Before Purim comes Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance, when we read from a Torah scroll in the synagogue how the Amalekites attacked us out of senseless hatred. The Torah exhorts us to never forget this evil, and to “eradicate the memory of Amalek.” Since Haman was a descendant of Amalek, we do this before Purim. It’s a once-a-year obligation, so make sure to be there.
To save her people from extermination, Esther risked her life by appearing before the king without permission. But first she asked the Jews to fast with her for three days. Later, when the Jews battled their enemies on the day before Purim, they again decreed a day of fasting and prayer.
It’s a once-a-year obligation, so make sure to be there
That’s why we hold the “Fast of Esther” the day before Purim. If Purim falls on a Sunday, the fast is observed on the Thursday beforehand.
Fasting is simple. If you are healthy and over the age of bar or bat mitzvah, don’t eat or drink from dawn until dark. Click here to find out when the fast starts and ends at your location.
- Do not fast if you are pregnant or nursing. If you’re ill, consult with a rabbi. But even if you are exempt from fasting, skip the snacks and treats.
- You can get up before dawn and grab a bite—as long as you had this in mind before going to sleep.
- Try to make it to your synagogue for the day’s prayer services. During both the morning and afternoon prayers we add special fast-day prayers, and read from the Torah.
On the afternoon of the Fast of Esther, or before the reading of the Megillah, we give three coins in “half” denominations—e.g., three half-dollar coins—to charity. They represent the half-shekel that each Jew annually contributed for the Temple.
In many synagogues, plates are set out with silver half-dollars, so that all can purchase them to use in observance of this custom. Many give three half-dollars for every family member.