Purim is celebrated on Thursday, March 8th (beginning Wednesday evening, March 7th, after sunset). Four mitzvot are associated with the holiday:
Megillah Reading - Book of Esther - The Megillah is read twice on Purim, once at night and once during the day. In order to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Megillah, it is necessary to hear every word during the reading. For this reason it is imperative that people not speak during the Megillah reading.
Mishloach Manot/Shalach Manos - Sending Gifts - On Purim day, every Jew is obligated to give at least one Mishloach Manot gift containing at least two different types of ready-to-eat food items.
Matanot La'evyonim - Gifts to the Poor - Giving to the poor is a mitzvah all year round. However, the mitzvah to do so on Purim is in addition to the general mitzvah of tzedakah (charity). To properly fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot La'evyonim one must give to two poor individuals. Although one may fulfill this mitzvah by giving a minimal amount of money to each person, the sages noted that the highest form of fulfilling this mitzvah is by giving enough money for a meal, or the equivalent in food. This mitzvah may be fulfilled by donating beforehand to an organization that will distribute the money or food on Purim day.
Seudah - Festive Meal - One is obligated to partake in a festive meal on Purim day. The minimum to fulfill this mitzvah requires that one ritually wash one's hands (netillat yadayim), eat bread and then recite the Birkat Hamazon, the Grace after Meals.
Part of the Mitzvah of Seudat Purim is drinking. "A person should drink on Purim up to the point where they cannot tell the difference between 'Blessed is Mordechai' and 'Cursed is Haman.'" (Talmud Megillah 7a and Shulchan Aruch--Code of Jewish Law). On Purim, one is commanded to drink wine to a point of inebriation* - generally, this is interpreted as drinking more than one usually does or enough to make one sleepy.
*While drinking on Purim is a mitzvah, risking one's life is not. Whether host or guest, it is important to be responsible:
1-Do not drink and drive.
2-Beware of underage drinking. While Purim is a religious holiday, and underage alcohol consumption is allowed for religious occasions, adults are still responsible for minors. Please do not give young people any alcohol beyond the bare minimum of wine, if at all. Remember, our children are deeply influenced by our own behavior.
This Treat was originally published on March 5, 2009. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand the holiday of Purim.