Your Purim Guide
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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
This week's issue focuses on the festive holiday of Purim, which begins on Wednesday night, March 11.
Therefore, we present here "Your Purim Guide,"* and other related material about Purim.
This Jewish year, is the year 5758 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Taf-Shin-Nun-Ches. Over a decade ago, in the year 5742, the Rebbe stated that the Hebrew letters for that year were an acronym for "This should be the year of the coming of Moshiach."
Since that time, the Rebbe has publicized a phrase describing the year according to the acronym of its Hebrew letters. This year has been designated by the Rebbe's followers as "Hoyo Tihei Shnas Niflaos Cheiruseinu" meaning "It surely will be a year of wondrous miracles liberating us (from the material and spiritual problems of our exile)."
It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind
7 Adar, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
*) Published by Prestige Litho.
Special thanks to Rabbi M. Borisute for his help.
Parshat Ki Tisa
In the Torah portion of Ki Tisa, Moses descends from Mount Sinai, holding the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments he received from G-d.
"The Tablets were the work of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d, inscribed on both their sides." Written on two magnificent stones of sapphire were the Ten Commandments, miraculously visible from both sides. Yet they were not to last for long. "And Moseó became angry ... and he broke them at the foot of the mountain... And G-d said to Moses, 'Hew yourself tablets of stïne like the first.'"
In connection to the Tablets, the Torah speaks of three distinct stages:
1. The original Tablets: Moses descends from Mount Sinai, where he had spent the previous forty days and forty nights, with the Tablets in hand;
2. The breaking of the Tablets: Moses witnesses the sin of the Children of Israel with the Golden Calf and breaks the Tablets in anger;
3. The second Tablets: The Jews repent of their sin. Moses goes back up the mountain for an additional forty days and nights, to return with a second set of Tablets.
The first and second sets of Tablets were not identical. The first set was written by G-d; the second set was inscribed by Moses under G-d's direction. Yet curiously, the second set of Tablets was superior to the first in one important respect, as explained in chassidic philosophy.
The breaking of the Tablets and their subsequent replacement is an example of "a descent for the sake of an ascent." Every descent, every failure, can lead the individual to an even higher spiritual level.
According to this principle, the second set of Tablets was clearly superior to the first, for it came after the Jews' descent into idolatry and their ensuing return to G-d.
Symbolically, the three stages of the Tablets parallel the annals of the Jewish people and their progression throughout history:
The first stage (the original Tablets) spans the years between the Revelation on Mount Sinai until the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.
The second stage (the breaking of the Tablets) refers to the forced exile of the Jews from their land and the spiritual degradation endured for almost 2,000 years.
The third and final stage, the era on whose threshold we now stand, is the Messianic Era, at which time the spirituality of the entire world will be elevated to unprecedented heights, an ascent made possible only by the bitter darkness of the exile.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"
The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.
Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.
On the festival of Purim, when we all listen carefully to the reading of the Megillah and ponder upon the story it tells us, let us all remember a few important details and facts that took place in those days at this time:
There arose a Haman, who issued a decree to murder and destroy all Jews at a fixed date.
Queen Esther then calls upon Mordechai to "gather all the Jews and fast" and then she would go and plead with the King to rescind the terrible decree.
Mordechai thereupon goes and gathers tens of thousands of Jewish children and teaches them the Torah; he teaches them the procedure of offering the Omer when the Bet-HaMikdosh would be rebuilt.
All the children are so enchanted by the new spirit that Mordechai had inculcated into them, that even facing the danger of death, they exclaim: We stick with Mordechai and the Torah--for life or death!
In that very same day the decree becomes null and void. Haman's downfall is already assured and the Jews are saved, even though they learn of it only after a number of months.
The experience of our fathers is a lesson to us all.
Let us remember that one of the chief means of frustrating the Haman's of our time, bring about their downfall and bring light and joy to our people is:
TO GATHER JEWISH CHILDREN AND TEACH THEM TORAH AND YIDDISHKEIT!
