Friday, February 22, 2013

Who is Amaleq today?

 Tomorrow, the Shabbat that precedes Purim, is called Shabbat Zakhor (=Remember!). Two Torah scrolls are taken out, one for the regular Parasha and one for a special Maftir in Debarim 25:17. "Remember what Amaleq did to you when you were leaving Egypt... he attacked all those defenseless...and did not fear God".

When we departed from Egypt, the people of Amaleq attacked the Jews. Unprovoked. Without a reason or a motive. Amaleq and its ideological (not necessarily ethnical!) descendants can be identified by the following characteristics:

1. Amaleq's hatred toward the Jews is not motivated by territorial claims, revenge or fear.  It is pure hatred. 

2. Amaleq will attack and try to kill defenseless Jews, civilians, women and children.

3. Amaleq would preach and would be willing to practice martyrdom just to eliminate a Jew.  Amaleq's hatred for the Jews supersedes the love for their people, even for their own children. 

4. Amaleq might hate other people temporarily, but his relentless obsession is against the Jews. (In modern days called "zionists")

5. The most important point, and the unfortunate reality is that it is not possible to negotiate with Amaleq. Because Amaleq will not be satisfied with land or even with us changing our religion. Amaleq wants us to disappear. 

6. Amaleq, unfortunately, won't go away. For many Jews, especially those who are not familiar with the concept of Amaleq  it is extremely difficult to accept, recognize and acknowledge the true nature of Amaleq. And because Amaleq's behavior is beyond rationality, educated but naive people will always think that something "rational" must be motivating them. They would believe, therefore, that there must be something wrong the Jews are doing, for which they deserve Amaleq's animosity.  The Tora urges us not to forget Amaleq and its true nature.

And our Chakhamim prescribed that the public reading of the text of Amaleq should take place on the Shabbat preceding Purim.  Haman was the first descendent of Amaleq who sought to wipe the people of Israel off the map. Thus, they hinted that our very survival as a nation depends on our awareness of Amaleq's true nature.    

Perashat Zakhor, has the special status of being the only Biblical text which reading is a direct Tora commandment. Women, therefore, are also obligated to attend Synagogue and listen to Parashat Zakhor.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Candle Lighting in NYC:    5:19 PM

Shabbat Ends in NYC :        6:20 PM


The reader can watch in the following links some contemporary examples (most of them just at the level of incitement) of Amaleq's ideology.   

The main source of information could be found here



MEGILA READING will take place this Saturday, February  23th, at night. And Sunday, February 24th, during the day.

The other Misvot of Purim are mishloah manot, matanot laebiyonim , and se'udat Purim.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Fast of Esther

Today, Thursday February 21st (Adar 11th) we commemorate the "Fast of Esther".

When Queen Esther was informed of Haman's plan to eliminate the Jewish people, she decided to approach King Aḥashverosh. This move was very risky. A suicidal mission. 
How so? 
No one, the Queen included, was allowed to request a meeting with the King. Queen Esther, of course, lived in the palace, but Persian Emperors were obsessed with their personal security, and rightly so: in 465 BCE Aḥashverosh himself was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, Artabanus. The Laws of the Persian empire said that anybody who would come near the King without being summoned by the King, even the Queen, should be immediately executed. Josephus explains that the King had guards to the sides of his throne with special axes to execute on the spot any trespasser. But Esther had no choice. There was nothing anyone else was able to do to gain access to the King and persuade him to stop Haman's decree. Esther, therefore, decided to risk her life in order to personally approach the King.

Before Esther embarked in her mission she asked every Jew to fast. Fasting -together with prayer- is what our Tora and our Rabbis instructed us to do in difficult circumstances.

At the request of Esther, every Jew in the Empire fasted for three consecutive days and prayed for Esther's success. 

In remembrance of that fast, established by Esther, we do today the fast of Esther.

Normally, ta'anit Ester takes place one day before Purim, on the 13th of Adar. However, when Purim falls on Saturday night/Sunday like this year, the fast day is observed the previous Thursday, i.e., today.

Ta'anit Ester is considered a minor fast. Pregnant or nursing women do not do this fast. Also children, elders or anyone with even a minor medical condition is exempted from this fast, especially this year that the fast is moved to Thursday.

In NYC the fast begins at 5:37AM and ends at 5:58 PM  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Alcohol and cross-dressing in Purim

In our days, many people wear customs in Purim. Obviously there is no Miṣva or Minhag to do this. It is just a popular practice that became accepted in Jewish communities all over the world, especially for children. However we must avoid and warn against cross-dressing in Purim. Wearing clothes specifically designed for the opposite sex is an explicit prohibition of the Tora, Debarim 22:5: "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man shall wear women's clothing, for haShem your God abhors anyone who does this". Therefore, if man dresses to look like a woman, wearing a skirt, or a wig, or using make up, etc.,  or if a girl dresses to look like a man, they are transgressing a Biblical prohibition. This serious prohibition also applies during Purim, and even when one dresses to look like the other gender 'just for fun' (R Obadia Yosef, Taz, Bach and others) .

