Preserving Shul Sanity on Purim

Purim presents a number of unique issues for a Shul which we’ll try to highlight in this post.

Purim is Like Yom Kippur
The Kaballah masters compare Purim to Yom Kippur. From a Shul’s perspective this is evident in the fact that there are often as many people in Shul on Purim night as there are on Yom Kippur. The presence of more children presents special seating issues and if we want our regular seat we should get there early or find another seat. Although we don’t normally like to split up minyanim, some Shuls make additional minyanim in order to accommodate the overflow crowds.

On Purim night, some Shuls have a party in celebration of Purim and to break the fast of Esther, similar to the break fast that occurs after Yom Kippur. Since the Shul is at capacity, logistics in accommodating the large crowd have to be addressed.

Megillah Readings
Hearing the Megillah is a halachic obligation on men and women, and families with smaller children often need to make two trips to Shul to hear the Megillah. Many Shuls have extra readings of the Megillah. In Kew Gardens Hills, this list contains over 125 readings on Purim day.

Since we need to hear every word of the Megillah, some focus has to be made on restoring quiet after the banging and groggering that occurs every time Haman’s name is mentioned.

Purim Seudah
The Purim Seudah is a wonderful opportunity for the Shul to have a communal meal and is a very popular event in smaller Shuls, where size logistics make it practical. Since many people accompany their Purim Seudah with extra drinking, care has to be made to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors and to make sure adults drink and act responsibly.

Shalach Manos
The mitzvah of Shaloch Manos is an opportunity to show our friendship to our fellow Shul members. This opportunity can also create a problem of overlooking a member and causing a tinge of emotional pain. Some Shuls have Shaloch Manos programs where members can participate in sending group baskets to their fellow members. These programs also have the additional benefit of raising money for the Shul.

It’s All About Unity
The number of activities and the stress they can produce can bring us to the point of conflict. It’s helpful to keep in mind that the mitzvos of the day are focused on Jewish Unity and we should focus on the happiness that Shul unity should bring in its wake.