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A number of conundrums occur when Purim falls on a Friday like it does this year. It happens from time to time and creates some interesting questions.
What happens in terms of the seudat purim festive meal, comprised of meat and wine, taking place after the mincha hour and extending into the late afternoon and even the night?
Here is what we learn courtesy of the OU in terms of the seudah in general:
It is a Mitzvah to have a sumptuous meal on Purim, including meat and wine. This meal is held during the day. If one holds it at night, he fails to fulfill his obligation. Nevertheless, after the reading of the Megillah on the night of the 14th (in ‘unwalled cities’), or on the night of the 15th after the Megillah Reading (in ‘walled cities’), one’s meal should be somewhat more festive than usual. One should wear festival clothing and rejoice. The main Purim meal is held Purim afternoon and is preceded by Minchah. The meal is extended into the night. Most of the meal should, however, be during the day.
The miracle of Purim occurred through wine. Vashti was removed from her throne because of a wine-feast and Esther replaced her. The downfall of Haman was brought about through the wine feasting which Esther held. And through the repentance of the Jews, they expiated their sin in having drunk wine at the feast of Achashverosh.
Our Sages of blessed memory, therefore, prescribed the drinking of wine on Purim, and they said, “A person is obligated to drink on Purim till he no longer knows the difference between ‘Cursed-is-Haman,’ and ‘Blessed-is-Mordechai.” This does not mean, however, excessive drinking of wine so that one might come to levity thereby; or that he might forget the required brachot or prayer. It is sufficient to drink a little more than is his usual habit, and to take a nap. In a dozing state, viola, the person has drunk sufficiently so that he or she cannot tell the difference between the curse of Haman and the blessing of Mordecai. No need to get intoxicated. Just a touch more relaxed.
All these aspects of the Purim seuda present a challenge for a Friday afternoon as we approach Shabbat. First it’s important to prepare the house for Shabbat. A seuda certainly interferes with this cleaning and preparation process. Secondly, one is to come into Shabbat meal hungry so that it increases the “oneg”– the pleasure of Shabbat. So what does one best do? “When Purim falls on Erev Shabbat, the meal is held early, and is concluded sufficiently before Shabbat (in the morning or early afternoon) to be able to come to the Shabbat table with an appetite. There is another custom called minhag Yerushalayim, presumably because it was innovated there. The Purim feast is held mid- afternoon as usual after all the preparations for Shabbat have been made. A minyan of attendees must be invited. When Shabbat arrives, the tablecloth is changed on the table and the attendees recite the Kiddush. However they don’t say the Boreh pri Hagafen because they already have recited it for the purposes of the Seudah. They don’t recite Hamotzi because they already have! They then continue their seudat purim ino the night. When they are finished they say the grace after meals with both Purim sections and the Shabbat section, because the meal was mainly at the time of Purim, but also at the time of Shabbat. They get away with this because in Jerusalem its also Shushan Purim, which is Purim observed in a walled city! When they are done with the meal, all rise and welcome Shabbat with the Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv service.
Having said this I highly recommend a seudat purim to end in early afternoon. It is much too complicated.
What happens when Purim falls on a Friday and the walled cities like Hebron and Jerusalem observe Purim typically the next day on Shushan Purim (Shabbat!)? Do they read the megillah on Shabbat and drown out Haman’s name boisterously on Shabbat? What constitutes a walled city, in which inhabitants should generally observe Purim on Shushan Purim?
