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Titzaveh – Purim Katan 5784

Rabbi Robin Nafshi

What holiday did we celebrate today, that goes into tomorrow? Anyone?

Today was the observance of Purim … katan; tomorrow is Shushan Purim katan. Can anyone share what these are/mean?

I think we all are familiar with Purim, the holiday detailed in the Book of Esther commemorating the miracle of the Jews being saved from their evil enemy Haman. Most years, it is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. But in every seventeen-year cycle, seven of those years are Jewish leap years. During a leap year, the month of Adar is doubled, and we have Adar I and Adar II. Why do we double Adar? “Be happy, it’s Adar.”

Right now, we are in the month of Adar I. During leap years, Purim is celebrated during Adar II. Please come back in March for the reading of the megillah, sounding groggers, booing Haman, eating hamentashen, and having much fun. But I digress.

Today was the 14th of Adar I. Our ancient rabbis dubbed it Purim katan, or “little Purim” or “minor Purim.” Purim is already a minor holiday, though you wouldn’t know that at TBJ, so Purim katan is really a minor minor holiday. Those rabbis taught that because Purim is observed in Adar II, the importance of Adar I must still be recognized. Thus, Purim Katan fills that void. 

So how do we celebrate little Purim?

Bizzarely, the Talmud tells us that there is “no difference between the 14th of Adar I and the 14th of Adar II,” except that, on Purim Katan: we don’t read the Megillah, we don’t send gifts, we don’t recite al ha-nissim prayers about miracles, and we don’t recite other the prayers associate with Purim.

In other words, there is a huge difference. The only thing that remains is that fasting and funeral eulogies – which are not allowed on Purim – are also not allowed on Purim katan, as we do not want to diminish the joy of the day.

The Shuchan Aruch, a code of Jewish laws, states that we are simply to mark Purim katan with a small, festive meal such as a special lunch, and generally to increase one’s joy.

Now, if you did not get around to such a celebration today, don’t worry! You have an extra day. As I said at the beginning of my sermon, tomorrow is Shushan Purim katan. Regular Shushan Purim will be observed in March, the day after we celebrate regular Purim or maybe I should say Purim gadol, or big Purim.

Does anyone know what Shushan Purim is? Have you ever read the full book of Esther, including the parts we usually skip during the shpiel and certainly when children are present? In the story, the king could not repeal his decree that the Jews be killed on the 15th of Adar. So instead, the Jews are told that they could go out and defeat the people who would do them harm – and they kill 75,000 people. This part of the story is one way we know the Book of Esther isn’t true. The king’s message to the Jews about self-defense took an extra day to reach the people who lived outside of Shushan because it was a walled city. Thus, if you don’t live in a walled city, you have an extra day to celebrate Purim as well as Purim katan.

I want to briefly link Purim katan to our Torah portion, Titzaveh. The portion includes ongoing instructions for making the clothing to be worn by the high priest and the other priests. The high priest’s tunic was to have bells all along the bottom. In this story, the bells are likely there so that when the high priest entered the holy of holies, where he went to meet with God, he made a sound to alert God of his presence. God, of course, didn’t need the sound, but the people did.

After the Temple was destroyed in 70 of the common era, our people transferred the bells from the priest’s tunic to the robe around the Torah scroll. Yes, the robe used to have little bells sewn to the bottom. But during times of extreme antisemitism in Europe, communities were concerned that during the hakafot – the carrying the Torah scroll around the sanctuary – non-Jews intent on doing harm would hear the bells and know that a Jewish community was worshiping behind some very non-distinctive door. They removed the bells from the robe and moved them to the crowns, which can be, and often are, removed before a hakafah.

When I think of bells, however, I don’t think of ancient priest’s robes or even the Torah scroll. I think of ringing bells for liberty, freedom, and joy. Even the word for bell in Hebrew, פַּעֲמוֹן, gives me the feeling of something light and fun. פַּעֲמוֹן derives from פַּעַם meaning instance: the clapper inside the פעמון swings back and forth, instance after instance, hitting the body of the פעמון, creating a sound. I’m not alone if finding joy in the sound of bells. A monthly podcast,, explores the fun of belling ringing in each episode.

We are living in an incredibly difficult time – and I won’t enumerate the difficulties, but you know what they are. Take a break from the news and social media. Have joyful lunch tomorrow for Shushan Purim katan. Ring bells and make a joyful sound. God more than anyone knows just how much we need it.

Shabbat shalom.

Sun, April 21 2024 13 Nisan 5784