On the 13th of Adar of the year 3405 from creation (356 BCE), battles were fought throughout the Persian Empire between the Jews and those seeking to kill them in accordance with the decree issued by King Achashveirosh 11 months earlier. (Achashveirosh never rescinded that decree; but after the hanging of Haman on Nissan 16 of the previous year, and Queen Esther's pleading on behalf of her people, he agreed to issue a second decree authorizing the Jews to defend themselves against those
seeking to kill them.) 75,000 enemies were killed on that day, and 500 in the capital, Shushan, including Haman's ten sons (Parshandata, Dalfon, Aspata, Porata, Adalia, Aridata, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizata), whose bodies were subsequently hanged. The Jews did not take any of the possessions of the slain as booty, though authorized to do so by the king's decree. (The Book of Esther, chapter 9).
This being the Shabbat before Purim,
on which we celebrate the foiling of Haman the
Amalekite's plot to destroy the Jewish people, the weekly Parshah is supplemented with the Zachor reading (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) in which we are commanded to remember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from the face of the earth.
"Parshat Zachor" is the second of four special readings
added during or immediately before the month of Adar (the other three being "Shekalim", "Parah" and "Hachodesh")
The festival of Purim begins at nightfall tonight, and the Megillah (Book of Esther) is read for the first time this evening.
Since the first Megillah reading takes place after Shabbat ends, one should be careful not to travel to the synagogue to hear the reading prior to the end of Shabbat (click here for times), or before saying the special prayer: Blessed Is the One Who Separates Between Holy and Mundane. If one owns his own Megillah scroll, it should be brought to the synagogue prior to Shabbat (since one may not prepare on Shabbat for after Shabbat).
See entries for tomorrow, Adar 14. (In Jerusalem and other ancient walled cities, the festival is observed beginning tomorrow night--see entries for Adar 15.)
NOTE: The "Fast of Esther", usually observed on this date, is moved back this year to the previous Thursday, because of the sanctity of Shabbat (see entry for Adar 11)