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Do Ashkenazim and Sephardim have any different customs for Purim?

by Rabbi Moshe Miller

  

Library » Holidays » Purim » The Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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There are four mitzvahs of Purim established by the Rabbis: Reading the Megillah by day and by night; charitable gifts to at least two poor people; a Purim seudah (celebratory meal) during the day of Purim; and sending at least two gifts of food to at least one friend. Both Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities observe these mitzvahs equally.

When reading the Megillah by day, however, Ashkenazim have the custom to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing, whereas Sephardim do not.1

Ashkenazim have the custom of giving Machatzit Hashekel (see What is the Machatzit Hashekel?) on the day before Purim, or on Purim itself. It seems that this custom is not widely observed among Sephardim.

Regarding the directive that “a person is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between cursed is Haman, and blessed is Mordechai...” – it seems from the Code of Jewish Law2 that the Sephardi custom is to take this literally, while the Ashkenazi custom is to allow drinking enough to fall asleep. However, practically, it seems that both communities show leniency in this regard.

Footnotes

  • 1. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 692:1; Rama.
  • 2. Orach Chaim 695:2.

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Shehecheyanu
A blessing recited on joyous occasions. The blessing thanks G-d for "sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion."
Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Ashkenazi
(pl. Ashkenazim). A Jew of Northern or Eastern European ancestry.
Ashkenazim
(pl.) Jews of Northern or Eastern European ancestry. (singular: Ashkenazi)
Sephardi
(pl.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries. (singular: Sephardi).
Sephardim
(Pl.: Sephardim) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Megillah
A scroll. Usually a reference to the Book of Esther, one of the books of the "Written Torah", which is read--from a scroll--on the holiday of Purim.
Haman
Descendant of anti-Semitic tribe of Amalek and prime minister of the Persian Empire in the 5th century b.c.e. Schemed to annihilate all the Jews, and the holiday of Purim was established when the plot was foiled.
Mordechai
Cousin of Queen Esther, and Jewish leader in the 4th century BCE. Played a large role in saving the Jews after Haman, the Persian prime minister, plotted to exterminate them all. The holiday of Purim was established to commemorate this miracle.
Machatzit Hashekel
Half a Shekel (ancient Jewish currency). When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, every Jewish man was required annually to donate half a silver Shekel to the Temple coffers.