Purim in the Community
Jewish communities around the world celebrate Purim as a holiday of feasting and gladness, gift-giving and tzedakah (charity), revelry and imbibing. It is one of the most popular Jewish holidays for families and children. The celebration of Purim is based on the story found in the biblical Book of Esther. A tractate of the Mishnah (and hence the Talmud) is devoted to it as well. Purim is a time when Jewish communities, like the community in the Book of Esther, become particularly aware of the fragility and even the danger of living in the Diaspora, as a people "scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples" (Esther 3:8).
The primary communal observance connected to Purim is the mitzvah (commandment) of reading the Book of Esther, called the Megillah (the scroll). It is supposed to be read in the synagogue with a minyan (quorum) present. The scroll is read twice, once in the evening after the Amidah (silent prayer) of Ma'ariv (the evening service) and once after the Torah service during Shaharit (the morning service). The Megillah is in the form of a parchment scroll, handwritten like a Torah. The Book of Esther has a special cantillation used only for that book, and the reading is preceded by three blessings.