By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
The term “triage” derives from Latin and French, meaning “to sort into three categories.” In emergency medicine, those categories may be summarized as: critically urgent; suitable for delay; and futile. Triage assigns medical care to those most in need, while not endangering those whose condition requires less immediate attention. Triage demonstrates clarity of medical priorities
A similar process characterizes “Purim Meshulash” – the “Three Day Purim” – which occurs when Purim (14 Adar) falls on Friday, as it does today. Jews of Jerusalem, who observe the Holiday on 15 Adar (Shushan Purim) face the dilemma of Purim rites inconsonant with Shabbat restrictions. The joyful festival is consequently spread over three days… each marked by two defining Mitzvot:
On Friday, the Megillah is read and Matanot L’Evyonim (monetary gifts to the needy) are distributed.
On Shabbat, Jerusalemites read the Purim Torah Portion, as, too, “Al Ha-Nisim,” Purim’s prayer of thanksgiving.
On Sunday, the Purim Feast (Seudah) is held, and Mishloach Manot (portions of food) are exchanged among friends and family members.
The “triage” on Purim Meshulash speaks volumes: the needs of others (Matanot L’Evyonim) come first. The divine requisites of Shabbat may be enhanced, but never blithely set aside. Gratification of our own appetites and desires? That can wait.
Three days of Purim… a healthy set of priorities!
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)