To tell them that the true and complete redemption really lies in our own hands, for as soon as we Jews return to G-d in complete repentance--we are redeemed immediately, by our Righteous Messiah.
To tell them further, that our Holy Bet-HaMikdosh will be rebuilt soon, and we must all be worthy and prepared to serve our G-d in the Holy Sanctuary.
On the day when the Jewish children are imbued with this spirit, and are ready to exclaim--"We remain with thee, our Torah, for life or death"--on that very day, our Torah assures us, all the Hamans will be defeated, and all Jews will have 'light, gladness, joy and respect,' speedily in our time.
Wishing you a Happy Purim,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
THE HISTORY OF PURIM
Danger in Exile
Jewish morale was at an all-time low. The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, the nation conquered, and for almost 70 years, had been dispersed in foreign lands. The prophesied end of Exile had not materialized, and the blight of assimilation had set in.
Just then, the enemy arose to carry out his evil plans. This time it was Haman. Descended from the Jew-hating tribe of Amalek, Haman devised his scheme to solve "the Jewish problem" once and for all, by annihilating every Jew, men, women and children, throughout the world, in a single day.
Rallying the Jews
And it almost worked. Were it not for Mordechai. A descendent of King Shaul, and advisor to King Achashverosh, Mordechai sensed the danger. Donning sackcloth and ashes, he went to the gate of the palace, crying aloud, rallying the Jews to return to Torah.
His niece, Queen Esther, called for him. He told her that she must go to the King and plead for her people. Officially in disfavor, she feared to go, but saw that she had no choice. She undertook a three-day fast of penitence, and called upon the whole Jewish people to do likewise. Then she went to the King . . .
It is a story of great courage and self-sacrifice--first and foremost by Queen Esther and Mordechai, and ultimately by the whole Jewish nation. For throughout the duration of the whole year, not one single Jew chose to convert, even to save his life. The nation was awakened to a whole-hearted return to Torah and mitzvot, and throughout the year strengthened their faith and observance.
And in the merit of this, they were able to rise up against their enemies and destroy them, on the 13th of Adar, the very day destined for the "final solution."
The Jewish people had shown their true character. They had earned the right to leave Exile, to return to the Holy Land, and rebuild the Temple.
As it was in those days, so may it be with us today. Each year in fulfilling the special mitzvot of the Purim festival, we reaffirm our commitment to the eternal values of the Torah . . . and we share in the very same merit that redeemed the Jewish people in the days of Mordechai and Esther.
Remembered and Reenacted
One of the Purim mitzvot is the reading of the Megillah--the Scroll of Esther, in which the miracle of Purim is recounted. The Talmud tells us that "whoever reads the Megillah backwards does not fulfill his obligation." Our Sages explain that "backwards" does not only mean in reverse order; it also means that whoever reads the Megillah merely as ancient history has missed the point.
The Purim story is directly relevant to our contemporary world. As the Megillah itself tells us, that when we celebrate Purim each year, the miraculous events of Purim are "remembered and reenacted" in our lives.
Haman, Then and Now
One does not have to look far to find Haman's modern-day heirs. Now, as then, there are evil schemers who seek to scapegoat the Jewish people and--Heaven forfend--to erase us from the face of the earth. Each time they rise up to destroy us, their schemes are foiled by the miraculous Hand of G-d.
The most striking example in recent times was the Persian Gulf War that ended victoriously on Purim, 5751/1991.
From Redemption to Redemption
Throughout our history, we have seen miracles. Despite centuries upon centuries of persecution, we have survived and flourished, by the Grace of G-d.
Yet we have remained in exile for nearly 2,000 years, hoping and praying for the final and complete Redemption--the Redemption that will end suffering and exile forever. May the observance of Purim be a precursor to the coming of Moshiach, our Righteous Redeemer, whose imminent arrival will bring about a better life for all the nations of the world.
