Celebrating in Quarantine: This year’s Purim celebration will be a bit different for those in quarantine. While the joy of celebrating with others is not possible in quarantine, it is still possible to spread ahavah, ahvah and reut, love, fellowship and friendship, from the quarantine room. May you be blessed with long, healthy years, and may Hashem send a refuah shlemah to all those who are ill.
- The Mitzvah of Quarantine: It is a mitzvah to observe quarantine when mandated, and a grave prohibition to violate quarantine. We are commanded v’nishmartem me’od l’ nafshotekhem, you shall care for your lives; and we are prohibited from any act that will endanger the health of others: Lo ta’amod al dam re’ekha, you shall not stand idly by while your fellow Jew is harmed; and Lo tasim damim b’vetecha, you shall not have in your home that will harm others. This mitzvah takes precedence over the mitzvot that cannot be performed in quarantine.
- The Mitzvot of Purim: There are four mitzvot mi-d’rabbanan (rabbinic mitzvot) on Purim: Megillah, Matanot L’evyonim (gifts to the needy), Mishloah Manot, and Seudah, the Purim meal. We will deal with each separately:
- Megillah: Women and men (and girls and boys from bat/bar mitzva onward) are obligated to hear the Megillah read from a kosher Megillah twice during Purim. The major reading is during the day; however, both are obligatory mi-d’rabbanan.
- Megillah reading in quarantine: Ideally, the person in quarantine should read, or hear the Megillah read, from a kosher Megillah. This can be done in several ways: If the person under quarantine knows to read without mistakes, a kosher Megillah can be passed to her/him. It is not necessary to read with the melody, but it is necessary to read correctly. It is permissible to check your reading from an open Tanakh, pasuk by pasuk, so long as every word is read from a kosher Megillah. If the Megillah is to be taken out afterwards, it should be covered in plastic wrap, which will be removed outside the quarantine room, after which the person removing the plastic wrap will discard it and wash her/his hands. Alternately, the reader can read aloud outside the door, or outside an open window. If none of these are possible, see the next paragraph.
- Ones Rahmanah Patreh, one is exempt from a mitzvah that one cannot fulfill because of circumstances beyond one’s control. It is an obligatory mitzvah to remain in the quarantine room. Therefore, if one cannot hear a kosher reading, one is exempt from the mitzvah of a kosher Megillah reading. In such a case, one should read oneself from a Tanakh. If this is not possible, one can listen to a reading via telephone or internet. Although this does not fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Megillah, it does provide for the spiritual benefit of hearing the Megillah.
- Matanot La’evyonim, a gift to each of two needy people: This mitzvah is even more significant than sendign many mishloach manot. It is performed during the day, and can be fulfilled by shaliah, by delegating another person to make the gift for you. The gift should be made on your day of Purim to a needy individual who is also celebrating Purim that day. According to many opinions, the minimum gift is the value of a Purim meal, as according to some authorities the purpose of this mitzvah is so that all Jews will have the wherewithal to celebrate with a seudah, a meal.
- Seudah: It is a mitzvah to have a festive meal on Purim. The meal should include bread, and should be on the level of a seudah of the festivals, including meat if that is one’s custom. The meal should be eaten (at least for the most part) during daylight hours.
- Mishloah Manot: Two food portions (food or drink) are to be sent to one friend. A messenger may be delegated to prepare the manot before Purim; but they are to be delivered on Purim day.
Purim celebrations should be small-scale this year, in order to safeguard everyone’s health. We look forward at Nishmat to welcoming the public to our Megillah reading and celebration next year. All students and alumnae joining the Purim festivities are required to wash hands frequently. Dancing this year will be without holding hands.
We wish the entire community of Israel—and the entire world—days of good health and happiness.