Purim celebrations began on Wednesday in most of Israel following the evening prayers with the reading of the Megillah, the story of the salvation of the Jewish people during the time of Mordechai and Esther.
Israeli Jews who live in cities that were walled at the time of the Purim miracle, such as Jerusalem, will celebrate Purim beginning on Thursday night. This is due to the fact that the Jews of Shushan (a walled city) made their celebrations a day later than the rest of the Jews at the time of the Purim story.
The holiday of Purim is the last of the holidays written in the Tanach and is considered a holiday of salvation and redemption for generations. During Purim, we fulfill four Torah commandments that begin with the Hebrew letter mem, mikreh megillah (reading the megillah), mishloach manot (sending food packages to friends), matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the poor) and mishteh (a festive meal).
Megillah - We read the megillah twice on Purim, at night and during the day. The reading of the Megillah is essentially spreading the news of the great miracle that happened to the Jewish people. The story of the miracle lends strength to the Jewish people for generations and increases their faith and belief in G-d. Following the Purim miracle, the Jewish people re-accepted the Torah from love rather than fear. The day of Purim is an auspicious day (yom segulah) for accepting the Torah through love in every generation.
Mishloach Manot - We send two portions of food to our friends, neighbors and acquaintances in order to increase love and unity within the Jewish people. The tikkun (rectification) for Haman’s claim that the Jewish people are an “am mefuzar u’mefurad” – a scattered and divided nation – is to unite the Jewish people, like Esther told Mordechai, “Gather all the Jews.”
Matanot l’evyonim - gifts for the poor. We are commanded to remember the poor in every celebration we have by giving them money and trying to bring them happiness. We should consider doing this our true joy.
Mishteh - a festive meal. Since the salvation of the people of Israel was a physical one, we celebrate Purim with a festive meal. We also place great emphasis on drinking wine since the miracle was performed through parties and wine.
Another reason we drink wine is that when people drink wine, they reveal their secrets. The miracle on Purim was performed through natural events which teaches us that all occurrences are controlled by G-d and that essentially everything that happens - its true essence - is really for the good.
On Purim, we remove our masks and reveal our true inner essence through the wine that we drink.