The Rema rules (Orach Chaim 695:2) that the majority of the festive Purim meal must be eaten before sundown while it is still Purim. A priest once challenged Rav Yonason Eibeshutz to explain why the custom of so many Jewish families is to start the meal just before sundown and to conduct the bulk of the meal during the night after the holiday has already ended.

Rav Yonason sharply responded with a question of his own. The most popular holiday in the priest’s religion falls on December 25. If the non-Jewish day begins at midnight, why is it so prevalent among his coreligionists to begin the festivities the night before?

Having turned the tables and with the priest now on the defensive, Rav Yonason proceeded to brilliantly answer his own question. The holiday they are celebrating on December 25 is really the commemoration of the birth of a Jew. As such, it’s only proper to celebrate it using the Jewish day and to begin at sundown on the evening before. Purim, on the other hand, commemorates the death of Haman, a non-Jew, and it is therefore fitting for our festive meal to be based on the non-Jewish day and continue into the night!

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