The Four Mitzvot (Commandments) of Purim

Four mitzvot (commandments) are performed on Purim.
Below are pictures from the collections of the National Library of Israel of four items used while fulfilling the mitzvot .

This source sheet includes images from the NLI collections, texts from the Book of Esther and the Mishneh Torah explaining the mitzvot, questions, and links to the items on the NLI website.

מגילה - Reading the Megillah

Illustrated Megillat Esther (Book of Esther), Ferrara (Italy), 1616

From the collection of the National Library of Israel

מִצְוָה לִקְרוֹת אֶת כֻּלָּהּ. וּמִצְוָה לִקְרוֹתָהּ בַּלַּיְלָה וּבַיּוֹם. וְכָל הַלַּיְלָה כָּשֵׁר לִקְרִיאַת הַלַּיְלָה. וְכָל הַיּוֹם כָּשֵׁר לִקְרִיאַת הַיּוֹם.

One is obligated to read the entire Megillah. And the obligation is to read it once in the night and once during the day. It is permissible to read the night time reading at any time during the night and to read the daytime reading at any time during the day.

Illustrated Megillat Esther (Book of Esther), Ferrara (Italy), 1616

  1. According to the text from the Mishneh Torah, how many times is the Megillah read on Purim?
    What part of the Megillah is one obliged to read and when?
  2. How does this Megillah scroll differ from a Torah scroll?
  3. Describe the illustrations on the seventeenth-century Megilla from Italy.
    Do you think they depict the scene as it actually was?
    What do you think the inspiration was for the illustrations?
    How do the illustrations enhance the story?

משתה - Festive Meal

Children's Masquerade, 19th Century Germany

From the collection of the National Library of Israel

כַּיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר־נָ֨חוּ בָהֶ֤ם הַיְּהוּדִים֙ מֵא֣וֹיְבֵיהֶ֔ם וְהַחֹ֗דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר֩ נֶהְפַּ֨ךְ לָהֶ֤ם מִיָּגוֹן֙ לְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמֵאֵ֖בֶל לְי֣וֹם ט֑וֹב לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת אוֹתָ֗ם יְמֵי֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה וְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמִשְׁל֤וֹחַ מָנוֹת֙ אִ֣ישׁ לְרֵעֵ֔הוּ וּמַתָּנ֖וֹת לָֽאֶבְיוֹנִֽים׃

the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.

כֵּיצַד חוֹבַת סְעֵדָּה זוֹ. שֶׁיֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר וִיתַקֵּן סְעֵדָּה נָאָה כְּפִי אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא יָדוֹ.

What is the nature of our obligation for this feast? A person should eat meat and prepare as attractive a feast as his means permit.

Children's Masquerade, 19th Century Germany

  1. Based on the text from the Megillah, what did the Jews do to celebrate their salvation on Purim?
  2. Read the text from the Mishneh Torah.
    What should be the nature of the Purim feast?
  3. The Mishneh Torah explains that one should eat meat on this occasion.
    Why do you think meat was stipulated?
    How can vegetarians nonetheless make a Purim feast?
  4. The postcard depicts a Purim feast in Germany in the nineteenth century.
    Describe the illustration.
    What are the people wearing?
    What are they doing?
    What does the room look like?
  5. The postcard is from Germany at the end of the nineteenth century.
    What was life like for Jews at this time?
  6. The artist, Hermann Junker, was known for portraying an idealized and nostalgic version of Judaism in his drawings.
    Do you think that this is the case here?
    What message do you think he is trying to make about Jews and Judaism in his drawing?
  7. What impression of the family do you get from looking at the drawing?
  8. Why is it important to be happy on Purim?

משלוח מנות - Food Gifts to Friends

Purim Plate, Germany, 19th Century

From the collection of the National Library of Israel

כַּיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר־נָ֨חוּ בָהֶ֤ם הַיְּהוּדִים֙ מֵא֣וֹיְבֵיהֶ֔ם וְהַחֹ֗דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר֩ נֶהְפַּ֨ךְ לָהֶ֤ם מִיָּגוֹן֙ לְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמֵאֵ֖בֶל לְי֣וֹם ט֑וֹב לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת אוֹתָ֗ם יְמֵי֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה וְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמִשְׁל֤וֹחַ מָנוֹת֙ אִ֣ישׁ לְרֵעֵ֔הוּ וּמַתָּנ֖וֹת לָֽאֶבְיוֹנִֽים׃

the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.

