The Purim Seudah

Purim - Kesher Israel

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

This year Purim falls on an Erev Shabbos, and in order to properly fulfill the Mitzvos of the day is is important to know the halachos – so that we can prepare.

It is a mitzvah to have a festive meal on Purim (Ramah 695:1). It is during this meal that one experiences the most profound growth and escalation in our connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. This meal should include both meat and wine.

One should also wash on bread at this festive meal because there are many authorities who hold that it is an obligation (Raavya Vol. II Siman 563).  By the same token, it is preferable to have beef during this meal and not just chicken, as there are some authorities who hold that chicken does not fulfill the requirement of simcha.


A person should eat and drink the seudah in a state of happiness. One should gladden every family member at this meal (See Eliyahu Rabba 695:4 and Rashi Megillah 9:28).  Individual attention should be given to each family member.


The meal should have at least two items, meat and some other dish (See Rambam 2:15 who learns that the obligation of Mishloach Manos stems from the obligation of the Seudah).  This is at a minimum. Indeed, the Rambam indicates that one should arrange and organize the best meal that one can (Hilchos Megillah 2:15).


This meal is held during the day. If one holds it at night, he has failed to fulfill his obligation. Nevertheless, one’s evening meal should be more festive than usual. One should wear clothing befitting a festival, and rejoice.


The Ramah (Shulchan Aruch OC 695:2) writes that when Purim falls on a Friday, the Purim seudah should be held in the morning on account of Kavod Shabbos.  The Mishna Brurah (695:10) cites Rav Yaakov Emden in his Siddur Amudei Shamayim that this means before Chatzos – midday.

The Mishnah Berurah further references Rav Ephraim Zalman Margolias(1762-1828), author of the Yad Efrayim,  who quotes the Maharil, that one may lechatchila hold the seudah up until the tenth hour of the day – that is three halachic hours before Shabbos begins.

It is interesting to note that he only references it, but he does not state so fully.  Rather, he writes, v’ayin b’yad Ephraim mah shekasav b’shaim haMaharil.  One of my Rebbeim interpreted this to mean that the Chofetz Chaim that Lechatchilah, the Kavod Shabbos factor trumps the language of the Maharil, but he did not wish to go head to head against the words of the Maharil, so he just referenced it.

[Parehthetically, there seems to be a three-way debate about the concept of Kavod Shabbos – is it from the Torah, is it Halacha l’Moshe MiSinai, or is it of Rabbinic origin?  The BaHaG and the Yereim hold that it is of Torah origin, the Rambam holds that it is Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai, and the Sheiltos holds that it is strictly of Rabbinic origin. The Mishna Brurah in 242:1 seems to be non-commital.]


M’ikar HaDin, according to the strict letter of the law, the Ramah had previously written (OC 249:2 and the Mishna Brurah) that if a Seudas Mitzvah falls on a Friday, it is permitted to hold it until Bain HaShmashos, after which one covers the bread and recites the kiddush and continues the meal.

The Mishnah Berurah continues there that one would recite Retzei in the bentching, but not recite the al hanissim.  The reason is that reciting the Retzei and the al hanissim in the same Bentching would be a stirah – a contradiction.


Rav Elyashiv zt”l is cited in Halichos vHanhagos that if one did not get a chance to hold the Purim Seudah before Plag Mincha, then one can accept Shabbos after Plag, make Kiddush on wine, and eat the Shabbos meal with additional foods that are in honor of Purim.


There is also a custom to eat a kreplach at the Seudah, which is meat covered with a dough. This is because the entire holiday came about through hidden means (Likutei Maharich).  Some have the custom to eat Hamantashen at the meal (Taamei HaMinhagim, Aruch HaShulchan and perhaps the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch).

Traditionally, hamantaschen have been made out of poppy seeds, although, of late, there are all sorts of other fillers that have popped up. Why poppy seeds? The minhag was based upon a Ramah in Shulchan Aruch, where he cites the Kol Bo and writes (OC 695:2), “Some say that it is a custom to eat zironim – seeds on Purim, as a commemoration of the seeds that Daniel and his friends ate in Babylonia.”


It is not just poppy seeds in Hamantaschen that are considered Zironim.  The Dirshu Mishna Brurah cites the Klausenberger Rebbe (Divrei Yatziv Vol II 297:6) who cites the Rambam (Hilchos Kla’im 1:8) that indicates that all vegetables are considered Zironim. The Mekor Chaim writes that rice is also to be included since it is a chashuva food item.


Both the Pri Chadash and the Aruch haShulchan (OC 695:9) pose the following question:

Daniel? Why Daniel??  This is Purim – about Esther, not Daniel!!

Also, the Gemorah (Megillah 13a) tells us that Esther also ate seeds when she first came to the palace – Haigai fed it to her. Why then does the Ramah only quote Daniel?

The Mishna Brurah mentions the Gemorah too, but does not address the question of the Pri Chadash and the Aruch haShulchan.  The Levush explains that the Gemorah (Megillah 15a) tells us that Hatach who is found in the Megillah was in reality Daniel.  But this does not explain why the Ramah only cites Daniel and not Esther.

This author would like to propose the following answer:

Esther knew very well that there was rhyme and reason to her being taken into the palace. She knew that she was in need of a miracle. And now, those in charge of the women who were brought to the palace were offering them anything that they wished to eat. She could have had her choice of any kosher food. Why then did she pick seeds?

Esther most certainly was aware of the miracle that happened to Daniel and his friends in the very beginning of Sefer Daniel. After ten days, they were healthier and finer than all the others solely on a diet of seeds. This was the beginning of the help that Daniel rendered to his people. Perhaps she should take the same avenue.  The Ramah, perhaps, left out Esther so that we would delve further into this question and focus on Daniel.


With this answer we have greater insight into the minhag of eating poppy seed hamantaschen. Just as there was a miracle that occurred to Klal Yisroel regarding the seeds that Daniel and his friends ate, wherein they adhered strictly to the Kosher dietary laws through seeds, and just like Esther tried to follow in those footsteps, so too should we merit miracles by virtue of our adhering carefully to the Torah’s dietary laws as symbolized by the poppy seeds.


There is another message about Purim that everyone could gain from. Daniel merited a miracle by keeping kosher. Esther did too. This is the reason behind our custom of eating poppy hamantaschen.


Once the theme of Kashrus has been introduced here in regard to the Purim Seudah, there is a fascinating Midrash Tanchuma (Ki Saytzai Siman 2) about the 365 negative Mitzvos in the Torah and the 248 positive ones.  Rabbi Adda says that each and every day, these Mitzvos scream out to man: “Perform us!! So that you will live and lengthen your days in our merit!”

There are four Mitzvos that are generally ignored by people and that we should make it our business to learn and perform.  The Rambam lists these four fascinating Mitzvos (149-152: See also Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 1:15) which we will term the “Havdallah B’baalei Chaim” Mitzvos.

Essentially, these Mitzvos involves differentiating between Baalei Chaim (life forms) that are permissible to eat and those that are not.  The Mitzvah lies in the actual differentiation.

The Mitzvos are divided into fish, animal, birds, and crawling thing (sheratzim).  This means that there is a Mitzvah in actually identifying and knowing which exact birds, animals and fish are kosher.  [There is a debate as to whether this Mitzvah applies to everyone or just to those who would like to partake in them.]

The main Purim meal is held Purim afternoon and is preceded by Minchah. The meal is generally extended into the night, but when falling on a Friday most people do not extend it – on account of Kavod Shabbos. Most of the meal, however, should be consumed during the day.

The Purim Seudah 1

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