Purim on Motzaei Shabbat

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: What should we know about the transition from Shabbat to Purim this year (outside Yerushalayim)?

Answer: There are no major issues, but there are a few that are worthwhile to raise.

Normally, it is forbidden to eat a half hour before the time for Megilla reading (Mishna Berura 692:15; see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 235:2), which is tzeit hakochavim. However, since seuda shlishit is a mitzva and it freezes, in some ways, the coming of the next day, one may continue to eat until tzeit hakochavim (Mikraei Kodesh (Harari), Purim 4:5 in the name of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu). Using one’s standard assumption of when tzeit hakochavim is (not including the extra time for ending Shabbat), he might have to finish slightly before usual. There may be also be a slight advantage to finishing eating bread by sunset or at least tzeit hakochavim to avoid the question about whether he should be saying Al Hanissim in Birkat Hamazon (see Mishna Berua 188:33). In any case, one should not recite Al Hanissim even if he bentches after tzeit hakochavim (ibid.).

It is generally forbidden to prepare (hachana) on Shabbat for Motzaei Shabbat, even for a purpose of an after-Shabbat mitzva (see Mishna Berura 667:5). However, one may prepare the laining on Shabbat even from a Megilla scroll (it is therefore not muktzeh – Mishna Berura 688:18). It is forbidden to bring the Megilla to shul on Shabbat, even if there is an eiruv, due to hachana (Chayei Adam II:155:10), unless he will read/learn from it before Shabbat ends (Sha’arei Teshuva 693:2; see Machazei Eliyahu 58).

Rishonim debate whether to read Megillat Esther in shul before or after Havdala (see Darchei Moshe, OC 693:2). The opinion accepted both by Ashkenazim (Rama, OC 693:1) and Sephardim (see Chazon Ovadia, Purim p. 68) is to read the Megilla before Havdala. The Levush and Gra (to OC 693:1) say the reason is to delay the exit of Shabbat (based on Pesachim 105b) despite the preference that we usually do the more common mitzva first. This is one of the factors in the machloket whether to light Chanuka candles before or after Havdala (see Mishna Berura 681:3 and Be’ur Halacha ad loc.). Some say that the matters are fully equivalent, and in both areas, in shul one does Havdala after the present mitzva, whereas at home there is more reason to do Havdala first (Da’at Torah to 693:1). Some say that Megilla reading has a special status of pirsumei nisa that exceeds even that of Chanuka candles (Imrei Esh, OC 53).

Another machloket is, given that Havdala is done after the Megilla, whether one should at least make the beracha on fire before that. The Kolbo’s (41) first opinion is that we should thank Hashem for light before benefitting from it during the reading, and this is the minhag of most Sephardim (Chazon Ovadia ibid. p. 67). Ashkenazim follow the Kolbo’s second opinion, that there is no problem with using light before the beracha, as that requirement is fulfilled every morning, and here it is a general praise for Hashem’s introducing fire to Adam (Pri Megadim, MZ 693:1, based on Maharsh Halevi, OC 28).

There is an apparently relatively recent practice, with significant upside in many communities – to hold Ma’ariv on Motzaei Shabbat/Purim well after its regular time. This gives families the time to prepare for Megilla reading (including driving, getting kids’ costumes on, etc.). It is possible to make Havdala before Ma’ariv, including the Havdala candle, after making a declaration of ending Shabbat, at the proper time (see Mishna Berura 294:1). Under these circumstances that many people will be doing significant melacha before Ma’ariv, it is likely also worthwhile to do full Havdala (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 299:10). There is no problem here doing Havdala before Megilla reading, considering that the communal reading is not ready to be done yet (one should not eat other than drinking the “Havdala wine”). In shuls that never do Havdala on Motzaei Shabbat, there should be no need on Purim. For those shuls that recite Havdala, it is best that one who has not yet recited Havdala do so.

לעילוי נשמת יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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