Of all the year’s mitzvot, one of my absolute favorites is Mishloach Manot. Mishloach Manot, or literally “the giving of portions”, is one of four Mitzvot we perform on Purim – along with having a festive feast, giving to charity, and listening to the Megillah. Mishloach Manot is so important that even the poorest members of the Jewish community are still commanded to perform it. Although elaborate gift baskets are commonly associated, to fulfill it, one can simply exchange plates.
Some sources argue that the giving of food is to allow for everyone in the community to participate in the Purim feast, but Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank states that the food should actually be an addition to the feast. Why is this? I argue it is because Purim is traditionally exercised as a means to celebrate our survival as a people. In this, Purim is not unlike Passover, the next major holiday. However, instead of transitioning from slaves to free people, we are transitioning from ones who are unsure of our place in society – as we were in the beginning of the Purim story – to people who are.
Mordechai’s final act in the Megillah is to send letters to every Jewish community in the Persian Empire – all 127 provinces as it states. I can think of nothing stronger to bring Jewish people together than a reason to celebrate.
It must also be asked though, how can we celebrate when there are those in our community who are unable to? The answer is that we shouldn’t. When Haman sought to eradicate the Jewish people, he did not seek to eliminate only the prosperous ones or just the impoverished ones – he sought to end all of us. Likewise, when we are told that we are to celebrate the peace brought to us by the Purim story, we also do so as a people.
This Purim, especially with all the hurt and destruction the pandemic has caused, let us celebrate the story together and make space for those we might not have the opportunity. After all, we are one people. (Editor’s note: Find ways to give back to those in need this Purim in GatherDC’s Purim Guide)
About the Author: Brett Boren is a Conservative Jewish guy who loves his mother’s challah, but could do without her latkes. Originally from Miami, he appreciates arroz con pollo as much as double-chocolate babka, though preferably not together. When he’s not experimenting in the kitchen, he can be found with his cat, Youpi, or sampling shawarma at Max’s.
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