Tomorrow is one of the Jewish holidays that in my opinion is most widely observed. At this point you may be asking yourself what the holiday is and if it is so widely observed why you don’t know about it.
Tomorrow is “Purim Katan” which means “Little Purim” and it is the 14th of Adar I in a leap year. Purim falls on the 14th of Adar but in a leap year, like this one, there are two months of Adar and Adar II is the “real” one. So Purim falls this year on the 14th of Adar II , Wed. night March 16 and Thursday, March 17 -- which makes it a double celebration for the relatively small Jewish community of Ireland. If this year were not a leap year, Purim would fall tonight and tomorrow -- and to note this in some way, tonight and tomorrow are designated as “Purim Katan.”
To mark Purim Katan we avoid doing things that demonstrate sadness. So in the morning and afternoon prayers, the tachanun penitential prayers are omitted. It’s forbidden to fast and eulogies are theoretically omitted if there is a funeral on Purim Katan. I say “theoretically omitted” because the word which we translate as eulogy, hesped, in biblical and rabbinic times actually meant “lament” and was specifically designed to make people cry. In practice, especially in non-Orthodox communities, the rabbi is likely to begin his or her eulogy on Purim Katan in this fashion: “Because today is Purim Katan, we are not permitted to give a eulogy. Were today not Purim Katan, we would say about the deceased that . . .”
I jokingly say that Purim Katan is one of the most widely observed holidays because pretty much everyone observes the restrictions of the day even if they don’t know about it. I know no one who plans to say tachanun, to fast, or to eulogize tomorrow.
There is actually a debate in the Talmud about whether Purim should properly be observed in the first rather than second Adar. Similar to the discussion about Adar yahrzeits from a couple of weeks ago, the argument is made that we do not delay the performance of a mitzvah, and since observing Purim is a mitzvah it shouldn’t be delayed. However, since both Purim and Passover focus on redemption, they should be observed in proximity to each other. For those who live by the rhythms of the Jewish calendar, a two-month interval between Purim and Pesach would feel very odd.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian