Purim and (chalilah) a Pandemic: a Halachic Guideline

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    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com

    What would happen, chas veshalom, if the Corona Virus were to become a pandemic?  How would a pandemic affect our observance of Purim?  What follows is the view of the author – each individual is encouraged to seek guidance from their own Rav.

    THE HALACHOS BELOW ONLY IF THERE IS A DECLARED PANDEMIC.

    In 2005 and 2006, the Federal government created protocols for how a pandemic should be handled.  Within those protocols there are times when public gatherings are forbidden – we will call this period the Stage Two Pandemic protocols.  Thus, there will be Stage 1 Halachos and Stage 2 Halachos.

    This guideline gives halachic credence to the government authorities empowered to declare a prohibition on public gatherings.  This is based on rulings of Gedolei HaPoskim.

    If the authorities in a community declare that there be no public gatherings, people should not get together in a shul.  However, small minyanim of ten to fifteen people can still take place unless they were specifically forbidden.

    If someone is unable to hear the Megillah – then he or she should recite Hallel. Hallel is not recited on Purim because the reading of the Megillah is itself considered a recitation of song. If one does not have a Megillah and will not hear the reading from a Megillah, the Poskim have ruled that hallel should be said, but without a blessing.

    If one can only hear one reading of the Megillah, it is preferable to hear the day reading rather than the night reading.

    The Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos

    Generally speaking, it is praiseworthy to send Mishloach Manos portions to as many friends as possible. During a pandemic – even at stage one, it is better, to fulfill the Mitzvah with just one or two people and to give more Matanos l’evyonim than to give more Mishloach Manos to friends.

    The Mitzvah should be fulfilled with pre-packaged foods and not home-made items to decrease the spread of infection.  Even still, it is proper to send portions sufficient to convey regard for the recipient. One should not send something below the Kavod of the recipient. The Poskim have ruled that a lollipop is not considered Choshuv for an adult, nor is a bottle of Poland Spring or seltzer.

    The Purim Seudah

    It is a Mitzvah to have a festive meal on Purim. It is during this meal that one experiences the most profound growth and escalation in our connection to HaKadosh Boruch Hu. This meal should include meat and wine.  Having an excessive amount of people at the Seudah should be discouraged.

    Drinking

    When other people are suffering, it is not appropriate to engage in excess Simcha.  The drinking should be subdued and the view of the Ramah should be followed to only drink enough to go to sleep.

    Generally speaking, Chazal enacted that those who truly experience growth in Avodas Hashem should drink wine on Purim. They said, “Chayav adam libsumei B’Puraya ad de lo yada bain Arur Haman u Baruch Mordechai.” The Nesivus Shalom explains this to mean that a person is obligated to become genuinely intoxicated with the notion of Purim – that is that no matter how distant we are from Hashem – Hashem is close to us. Whether throughout the year we are Boruch Mordechai or Arur Haman – Hashem wants to develop our connection with Him.

    In terms of an actual obligation, the Ramah explains that it is sufficient to drink just a little more than is his usual habit, and to take a nap. When one takes a nap the lack of consciousness creates a situation where one does not know the difference between Haman and Mordechai.

    It is important not to panic or be the source of panic to others and to enjoy the Yom Tov.

    The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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