Purim is the festival that commemorates the breathtaking victory over the murderous designs of Haman. Observed on the fourteenth of Adar, this joyous festival reveals the hidden Hand of G-d in the events of man.
It is a day to be celebrated by the entire family--not only adults and boys and girls past bar/bas mitzvah, but youngsters too should be encouraged to fulfill the mitzvot of Purim.
Listen to the Megillah
To relive the miraculous events of Purim, we listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) on Wednesday night, March 11, and again on Thursday, March 12, during the daytime.
When Haman's name is mentioned, we twirl graggers and stamp our feet to "drown out" his evil name. Tell the children Purim is the only time when it's a mitzvah to make noise!
Send Gifts of Food
On Purim we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends. Send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (for example, pastry, fruit, beverage), to at least one friend on Thursday, March 12, during the daytime.
It is proper that men send to men and women to women. Sending these gifts should be done through a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food, make enthusiastic messengers.
Give Gifts to the Needy
Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility for the Jew. On Purim, particularly, it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor. Give charity to at least two, but preferably more, needy individuals on Thursday, March 12, during the daytime.
The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least several coins into pushkas (charity boxes). Even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.
Eat the Festive Meal
As on all festivals, we celebrate Purim with a special festive meal on Thursday, March 12, during the daytime, when family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit.
The Fast of Esther
To commemorate the day of prayer and fasting that the Jews held before their victory, we fast on the day before Purim, on Wednesday, March 11, from approximately 72 minutes before sunrise until 40 minutes after sunset.(1)
It is a tradition to give 3 half-dollar coins to charity to commemorate the half-shekel given by each Jew in the time of the Holy Temple.
This mitzvah, usually performed in the synagogue, should be done on Wednesday, March 11, or Thursday, March 12, according to your custom.
On Purim we recite the V'Al HaNissim liturgy in the Amidah (Silent Prayer) for evening, morning and afternoon, as well as in the Grace After Meals.
In the morning service there is a special reading from the Torah Scroll in the synagogue.
1. In New York City, at 6:36 p.m.
Hamentaschen, a traditional Purim delight, is a three-cornered pastry filled with mohn (poppy seed) or other sweet filling.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup margarine
4 cups flour
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 lbs. mohn filling
Cream sugar, oil and margarine. Add eggs and juice and mix well. Blend with dry ingredients and roll into a ball. Divide into four parts. Roll out each piece very thin (approximately 1/8 inch) on a floured board. With the rim of a cup or glass (depending on desired size), cut into the dough to make circles. Place 1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle.
To shape into triangle, lift up right and left sides, leaving the bottom side down, and bring both sides to meet at center, above the filling. Lift bottom side up to center to meet other two sides.
Preheat oven to 350o . Brush dough with beaten egg before baking. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350o for approximately 20 minutes.
Yields 4 dozen Hamentaschen.
Purim is such a great holiday.
Children and adults alike love to celebrate Purim with the exciting and unusual mitzvot and customs of the day. Dressing up, eating hamentaschen for dessert at the Purim meal (do you like prune, poppy seed, raspberry or apricot?), twirling the gragger at Haman's name in the Megillah, and giving shalach manot--food gifts to friends. These are the reasons why the young of age and the young at heart look forward to Purim each year.
Did you ever stop to think what the Purim mitzvot and customs have in common? Let's take off the masks, open up the shalach manot, look inside the Megillah--peel the layers off of everything--and see the common denominator intrinsic to all of them.
When someone is dressed up in a costume or mask, his identity is concealed. Rich or poor, smart or average, pretty or homely, we no longer perceive the physical, economic, or intellectual differences that often separate us. Yes, one costume is expensive, another more original, and there are hundreds of Queen Esthers. But it's obvious that these are just externals. They aren't the person inside the costume. On a very basic level, when we dress up on Purim our superficial differences are, for the moment, concealed.
