieve boundless joy.[15]

[15]. The simple explanation is quoted in Eliya Rabba and bhl 695:2. See also Mitzvat Re’iyah (omissions §695). It is no coincidence that there is another, deeper explanation, as that is the property of good wine – it reveals secrets. At first there is one interpretation, and through this interpretation another is revealed. These three explanations correspond to the three levels of drinking: 1) tipsy; 2) drunk; and 3) very drunk – “until he does not know,” according to its simple meaning. See Torah Or by R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, “Ĥayav Inish Li-besumei,” pp. 98a-100b, especially 99c-d. In the merit of their natural humility, women can attain all of this by drinking only a small amount of alcohol.

13. When to Eat the Festive Meal

Most Jews begin the Purim meal in the afternoon, after praying Minĥa. During the morning hours, they are busy sending mishlo’aĥ manot to one another and giving matanot la-evyonim, going out of their way to express love and friendship toward family and friends. When afternoon arrives, it is proper to pray Minĥa before starting the meal; otherwise there is reason to be concerned that people will not be able to pray Minĥa due to drunkenness.

Some people start the meal very late, just before shki’a, eating most of the meal after dark. Many authorities question this practice, as the mitzva is to eat the meal on Purim, and at tzeit ha-kokhavim the next day already begins. Some answer this objection by pointing out that everything follows the beginning, and since these people start the meal on Purim, its continuation at night is still considered part of the Purim meal. The same rule applies to Birkat Ha-mazon. If one starts the meal during the day and finishes it late at night, he nonetheless recites Al Ha-nisim in Birkat Ha-mazon. Furthermore, it is appropriate to rejoice on the night immediately following the fourteenth of Adar as well, because that is when Purim begins in walled cities. Le-khatĥila, however, it is proper to start the meal when there is plenty of time left in the day. Then, if the meal carries over into the night, no harm is done, because the main part of the meal was eaten during the day.

Some say that it is preferable to perform the mitzva as early as possible and eat the meal in the morning. This way, whoever gets drunk can become sober by Minĥa time. The prevalent custom, however, is to conduct the meal in the afternoon.[16]

It is praiseworthy to study some Torah before beginning the se’uda, as it is written, “The Jews enjoyed light and gladness, joy and honor” (Esther 8:16); the Sages expound, “‘Light’ refers to Torah.” Through Torah study, one can attain consummate joy (Rema 695:2).

According to many authorities, one who knows that he may not be able to pray Minĥa or Ma’ariv if he gets drunk should not get drunk (Ĥayei Adam, bhl). However, R. Avraham Yitzĥak Kook writes that one who drinks on Purim is engaged in performing a mitzva, and the rule is that one who is engaged in performing a mitzva is exempt from performing another mitzva (Oraĥ Mishpat, omissions §7).

[16]. The explanation behind the custom to start the meal just before shki’a is cited in Terumat Ha-deshen §140. The author and his mentors, however, used to eat the meal in the morning. Shlah encouraged people to eat the meal specifically in the morning. This was also the custom of the Vilna Gaon, and Rashash followed this practice as well, for kabbalistic reasons (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 695:23). Rema 695:2 states, based on Maharil, that it is better to eat the meal after praying Minĥa at the earliest time (Minĥa gedola). This is the standard recommendation, which many people follow. Still, others start the meal just before evening, and even some Aĥaronim followed this practice. If the following night is the fifteenth of Adar, there is a mitzva to rejoice on both days in any case (Rema 695:2, mb ad loc. 16). Nevertheless, even in Jerusalem, some extend the meal into the following night, based on the rationale that everything follows the beginning of the meal. Moreover, according to Ran, the prohibition of “ve-lo ya’avor (lit. ‘and it shall not pass’)” (Esther 9:27) does not apply to the active mitzvot of Purim, only to the reading of the Megilla. This is why we eat the meal on Sunday, the sixteenth of Adar, on a Triple Purim (see below 17:5). Therefore, one may extend the meal into the night.

14. Can a Drunk or Tipsy Person Recite Berakhot and Pray Ma’ariv?

A tipsy person is one who is under the influence of alcohol and finds it difficult to concentrate or focus his thoughts, but would still be capable of speaking before a king. A drunk person is one who has drunk so much that he would be incapable of speaking properly before a king.

Individuals in both of these states may recite Birkhot Ha-nehenin. Even though, le-khatĥila, a drunk person should not recite berakhot, he may recite berakhot that must be recited at a specific point in time. Therefore, on Purim, a drunk person may recite all Birkhot Ha-nehenin, Birkat Ha-mazon, and Asher Yatzar.

The law regarding prayer is more stringent. One who is tipsy or drunk after finishing the meal must wait to pray Ma’ariv until he is sober and able to pray with a clear mind. If doing so will cause him to miss praying with a minyan, then if he is merely tipsy, he should pray – from a siddur – with the minyan, because the prayer of a tipsy person is acceptable, be-di’avad. If, however, he is truly drunk, he should not pray with the minyan, because the prayer of a drunk person is invalid and considered an abomination.

If one feels very tired, and there is concern that he will fall asleep and miss praying entirely if he does not pray immediately, the law is as follows. One who is merely tipsy should recite the entire prayer, but one who is drunk should read the Shema without its accompanying berakhot and skip the Amida. This way, he at least discharges his Torah obligation to read the Shema. Furthermore, even if he is overcome by sleep before he manages to pray, he is not viewed as having sinned, because he became drunk for the sake of heaven, and one who is engaged in performing a mitzva is exempt from performing another mitzva. In such a case, he should make up the prayer he missed the next morning by reciting an additional Amida prayer after the Amida for Shaĥarit.