וְכֵן חַיָּב אָדָם לִשְׁלֹחַ שְׁתֵּי מְנוֹת בָּשָׂר אוֹ שְׁנֵי מִינֵי תַּבְשִׁיל אוֹ שְׁנֵי מִינֵי אֳכָלִין לַחֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (אסתר ט יט) "וּמִשְׁלוֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ", שְׁתֵּי מָנוֹת לְאִישׁ אֶחָד. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה לִשְׁלֹחַ לְרֵעִים מְשֻׁבָּח.

And similarly a a person is obligated to send two portions of meat or two types of cooked food or two types of food to his friend, as it says (Esther 9:22) "and send portions one man to another" two portions to one man. And all that increase to send to others is praiseworthy.

Purim Plate, Germany, 19th Century

  1. Besides eating a festive meal, what other ways does the Megillah describe to celebrate Purim?
  2. Describe the foods in a mishloach manot basket that would fulfill the mitzvah according to the Mishneh Torah.
  3. Describe the object in the photograph.
    What is engraved on the plate?
    What do you think it was used for?
  4. The plate includes a "quote" from the Megillah.
    Search for this exact text in the Megillah.
    Is it written correctly on the plate?

If not, what is the mistake?

What could this mistake tell us about the people who created the plate?

5. Why do you think we give food presents to friends on Purim?
How does this relate to the Purim story?

מתנות לאביונים - Tzedakah

Purim Box, Netherlands

From the collection of the National Library of Israel

(כב) כַּיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר־נָ֨חוּ בָהֶ֤ם הַיְּהוּדִים֙ מֵא֣וֹיְבֵיהֶ֔ם וְהַחֹ֗דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר֩ נֶהְפַּ֨ךְ לָהֶ֤ם מִיָּגוֹן֙ לְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמֵאֵ֖בֶל לְי֣וֹם ט֑וֹב לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת אוֹתָ֗ם יְמֵי֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה וְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמִשְׁל֤וֹחַ מָנוֹת֙ אִ֣ישׁ לְרֵעֵ֔הוּ וּמַתָּנ֖וֹת לָֽאֶבְיוֹנִֽים׃

the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.

וְחַיָּב לְחַלֵּק לָעֲנִיִּים בְּיוֹם הַפּוּרִים. אֵין פּוֹחֲתִין מִשְּׁנֵי עֲנִיִּים נוֹתֵן לְכָל אֶחָד מַתָּנָה אַחַת אוֹ מָעוֹת אוֹ מִינֵי תַּבְשִׁיל אוֹ מִינֵי אֳכָלִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (אסתר ט כב) "וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיוֹנִים", שְׁתֵּי מַתָּנוֹת לִשְׁנֵי עֲנִיִּים. וְאֵין מְדַקְדְּקִין בִּמְעוֹת פּוּרִים אֶלָּא כָּל הַפּוֹשֵׁט יָדוֹ לִטּל נוֹתְנִין לוֹ. וְאֵין מְשַׁנִּין מָעוֹת פּוּרִים לִצְדָקָה אַחֶרֶת: מוּטָב לָאָדָם לְהַרְבּוֹת בְּמַתְּנוֹת אֶבְיוֹנִים מִלְּהַרְבּוֹת בִּסְעֻדָּתוֹ וּבְשִׁלּוּחַ מָנוֹת לְרֵעָיו. שֶׁאֵין שָׁם שִׂמְחָה גְּדוֹלָה וּמְפֹאָרָה אֶלָּא לְשַׂמֵּחַ לֵב עֲנִיִּים וִיתוֹמִים וְאַלְמָנוֹת וְגֵרִים. שֶׁהַמְשַׂמֵּחַ לֵב הָאֻמְלָלִים הָאֵלּוּ דּוֹמֶה לַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נז טו) "לְהַחֲיוֹת רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לֵב נִדְכָּאִים":
One is required to distribute charity to the poor on Purim.— — The applicants for Purim money should not be scrutinized; it should be given to anyone who holds out his hand. Purim money must not be diverted to any other charity. One should rather spend more money on gifts to the poor than on his Purim banquet and presents to his friends. No joy is greater and more glorious than the joy of gladdening the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the strangers. He who gladdens the heart of these unhappy people imitates God, as it is written: "I am … to revive the spirit of the humble, and to put heart into the crushed" (Isaiah 57:15).

Purim Box, Netherlands

  1. Read the text from the Megillah.
    What is the reason for giving gifts to the poor on Purim?
  2. According to the Mishneh Torah, what is the minimum requirement for fulfilling the mitzvah of matanot l'evyonim?
  3. What do you think this box was used for?
  4. According to the Mishneh Torah, what should one spend more money on: giving mishloach manot (food gifts), the Purim seudah (feast), or matanot l'evyonim (gifts to the poor)?
    Why do you think that is?