The Megillah, that exciting story recounting the triumph of right over might, good over evil, and the Jews' faith in G-d over the vile schemes of Haman, is also a lesson in Jewish equality and unity. For, it was only once the Jews united, that they were saved from Haman's plan of total annihilation. Men, women and children, scholars and shoe cobblers, peasants and the Queen all fasted and prayed as one for three days and nights to avert the evil decree. And because they united, because each one felt equally responsible and able to effect a change, their prayers and penitence were accepted.
Now, on to those delicious hamentaschen of varying fillings and recipes. Some say they are meant to remind us of Haman's hat or his ears. But they are also symbolic of that which is hidden within. G-d's Hand, so to speak, was hidden during the whole Purim episode--the incidents that led up to Esther being crowned queen, Mordechai overhearing the palace guards' plot to kill Achashverosh, etc., seemed quite natural. But they were--like everything in life--Divine Providence, G-d's way of putting together an intricate puzzle.
Just as the filling is concealed in the hamentaschen and the Divine was hidden during the Purim epoch of Jewish history, the Divine within each one of us is hidden--very often to others and often even to ourselves. The Divine within each of us is our soul--the actual part of G-d that gives us life. And though it is intangible, though its existence is often concealed, the soul is the great equalizer of all of us. For, though one Jew might do more mitzvot than another, or have a more comprehensive Jewish education, or be kinder or gentler, the essence of our souls and their source are the same--an actual part of G-d.
Lastly, we have the shalach manot, those delightful packages of goodies. They range from a sandwich bag with raisins, cookies and a drink to a three-foot-high wicker basket filled with aged-wine and elegant treats. There are numerous differences in packaging, price and products, but, once again, all shalach manot have one thing in common: they foster unity. Unity not just because we feel good when we give and when we receive. But unity also because we customarily give the shalach manot through a messenger--we involve another person in the mitzvah. When giving the shalach manot we connect not only with the person to whom we are giving, but to a third person as well. And the messenger can be anyone--young or old, friend or stranger, male or female.
This Purim in particular is a special time to participate in the mitzvot of Purim or to enhance our observance of them. For, as the Rebbe explained, the Redemis imminent and each act of kindness, every good deed, any additional mitzvah, helps us better prepare ourselves for that era which is unfolding before our very eyes.
The Jews of Persia celebrated their victory over Haman and their other enemies on Adar 14. The Jews of the capital city of Shushan--a walled city--however, had a longer battle, waging war on the 13th and 14th of Adar. They therefore celebrated on the 15th.
To honor the Land of Israel, our Sages ordained that any city in Israel that had been surrounded by a wall--like Shushan--during the times of Joshua would also celebrate Purim on Adar 15. Thus, the 15th of Adar became known as Shushan Purim.
Jerusalem is the only city in Israel where Purim is celebrated on Adar 15.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." We therefore present from the Rebbe's talks suggestions what we can do to complete his work of bringing the Redemption.
The Rebbe has called on every Jew to observe the mitzvot of Purim: hearing the Megillah read, giving charity, eating a festive meal, sending gifts of food to friends and reciting the V'Al HaNissim prayer.
In addition, the Rebbe asked that everyone take part in spreading the awareness of the mitzvot of Purim. "There should not be a single Jew in a far-off corner of the world who does not have the opportunity to fulfill all the mitzvot of Purim."
May this Most Joyous of Jewish Festivals
Bring Joy to You and All Your Loved Ones...
May the Miracle of Purim Be Reenacted
in Your Life, Your Family's Life
and in All Our Lives...
And May We Rejoice Together
in the Culmination of the Miracle of Purim--
the Imminent Arrival of Moshiach,
and a Better World for All Humankind.
Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles
For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, March 13, Erev Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa:
Saturday, March 14, Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa:
2. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.
Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind
Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing
"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.
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