• March 30, 2023
  • 8 5783, Nisan
  • פרשת צו

The Purim Feast: Where, When & How, March 22

The Purim Feast: Where, When & How, March 22

The Purim seuda, or feast, is one of the most important mitzvot of the holiday. Unlike other festive occasions it only begins to take place during the day and not at night. Why is this the case and why is there a seuda in the first place? Who is invited and are there any special foods? Join this class to find out the answers to these questions and more.

March 22, 2016 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
The Purim Feast: Where, When & How, March 22: Lesson 1
Class description

Hello Everyone,

In today’s shiur we reviewed some of the requirements for the סעודת פורים . We addressed the issues in order of when, what and how much.

The first question is, when should we have the Purim meal? The Purim meal is to held during the day of Purim ( the 14th of Adar in most cases, on the day of the 15th in Jerusalem, Israel  and Susa[1], Iran). The meal which we eat on the evening of Purim is not the Purim meal. Since most people are busy delivering משלוח מנות during the day of Purim, as well cooking and baking for the Purim meal (as well as waiting for guests to arrive) it often turns out that the meal does not commence until late in the day. The Halacha  rules that even though the meal may extend into the night, the main part of the meal must be eaten during the daylight hours of Purim. Even the Rema who often comes to the defense of customary behavior says that those who eat the main part of their Purim meal after dark are doing so in violation of the Halacha:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות מגילה ופורים סימן תרצה

…ורוב הסעודה צריכה להיות ביום (מנהגים), ולא כמו שנוהגין: להתחיל סמוך לערב ועיקר הסעודה הוא ליל ט”ו.

The Aruch Hashulchan also works very hard to defend the usual practice of the Jewish people. He suggests that the practice of beginning the Purim meal late in the day can be justified. He writes that it is customary to eat a special breakfast[2] on Purim morning as well. Since on Purim we are required to eat only one special meal (unlike Shabbat when there is a mitzvah to eat three meals) when we eat a special breakfast we have met our obligation to eat a festive meal on Purim. Having done our duty at breakfast-time we are free to begin the “main” festive meal later in the day.

The next subject is the menu for the Purim meal. Are there any particular foods that we need to eat? The Poskim narrow this discussion down to two items: meat and bread.

This is how the Rambam describes the Purim meal:

רמב”ם הלכות מגילה וחנוכה פרק ב

הלכה טו

כיצד חובת סעודה זו שיאכל בשר ויתקן סעודה נאה כפי אשר תמצא ידו, ושותה יין עד שישתכר[3] וירדם בשכרות…..

We see here two parameters for the Purim meal. It should contain meat and it should “as fine as possible.”

With regard to the requirement that the meal contain meat there really is no debate among the Poskim. The Shulchan Aruch rules that even mourners in the stage of אוננות [4] who may not eat meat nor drink wine are expected to eat meat and drink wine at their Purim meal. Private mourning is not allowed to interfere with participation in the celebration of Purim.

Meat is viewed as an essential component of all celebrations. Vegetarianism is a relatively recent phenomenon as is the preference for dairy meals. It would seem that if a person does not enjoy eating meat then the Halacha would not compel her to do so. The Purim meal is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. This idea is born out in the laws of Shabbat:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות שבת סימן רצא סעיף א

יהא זהיר מאד לקיים סעודה שלישית ואף אם הוא שבע יכול לקיים אותה בכביצה, ואם א”א לו כלל לאכול אינו חייב לצער את עצמו…..

משנה ברורה סימן רצא ס”ק ג

(ג) אינו חייב וכו’ – דהסעודה לעונג ניתנה ולא לצער:

With regard to an obligation to eat bread there is a certain amount of ambiguity. On Shabbat and שלש רגלים the Halacha is clear that bread must be eaten at those meals.[5] On Purim there is no explicit mention that bread must be eaten. Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l thinks that when the Rambam describes the Purim meal as a “סעודה נאה” it is clear that this means that the meal must have bread, otherwise it could hardly qualify as a”.סעודה נאה”   This is also the reasoning of the Aruch Hashulchan who finds no basis to make any distinction between the meals of Shabbat and the meal of Purim.

The puzzlement regarding the obligation to eat bread on Purim arises from the halachot of ברכת המזון. On days when there is an obligation to eat bread there is an obligation to mention those days in ברכת המזון. On Shabbat we add the paragraph רצה והחליצנו and on שלש רגלים we add יעלה ויבוא.The הלכה is that should we forget to mention these additional paragraphs we must say the ברכת המזון  again. On special days when there is no obligation to eat bread ( such as ראש חודש and חנוכה) the הלכה is that should we forget to say the additional paragraphs then there is no obligation to repeat the ברכת המזון.

What is the halacha regarding ברכת המזון on Purim? The Rambam writes:

רמב”ם הלכות ברכות פרק ב

… וכן בחולו של מועד ובחנוכה ובפורים שכח ולא הזכיר הענין בברכת המזון אינו חוזר.

Most Poskim agree that there is no obligation to repeat the ברכת המזון if one forgot על הנסים .  The corollary which links ברכת המזון to the obligation to eat bread is viewed as a conclusive one, so the consensus is that there is no obligation to eat bread on Purim and if one forgot to say על הנסים she does not need to repeat the ברכת המזון.

The last item on the menu is wine. While the Gemarah only says that a person needs to become inebriated:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף ז עמוד ב

מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

we saw that the Rambam specifically says that the beverage must be wine. This is the view of the שו”ת משנה הלכות  as well:

שו”ת משנה הלכות חלק ה סימן פג

…וודאי יש להזהר בשתיית יין דוקא למי שרוצה לקיים כמצותו כיון שיצאו הדברים מפי הני גאוני אף דבש”ע לא ביארו דיין דוקא מקום הניחו לנו להתגדר.

The Gemarah, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch say that the person must be so drunk that he cannot distinguish between ארור המן and ברוך מרדכי. Later Poskim sort of “dialed back” this obligation. The Rema for example says that it is enough for a person to drink more than the usual amount of wine and as a result to fall asleep. This inclination to limit the extent of excess drinking with its accompanying possibility of unseemly behavior can be seen in other Poskim as well.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the shiur. A very happy Purim to all. Stuart Fischman

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susa

[2] This meal must be eaten with bread according to the Aruch Hashulchan, as we will see.

[3] The matter of drunkenness will discussed later.

[4] This is the period between the death of the family member and the burial.

[5] With the exception of סעודה שלישית as mentioned above.


Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.