Ta’anit Esther (Fast of Esther) - Wednesday, March 20
From 5:48am to 7:22pm. Both men and women including boys 13 years of age and older and girls 12 years of age and older, must fast. Sick and elderly people are not required to fast. Pregnant women who experience discomfort because of the fast may eat.
Megilla Reading - Wednesday, March 20 at 7:00pm
It is customary to give before the reading of the Megillah. Ashkenazim give three half-dollars before the reading of the Megillah. Sephardim give six dollars. This is reminiscent of the half-shekel given yearly in the Bet Hamikdash at this time, to fund public sacrifices.
Al Hanisim is recited in the Amidah and in the Birkat Hamazon. If you forget to say Al Hanisim, you do not have to repeat the Birkat Hamazon or the Amidah.
Both men and women are required to hear the Megillah read from a kosher Megillah - both on the night and on the day of Purim. Preferably, one should hear the Megillah read in the synagogue, or at least in the company of ten people. If that is not possible, one may read the Megillah themselves or hear it from someone else privately. Children should be educated in hearing the Megillah, and they must be instructed to remain quiet so that the adults can hear every word.
Three berachot are said before reading the Megillah and one berachah after reading it. The berachah after the Megillah is said only if a Minyan is present.
One must hear the entire Megillah in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. If one missed hearing even one word, one does not fulfill the mitzvah. If one misses a word, one should read from the Chumash or kosher Megillah the word he missed and the following words until they catches up to the one reading the Megillah.
One who is following the Megillah in a Chumash should not read aloud with the one who is reading the Megillah, but should merely follow the reading silently.
It is best if one follows the reading in his own kosher Megillah so if he misses a word he can say it from his own Megillah.
Join the Celebration
Following the Megillah reading, join in the celebratory Seuda. Please send in a donation to be a sponsor.
Purim Day - Thursday, March 21
The Megillah is read again during morning services at 7.15am and again at 9:00am. It may be read, when necessary, any time from sunrise (or if in great need, from seventy two minutes before sunrise) until sunset, with the berachot.
It is a Mitzvah incumbent on both men and women on Purim Day to give a monetary gift to at least two poor people. This is known as Matanot Laevyonim. This monetary gift should be enough to buy a decent lunch.
It is likewise a Mitzvah to give at least two types of food or drink to at least one person on Purim Day. This is known as Mishloach Manot. These foods must be ready to eat and must require no further preparation. The foods must be sent and received on Purim Day itself. The two foods must be two different kinds of food (such as two kinds of fruit, or cake and fruit, etc.).
It is likewise a Mitzvah to eat a large meal on Purim day before sunset. One should try to invite friends and relatives to enjoy this Seuda in a festive manner.
One should drink wine at this meal, since the miracle of Purim came about through wine (Vashti was killed when Achashverosh got drunk, and Esther revealed Haman’s plot to Achashverosh at a wine party). One, however, should not imbibe to a point that he may, G-d forbid, say or do something contrary to Torah principles.