The Purim questions were answered by Rabbi Eli Gersten, rabbinic coordinator and halachic recorder for OU Kosher. The responses were reviewed by Rabbi Yaakov Luban, OU Kosher executive rabbinic coordinator. Rabbi Moshe Zywica, OU Kosher executive rabbinic coordinator, supervises the OU Consumer Relations Department.
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Q: Ta’anit Esther this year will be Wednesday, March 23. What time does the fast begin and when does it end?
A: The fast begins when one goes to sleep at night, unless one plans to wake up early to eat before the fast begins. If one planned to wake up early, he can eat until alot ha’shachar (dawn) which is 72 minutes before sunrise. The fast ends at tzeit ha’kochavim, nightfall. (There are different opinions regarding when tzeit ha’kochavim occurs. Rav Moshe Feinstein evaluated that it is 50 minutes after sunset, but if one is having difficulty fasting, he may break the fast 40 minutes following sunset.)
However, it is preferable to refrain from eating until after hearing the Megillah. If one is having a difficult time fasting, especially if waiting to hear a later reading of the Megillah, one may eat a snack after tzeit ha’kochavim. If one is very weak and needs to eat a meal, it is permitted to do so but one should assign someone to remind to hear the Megillah.
Q: Who is obligated to give a Machatzit hashekel and when should it be given?
A: When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was an obligation in the month of Adar for every adult male to contribute a half-shekel coin toward the purchase of the upcoming yearly communal offerings. Today, as a remembrance of those coins, a machatzit hashekel (half dollar coin) is given to charity. Since the word “shekel” is repeated in the Torah three times, the common custom is to donate three half-dollar coins to charity.
There is a difference of opinion as to whether all men from age thirteen are obligated, or only from the age of twenty. However, many have the custom that young men beginning at age thirteen to give the machatzit hashekel, and fathers give the machatzit hashekel on behalf of their young sons before the bar mitzvah age. The coins are contributed on Ta’anit Esther before Mincha afternoon prayers, but if they were not given then, they may be donated anytime afterwards as well.
Q: Can one fulfill their obligation of Purim seudah (festive meal) on the first night of Purim?
A: The mitzvah to eat a seudah on Purim is specifically in the day. However, it is proper to eat a partial seudah at night as well, and it is customary to eat seeds or grains on Purim night to remember the difficulty that Esther had in eating kosher when she was in the palace.
To read more Purim questions and answers, click here.
Take the OU Purim Pledge
The month of Adar is a period of celebration on the Jewish calendar, culminating in the celebration of Purim.
The consumption of alcohol on Purim is just one of the many ways we celebrate the great miracle that took place in the time of Queen Esther – the story we read about in the megillah.
However, it seems that a percentage of people each year are putting themselves and others at risk by consuming too much alcohol, serving those who should not be served, and getting behind the wheel of a car when they are in no condition to do so.
We are all for maintaining Purim as the great day of celebration it is, but we feel that includes keeping as many people as safe as possible.
This year, the OU is asking all to “pledge” not to over-consume alcohol, serve alcohol to minors or those who are intoxicated and, perhaps most importantly, not to drink and drive. Won’t you join our efforts to ensure a safer Purim in 5776?
Best wishes for a Chag Purim sameach!
After you take the pledge be sure to have your friends and family join the cause. Share this page on Facebook and Twitter – use the hashtag #Purimpledge.
I will not serve alcohol to minors.
I will not drink and drive, nor will I serve alcohol to guests who are driving.
I will not serve alcohol to any intoxicated guests.