Monday, March 13, 2006

A Fast Day and Two Purims?!

There is something I like about fast days. I don't know why... what happens to me is I am sluggish at the very beginning (probably because I know I'm going to fast) but almost immediately I develop a second wind which lasts me through the day. This Yom Kippur was the easiest fast of my life, and I don't know why. Today I read Torah for the first time, I think, since Tisha B'Av. That might not be true and I probably read much more recently (probably a Rosh Chodesh, but I don't count those)

Alright, so tonight is not Purim. "What?!" you may ask. Well, it is not Purim here in Jerusalem nor in the ancient Persian capital/fortress city of Shushan until tomorrow night, the 15th of Adar. This phenomena occurs in the places that were surrounded by walls in the time of Joshua's conquest (circa 1200BCE). In the Megillah it discusses the war that the Jews fought against those that sought to destroy them. Everywhere but Shushan they vanquished them in a single day, on the 13th of Adar. Shushan took one more day to complete the task, and therefore they celebrate the day after their victory was complete, the 15th of Adar. We cannot make any city greater than Jerusalem so the decree was made that this special date is celebrated in walled-cities during Joshua's conquest in addition to ancient Shushan. There are, in fact, a couple of cities such as Yafo, Akko, and Hevron, which may or may not have had walls during this time, therefore celebrate it BOTH days, observing all of the mitzvot (Megillah reading, feast, gifts to the poor, and gifts to your peers) on both days. I have not heard anything about Jericho, but biblical evidence indicates that during Joshua's conquest, Jericho had walls (but not for long).

If I step out of Jerusalem tonight, I am obligated to do the mitzvot of Purim on the 14th and if I come back I have to do it on the 15th too. I don't see myself leaving J'lem today... it's just too much, though we have the next two days off from school and today was a half day. In fact, the next two days are legal holidays, I believe.

It should be noted that the Fast of Esther that I am observing today is NOT the anniversary of Esther's fast. Esther's fast was a three day fast that supposedly took place during the first three days of passover (and you won't see many people observing that fast.) This fast actually commemorates the ancient practice of fasting during the day when you go to war. This brings an interesting question: should we be observing two fast days in Shushan and Jerusalem just like they almost certainly did 2500 years ago in the fortress city. For that matter, why is Yom Kippur the only major holiday that does not have a second day in the Diaspora? If it were, there would be a lot of people lining-up to make Aliyah.

Now I must practice my megillah reading (for those of you keeping score, I'm reprising my infamous Chapter 4 that I performed last year. Last year's received a standing ovation so I need to be able to top it. I did crack all-assembled up during the dress rehersal last week so I am on the right track.

I cannot reveal my costume, but I can reveal what I was going to do. I was going to dress as pharaoh: I was going to buy a pharaoh headdress and wear pajamas with a frog on my shoulder, to reinact the second plague (particularly the song "One Day When Pharaoh Awoke In His Bed". Unfortunately the headdress I had been eyeing for weeks at the mall got snatched up when I went there to buy it a couple of days ago. Oops.

An easy fast and a merry purim (and a merry shushan purim for those of you with me in Jerusalem... or in a small citadel in the southwestern portion of ancient Iran...)

PS: For further reading, check out the wikipedia entry on Purim (especially the section on Shushan Purim)

No comments: