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Purim FAQs

Purim FAQs

Commonly asked Purim questions


How is Purim celebrated?

There are four mitzvot associated specifically with Purim. They are:

  1. Read or hear the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) at night and by day.
  2. Give charity to at least two needy people.
  3. Send a minimum of two ready-to-eat foods to at least one person.
  4. Sit down for a royal feast.

What does “Purim” mean?

Purim means “lots.” The name commemorates the lots that Haman cast to choose the day most suitable for the destruction of the Jews. Click here for more.

I’ll be at work all day. How can I hear the Megillah?

If you really can’t make it to the synagogue—many have more than one reading, to accommodate different schedules—many big cities have rabbinical students armed with Megillahs roving the areas where people work, and chances are there’s one coming your way. Contact your local Chabad House to find out more.

How long does it take to hear the Megillah?

Depends. A small, private reading should take 20–25 minutes. A public synagogue reading can last as long as 45.

Why isn’t G‑d’s name mentioned in the Megillah?

On Purim, the salvation came about in what could easily be seen as a series of lucky coincidences: King Ahasuerus gets angry at his wife and selects Esther as queen in her place; Mordechai happens to overhear a plot to kill Ahasuerus and saves the king’s life; Haman happens to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time” just when Mordechai’s deed is being read to the sleepless king; Esther uses her position and influence to turn the king against Haman; and so on.

Reflecting this sequence of seemingly natural events, G‑d’s name is absent from the Megillah. Click here for the mystical spin on this.

Where can I get a copy of the Megillah?

Right here. Or, to purchase a copy, click here.

Can I listen to the Megillah being read online?

As in all things Jewish, it’s got to be live. So click here for your nearest Chabad House, and go join the party.

What are all these people doing walking around in costume?

It’s a custom that originated as an allusion to G‑d’s hand in the Purim miracle, which was disguised in natural events. Click here for more.

What are those triangular pastries called, and what’s the story behind them?

They are called hamantashen, which, with their hidden fillings, allude to the hidden nature of the Purim miracle. On a lighter note, the three-pointed hamantashen are said to evoke Haman’s three-cornered hat or his triangular ears.

Is it true that it is a mitzvah to drink alcohol on Purim?

Yes. It’s a mitzvah to break out of your inhibitions and habits on Purim. We do this by imbibing more than usual, with the intent and goal of shattering our ego and expressing our G‑dly soul. Click here for more on this oft-misunderstood issue.

Note: There is never justification for irresponsible behavior. A person is always liable for his actions. If drinking will cause you to sink rather than to rise—don’t drink. Or drink responsibly by limiting your intake. And of course, don’t drink and drive.

What are those Purim noisemakers called, and why is everyone waving them around like crazy during the Megillah reading?

They are called graggers, and they serve to express our displeasure with the archenemy of the Jews, Haman. When his name is mentioned in the Megillah, we make noise and “stomp him out.”

Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the Director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Ask the Rabbi team.
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lizzy March 5, 2014

why in adar II If it is a leap year we are celebrating it in Adar II why is it so? Reply

Yehuduis March 22, 2011

Too short "A small, private reading should take 20–25 minutes. A public synagogue reading can last as long as 45."

A proper reading in which you hear every word clearly cannot be done in 20-25 minutes. And even if it's a private reading, the custom is to bang when hearing Haman's name - Chabad custom not for every single mention, but still ... it adds some time. In my experience, readings that are under 35 minutes have swallowed words. How can you fulfill your obligation that way with speed-reading?

In the quest not to put people out with lengthy readings, I think we sacrifice the fufillment of the mitzva! Reply

EliBShmuel March 2, 2009

Sefardic opinion (response to below post) To be respectful of the reading and not be excessive in noise is not a sefardic [sic] opinion, but a Jewish opinion. Furthering this, there is a Kabbalistic opinion to cheer and jeer not at every mention, but only particular mentions. Consult rabbinic authority for details regarding the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate mentions. Reply

Eliezer Posner, March 19, 2008

RE: Banging when we hear Haman's name There used to be a custom that children would draw pictures of Haman, or write his name, on rocks or pieces of wood. They would then bangs the rocks or wood together, to erase Haman and his name. The custom to bang when Haman's name is read in the Megillah evolved from this earlier custom (Rama, 690:17).

You do mention a very important point: the Megillah reader (and the children too!) should ensure that the noisemaking does not cause anyone to miss hearing a word from the Megillah. Reply

Ronit Lumbroso March 18, 2008

I read recently that making noise to stomp out the memory of the evil haman is firstly from pagen sources and does not have it's foundation from within the Jewish world.
Is this primarily a sefardic opinion. We are obligated to hear every word and it disrupts the Megilla reading. Reply

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