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It's a 3-Day Purim!

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

It’s still Purim!  Shushan Purim is a thing every year.  Even in the time of Mordecai and Esther, Purim was celebrated on a different day in Shushan than in other cities, per chapter 9 of the Megillah.  It took a little longer in Shushan for the violence to dissipate and the celebration to take place.

So it is the custom that in ancient walled cities- like Jerusalem- that Purim is observed one day later, on the 15th of Adar.  It’s called, “Shushan Purim,” and today’s the day!

Not only that, when Purim, the 14th of Adar for most of us, occurs on Friday, Purim extends into Sunday.  It’s known as a Purim “meshulash,” a 3-day Purim.

Let’s try to understand why this is.

There are 4 mitzvot associated with the holiday.  They are:  to hear the megillah; to send gifts to friends- mishloach manot, or, shalachmones, if you prefer; to give gifts to the needy; and, to enjoy a festive meal.

Two of these mitzvot are celebrated on the 14th of Adar, that is, WERE celebrated, yesterday- hearing the megillah and giving gifts to the poor.  On Shabbat, today, if we were in Jerusalem, we would be reading the additional Torah text reminding us not to forget what a scoundrel Amalek was, the ancestor of Haman and the exemplar of all who wish to destroy us.  We would also be including Al HaNisim, the special addition for Purim, to the Amidah- you can find it in your siddur on page 557.  It’s an executive summary of the story of the holiday.

It won’t be until tomorrow, Sunday, that our Jerusalem friends will enjoy their festive meal and share their gifts of food with each other.  A 3-day Purim!

In order to understand this, we need to recall that there is a halachic prohibition of carrying anything on Shabbat in the public realm.  You can rearrange the furniture in your home, if you choose, but don’t carry an umbrella when you walk to shul!

So, out of an abundance of caution, our rabbis decided that we don’t read megillah on Shabbat lest someone inadvertently carry the scroll to the synagogue.  Since we don’t want to DELAY the reading, it gets moved to Friday.

Same reason that we don’t give gifts to the needy or exchange mishloach manot on Shabbat- we don’t want someone to accidentally carry those from one home to the next.

So why can’t we have our Purim seudah, our Purim meal, on Shabbat well?  Well, Shabbat is already so joyous that we don’t want to mix one celebration with another- hence- tomorrow is the day.

Since a poor person may lack the means to prepare a festive meal, we give our tzedakah on Friday.  But, we can wait to have our seudat mitzvah and our friends can wait for their gifts until Sunday, and that gives us 3 days to celebrate this holiday.

Is that clear?  Anyway, Shushan Purim is a pretty serious matter and a good time to review those final chapters of the megillah, which are fraught with what seems like unnecessary violence.  Since, alas, we are NOT in Jerusalem and not celebrating Purim today and tomorrow, we can use this occasion of Shushan Purim to remember that violence should always be a last resort, and to remember, with regret, the loss of life that was part of the Purim story.


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