There is a lot to the question of what constitutes a walled city for the purposes of celebrating Purim on the 15th of Adar, Shushan Purim. A Talmudic argument decrees it is a city that has or had walls in the time of Joshua, the son of Nun! Why not a walled city from the time of Shushan and Achashverus? Because at that time, many of the walled cities in Israel lay in ruins from the Babylonian conquest, and that would have left may cities out. What are some of the walled cities understood from that earlier time? Hebron, Sipori, Jerusalem, Gamla, Safed, Gadera, are cities of this nature. It is questionable that Prague qualifies, but Bagdad and certainly Shushan does. Does a city devoid of Jewish life qualify? Even though presently collapsed walls still don’t disqualify a “walled city” from counting, so long as it once did in the time of Joshua, a nonexistent Jewish presence does disqualify! Which is why there was a question in 1949, when the Old City was in Jordanian hands and there were no longer resident Jews in the Jewish quarter. The rabbinic councils still ruled Western Jerusalem constituted a “walled city,” as they were visible from that walled city perch. That is, in fact, a criteria for a walled city today. If a satellite town is completely visible from the ground up from the walled city and the walled city is fully visible from that satellite town, that satellite town is included as a walled city for purpose of Shushan Purim. If it is within a mil (about a kilometer) even if sections of the city are not visible, it is also grandfathered in as a walled city. Beyond that it is a town that should observe a regular Purim. Got that?
Now that we know what constitutes a walled city, what are the Jewish inhabitants supposed to do on Shabbat shushan purim?
The solution, halachically, is that Purim is celebrated over the course of three days! On the Thurs/Fri Adar 14th, when Jews otherwise celebrate the holiday of Purim with 4 mitzvoth of Megillah, Mishteh, Matnot and Matanot–of reading megillah, having a festive meal, giving gifts to the poor, and giving gifts to friends–the Jews who are in walled city split up their mitzvoth for Purim. On Thursday night/Friday they read the Megillah and drown out Haman’s name. They also make sure to give gifts to the poor so that they can embellish their Shabbat. They don’t read the megillah on Shabbat for fear that some will carry their scrolls with them and thus break laws of carrying (since “walled” cities these days may be in ruins and still qualify and satellite towns quality too). They could have a feast on Shabbat, theoretically, but this too brings up the concern about carrying and cooking. The feast and the gifts to friends are delayed to Sunday. Why don’t the Jews in walled cities delay the reading to Sunday? After all many customs are deferred to Sunday when dates for Jewish observances fall on Shabbat (Tisha be Av, for instance, or 17th of Tammuz fast). Because when Mordechai and Esther decreed that this missive of the happenings of Purim be read each year it says, velo Yaavor, which means and it must not be passed. Therefore reading it prior is allowed but not reading it retroactive to Shushan Purim.
Hag Sameach oomvadeah, a freiliche Purim! Read More
Last night I sat with my seven year old, consoling her and wiping away her tears. Not an uncommon sight for a child who has a lot of “feelings.” And believe me, 2020 has given us all plenty of opportunity for tears. Between a global pandemic and its related economic downturn, it’s been a tough year. With continued racial injustice exploding into our consciousness again and refusing to be dimmed into the background noise of the chaos of life, we must confront pain. And pain again, as our political system was rocked by an impeachment and a fractious election that still echoes in the minds of many who refuse to accept its results. We have become socially distanced to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but as our alternate realities and facts show, we have become separated from each other by much more than six feet… There were the inevitable celebrity deaths, as well as those closer to our community, whether by the pandemic, or some other cruel twist. There was isolation, depression, and for weeks our synagogue building was completely closed. Yes, 2020 was not the best year—and that’s not even counting the Murder Hornets.
