Every year, on the Shabbat following Purim, a special reading from Numbers 19, is added to the regular Shabbat Torah reading. Known as Parashat Parah, the Torah reading concerns the special purification ceremony of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) one of the most intricate and mysterious laws found in the Torah.
The world has been hit by a series of devastating natural phenomena. Powerful earthquakes and raging floods have created monumental scenes of destruction. With great pride, many Jews point out that the Israeli emergency response and search and recover units are often among the first to arrive with assistance. It is interesting to see the connection of these actions of goodwill to all humankind in the Biblical story of Jonah.
A brilliant business mind, a flare for statesmanship and a charismatic personality… today’s Jewish Treat focuses on a renowned Jewish Renaissance Woman: Dona Gracia Mendes (Dona Gracia Nasi).
Unique to the Jewish calendar, Purim is actually observed on different days depending on location.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Parashat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembering.
Purim is celebrated on Sunday, March 20th (beginning after Shabbat on March 19th). Four mitzvot are associated with the holiday:
“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go into the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). So responded Esther to her uncle Mordechai when he requested that she present herself, unbidden, before King Achashverosh.
Bashert, which in Yiddish means “predestined,” is most commonly applied to the concept of one’s intended soul-mate. This idea that, when dating, one is searching for his/her bashert, his/her divinely intended life partner, stems from Sotah 2a, which states: “Forty days before the creation of a child, a Heavenly Voice issues forth and proclaims: ‘The daughter of A is for B.’”
Those who first hear about the custom of Purim costumes might assume that the tradition began as an imitation of Halloween. Research, however, places the origin of Halloween costumes in the 18th century, while Purim disguises are mentioned in rabbinic texts as far back as the 13th century.
The climax of the Shabbat morning service is the Torah reading, which is often accompanied by great ceremony and beautiful chants. It is also an “interactive” ritual, since numerous congregants are involved. In contrast to this ceremony of great fanfare is the Torah reading of Shabbat Mincha (afternoon service).