In Purim, Sunday February 24th in the afternoon, we participate in a festival meal or Se'udat Purim. In this banquet we sing songs and express our happiness and thanks to HaShem for our deliverance. It is customary to serve and drink alcohol in this banquet (MT Megila 2:15), but it is NOT permitted to drink in excess. Purim should not be used as an excuse for drunkenness. "In these days," declares Rabbi Weinreb, a leading Orthodox Organization in America "when so many of our young people are prone to experimentation with dangerous substances, it behooves us to warn against the dangers of alcohol, especially on Purim".Quoting from Mishna Berura (sec. 695) on the laws governing the Purim SEUDA, the festive meal, Rabbi Weinreb emphasized that "we are not commanded to become drunk to look foolish and to lose self-control...rather we are commanded to become joyous in a manner that results in love of God and thankfulness for God's miracles."

Please, read THIS very important letter from Rabbi Avraham Nissanian on alcohol consumption and Purim

Tomorrow, Thursday February 21st,  is Ta'anit Esther. 
 In NYC the fast begins at  5:37AM and ends at  5:58 PM  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

PURIM: Presents to the needy

Yesterday we explained that during the day of Purim--Sunday February 24th , 2013--we give or send two presents or more to one or more friends (see here).

There is another Miṣva in Purim called matanot la-ebiyonim or "Presents to needy people". These presents consist of food, given to those who cannot afford to celebrate and enjoy a nice Purim banquet.  The custom is to give two portions of food to two or more poor people. Or as it is usually done today, give to two needy people the monetary equivalent of two meals each. 

matanot la-ebiyonim is also fulfilled by giving the monetary equivalent of two meals to a charity that distributes food. 

If we don't find the needy people during the day of Purim, we should put aside the charity money during Purim daytime to be delivered later.  

Unlike  mishloaḥ manot, where the intention is to strengthen our friendship and unity, and therefore, knowing who is the source of the presents is of the essence, in the case of presents for the poor anonymity is a virtue. Because the intention is to help someone to have a nice meal and celebrate with happiness. 

If our means are limited, our Rabbis indicated that we must be more generous in giving to the poor and needy than in spending for our own Purim banquet. 

The Rabbis also said: en medaqdeqim bema'ot Purim, which means that in general we should be very attentive about the credibility and reputation of the recipient of our charity, but during Purim, we should give freely to whoever extends his or her hand, asking for help.

Inviting needy people to one's  Purim banquet is considered a great merit.  The rabbis said "There is no greater happiness than lifting up the hearts and spirits of the poor, orphans and widows".   

READ and BAKE  "Purim Foods around the World"   Hamentashen are old hat. Try some lesser-known Purim treats. by Yvette Alt Miller, from

Monday, February 18, 2013

PURIM: The Misvot of Purim

Women are normally exempted from Miṣvot triggered by time, like Tefilin or Sukka, but listening to the Megila is an exception. Because (i) women were part of the miracle, i.e., were also saved from the danger and  (ii) it was a woman, Queen Esther, who had the most critical role in saving the Jews from extermination.

Children are not obligated to listen to Megilat Esther, but they are expected to attend Synagogue during Purim.  Parents should make sure that their small children do not disrupt the public reading of the Megila.  

qera-ah lemafrea' lo yaṣa: "If one reads the Megila in a reverse order, the reading is invalid". Literally, this means that if a person reads first verse 2, then verse 1 and then verse 3 or so, he did not fulfill his obligation. Practically speaking, if a person comes late to the Synagogue and the congregation is reading for example, chapter 4, he cannot say: "I will read now from chapter 4 till the end and then, when they finish, I will read from the beginning till chapter 4". One has to listen or read the Megila in order from the beginning to the end.

During the day of Purim--Sunday Feb. 24th--we send two presents to one or more friends. These presents consist of food, ideally food to be used during the Purim banquet. It is customary to include at least two different types of foods, a drink and a baked product. The intention of this Miṣvot is to promote friendship and strengthen our unity. Mishloaḥ  Manot should not be given before Purim or during the night. The Manot should be delivered during Purim daytime. In certain circumstances, Mishloaḥ  Manot could be also a very discreet way to send food to those who need it, but would feel very uncomfortable to ask or even receive charity (or matanot laebiyonim) from others.

WATCH  Purim Animated See the Purim story come alive, from Aish.