Purim Gifts and Festive Meal
5. We are obligated to eat, drink, and rejoice ("li'smoach") on Purim. On
the night of the fourteenth of Adar, one should also rejoice and eat a
slightly larger meal than usual (1). When Purim falls on Sunday, even
though we are obligated to partake of three meals on Shabbos, one should
slightly reduce the size of one's meals during the day, so that one will
[eat with appetite] at the meal on Purim night.
Nevertheless, one cannot fulfill one's obligation [for the Purim feast]
with the meal served on Purim night, because the mitzvah dictates that the
main feast ("Seuda") be held during the day, as [implied by Esther 9:22]:
"...DAYS of merriment." Although the feast is being held during the day,
one should light candles as an expression of joy and festivity ("derech
simcha ve'yom tov"). On the night of the fifteenth [of Adar,] it is also
appropriate to celebrate to a certain extent ("li'smoach ketzas").
[Furthermore, since] the gifts to the poor ("matanos le'evyonim") and the
portions of food sent to one's friends ("mishloach manos") must be given
during the day, and these are time-consuming activities, a portion [of the
Purim feast] is extended into the night (of the fifteenth). [Therefore,
Mincha ("the Afternoon Service") should be recited well before sunset, and
after that service, one should begin the feast. In any case, the major
portion of the feast should be held during the day. When Purim falls on
Friday, the feast is held in the morning in deference to Shabbos.
It is proper to engage in a bit of Torah study before the feast. This is
alluded to in the interpretation, [Megilloh 16b,] of the word "light" in
[Esther 8:16]: "And the Jews enjoyed light." as referring to Torah study.
There are opinions which state that it is proper to eat pulse ("zeironim")
(2) on Purim to commemorate the pulse eaten by Daniel and his colleagues in
Babylon (3), and also to commemorate the pulse eaten by Esther, for
[Megillah 13a] interprets [Esther 2:9]: "And he switched her and her
maidens to the best of the house of women," as meaning that he fed her
pulse (4). (The laws governing the recitation of the passage "Al Hanissim"
in Birchas HaMazon (the blessings after a bread meal). are mentioned in
Chapter 44, Laws 16 and 17.)
(1) According to the later authorities ('acharonim"), it is correct
("nachon") to wear Shabbos clothing even on Purim night, and when one comes
home after the Megillah reading at night, one should find candles burning,
a set table, and the beds made, just like on Shabbos (Mishna Berura 695:3).
(2) Pulse is the name given to the edible seeds of a certain group of
plants, such as peas, beans and lentils.
(3) After Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem in the 5th Century BCE, he
ordered that a group of the best Jewish youths be brought to Babylon and
groomed to serve in his palace. Daniel, Chananyah, Mishael and Azariah,
were the best of the group and they asked the steward in charge to provide
them with pulse rather than the non-kosher food that the king was providing
for them. The steward was worried that after a while the signs of
malnutrition would begin to show, and the king would be furious. Daniel
proposed a ten day trial, and after those ten days of eating pulse, Daniel,
Chananyah, Mishael and Azariah looked healthier than those who were eating
the king's food (See Daniel 1:1-21). Daniel played a role in the Purim
story - according to one opinion in the Midrash, he was Hasach, the
messenger sent by Esther to Mordechai (Esther 4:5); according to another
opinion, he was Memuchan, one of King Achashverosh's advisors (Esther 1:14).
(4) The servant in charge of the women in the palace fed Esther and her
maidens pulse so that they wouldn't have to eat the non-kosher food.