It seems that if one is unsure whether he is considered tipsy or drunk, he may be lenient on Purim and recite the Amida, since on Purim even the king accepts the drunkards with good spirits, because that is the mitzva of the day.[17]

[17]. See sa and Rema §99, and mb ad loc., regarding tipsiness and drunkenness. Also see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 5:11 regarding the same issue, and ibid. 18:8-10 regarding the laws of making up missed prayers.

The allowance for an intoxicated person to pray when time is running out is explained in Yam shel Shlomo, quoted in mb 99:3, 17. Rema rules leniently as well regarding one who drank a revi’it of wine, either because today’s wines are weaker than those of the past or because today we use siddurim when we pray. In my humble opinion, one may certainly be lenient on Purim regarding this issue, because becoming intoxicated is part of the mitzva of the day.

15. Scheduling the Se’uda when Purim is on Friday

When Purim falls out on Friday, it is customary, le-khatĥila, to begin the meal before the afternoon, in honor of Shabbat. One who was not able to begin the meal before the afternoon should try to begin the meal at least three hours before shki’a. Be-di’avad, however, one may begin eating any time before shki’a. Either way, if one begins the meal close to Shabbat, he should try to limit what he eats, in order to eat the Friday night meal with a good appetite.

Alternatively, there is a custom to combine the Purim meal with the first Shabbat meal on Friday night. Some great Torah authorities follow this custom, while others recommend doing so only be-di’avad. In order to follow this custom, one must pray Minĥa and then begin the meal while it is still Purim. Then, around a half-hour before shki’a, one should accept Shabbat by lighting the Shabbat candles, place a covering over the bread, and recite kiddush over wine. Since one has already recited the berakha over wine (Ha-gafen) during the Purim meal, one should omit that berakha in kiddush. After kiddush, one continues the meal, making sure to eat a keveitza of bread, or at least a kezayit, for the Shabbat meal. At the end of the meal, one recites Retzei Ve-haĥalitzenu in Birkat Ha-mazon, adding Al Ha-nisim in the Ha-Raĥaman (“May the Merciful One”) section at the end of the prayer. After the meal, one prays Ma’ariv.[18]

[18]. Responsa Maharil §56 states that when Purim falls out on Friday one may begin the meal before Minĥa ketana (about three hours before the end of the day). Rema 695:2 states that one should eat the meal in the morning. mb ad loc. 10 states that, le-khatĥila, one should eat the meal before midday, but be-di’avad, one may begin to eat any time before shki’a (see mb 529:8).

The source of the custom of combining the meals (called “pores mapa u-mekadesh,” literally, “place a cover and recite kiddush,” after a key element of the practice) is Pesaĥim 100a, and it is explained in sa 271:4. Me’iri followed this practice, le-khatĥila, when Purim would fall out on Friday (Me’iri, Ketubot 7a). Some Aĥaronim followed this practice as well. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 271:22 states in the name of Arizal that, le-khatĥila, this should not be done, because one must make kiddush after praying Ma’ariv. According to Me’iri and ma 695:9, one should recite both Retzei and Al Ha-nisim at their regular places. However, mb 695:15 states, based on Ĥayei Adam, that one should not recite Al Ha-nisim. I suggested above that one should recite Al Ha-nisim in the Ha-raĥaman section because it does not affect one’s fulfillment of the mitzva of Birkat Ha-mazon if it is recited there.

16. Costumes and the Prohibition of Lo Yilbash

Many people customarily wear masks and costumes on Purim. Even though there is no source for this in the writings of the Sages, and the Aĥaronim did not write that one must wear costumes, various reasons have been given for the custom. The first reason is that it increases our joy, as a person with an unusual appearance can be amusing and entertaining. Another reason is that when one departs from his normal attire, he is able to let loose, rejoice, and display his love for his friends. Another reason is that having different modes of dress causes disunity among the Jewish people, and changing our external appearances on Purim breaks down the barriers between us and increases unity. Another reason is that by wearing costumes, we become aware of the degree to which we are influenced by external elements, and as a result, we can focus more on the internal elements that are revealed on Purim. Finally, costumes allude to the fact that even when the Jews look like gentiles on the outside, they remain Jews deep down, as the Purim story made clear.

Mahari Mintz writes that the custom in the homes of great and pious individuals in Germany was to dress up on Purim; men even wore women’s clothing and women wore men’s clothing (Responsa §16). He comments that one should not think poorly of them, since there is certainly no concern that this is prohibited. After all, the prohibition of lo yilbash (the prohibition against cross-dressing) refers only to wearing the clothing of the opposite gender for purpose of adultery and licentiousness. However, when this is done for the sake of rejoicing, it is not prohibited. Rema (696:8) writes that this is the accepted practice.

Most poskim, however, maintain that a man may not dress up as a woman, and a woman may not dress up as a man (Baĥ yd 182; Taz yd 182:4). Based on this, many Aĥaronim write that one should censure those who wear the clothing of the opposite sex. This is the correct practice. Some maintain that if a person changes only one article of clothing, and that person’s sex remains recognizable based on the other garments, one should not denounce him (Pri Megadim).[19]

[19]. According to Baĥ, one may be lenient only when there is a real need to wear a garment of the opposite sex. For example, a man may wear a woman’s raincoat if he has no other way to protect himself from the rain, because his sole intention is to protect himself. Taz concurs. Yad Ha-ketana rules stringently, stating that one may not wear clothes of the opposite gender under any circumstances, even if there is a real need. See Yabi’a Omer yd 6:14. Rema 696:8 states that one may rely on the lenient opinions and dress up on Purim. Knesset Ha-gedola and Shlah warn that one should distance himself from this custom. Birkei Yosef and Yeĥaveh Da’at 5:50 concur.

Chapter Contents