And yet…that’s not why my child was crying. As I rubbed her back, she explained: “But I LOVED 2020!” I almost paused my soothing efforts, so gobsmacked was I. How in the world could one possibly love what was so obviously a dumpster-fire of a year!? Had I sheltered her too much from the reality of what was going on–the pain and sorrow? Was she simply incapable of recognizing the magnitude of suffering which was 2020? Well, sure. That’s partially true. But underneath it, was a great truth, and that is, even within the curses of 2020, even within the depths of darkness, there exists some light. Now this is, in no way an attempt to minimize the pain many of us experienced last year and continue to experience. There is no simple comfort to ameliorate all the hurt. But we do ourselves a disservice to ignore the good that came into our lives in 2020. Homeschooling an energetic first and second grader was by no means a simple task. Often it was (and still is) a very frustrating endeavor, as I try to understand why every generation of teaching philosophers seem to think it’s good idea to teach math differently again. And beyond the number-bonds and units and tens, the diminishment of contemporary social interactions has obviously taken its toll on my little girl. But, she bounces on through it. She has accepted this new reality, and she has thrived. I am blessed. We have daily FaceTime and Zoom interactions with our far-flung family, and one of the benefits of being home together is many more hugs. This pandemic has given me a chance to interact with our congregation differently, and though I’ve seen very few of you in person, I’ve still gotten to connect to many of you in small 3”-by-5” rectangles on my screens, and have remained in touch with many of our non-local congregants, who in a normal year, I might not see until they return from Florida, like so many migratory birds.
But my blessings may not be your blessings, and your pain is definitely different than my pain. I can’t presume to tell you what will happen in 2021, but I can urge you to identify what WERE the blessings of 2020; and where can you find the blessings in 2021. I urge you to reach out to us here at East Northport Jewish Center. Outside of services, both live and virtual, or classes offered in both formats, we are here to help be the center of your Jewish community. Let us know what we can do to help you in these trying times. Find your Jewish family here, live or live-streamed. We are here for you, and may 2021 bring more blessing into your lives.
As we prepare to enter the Hanukkah season and reflect upon the miracle of the oil lamp that burned for eight days, I try to continuously focus on all of the positive things that have happened during this calendar year for our congregation.
First and foremost, I am thankful that since we re-opened our sanctuary for services in June, we have had a physical Minyan every Saturday except one! Nothing makes me happier than being able to have our congregants hear the laining of the Torah and Haftarah, in-person, and celebrate Shabbat together!
Also during this period, Rabbi Silverman and Hazzan Walvick have conducted five wonderful B’nai Mitzvah. The families and friends of each of these five wonderful boys, as well as the Board of Directors of the East Northport Jewish Center, could not have been more proud of each of them, on celebrating this most important simcha! They all worked so diligently in preparation by having Bar Mitzvah lessons with Hazzan and Bar Mitzvah project meeting’s with Rabbi over Zoom. When it came to their big days, each of them performed magnificently. Yasher Koach!
Although our communities’ participation during the High Holiday celebrations was extremely limited due to COVID-19, we were still able to offer seats to all of those congregants who wished to attend in-person. Rabbi and Hazzan successfully shortened the length of the services, while successfully maintaining the fervor and emotion which they represent. And for all of those congregants who weren’t comfortable attending in person, we were able to live-stream our services too, for all of those who wished to take part from their own homes. For the two weeks following Yom Kippur, I held my breath… but it turned out that all of our precautions and planning, as well as a bit of luck paid-off, because there were no reported cases of COVID-19 among any of the members of the congregation who attended…Baruch HaShem!
I am now looking forward to attending our annual Menorah lighting celebration on December 15th. This year, instead of being down at Northport Harbor, it will take place on the ENJC property using the large menorah that we set-up every year next to Elwood Road. I hope it is not too chilly that night, and I hope my wife Anna’s latkes are as delicious as always!
Finally, I am extremely optimistic because it seems the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine is finally becoming a reality in record time! The unexpectedly high percentage of effectiveness for multiple vaccines is a tribute to the worldwide scientific community. My fervent hope is that by May or June, the majority of American’s will have received their vaccines, and are protected. As we traditionally say during Pesach, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, I say, ‘next year, High Holiday services, in-person, for the whole congregation, in our own sanctuary!’.
Being able to maintain our faith, to adapt and to remain positive in the face of tremendous challenges, has been the hallmark of the Jewish people for millennia. We must continue this tradition by remaining optimistic and seeing the positive things in our lives and our community, every single day. Read More