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The Music of Halacha: Purim: Being Invisible

They are two very different experiences. There are some mornings when I prepare a cup of coffee for my wife, bring it upstairs, and sit with her as she wakes up. I am there to give the coffee to. Other mornings, I will prepare the coffee, bring it upstairs, and just leave it on her night table with or without a little note saying, “Good morning.”


I can be there to present the coffee, or I can just leave it there for her, letting her know that I was there. She has told me that they are two very different experiences for her. The laws of Purim made me realize that they are two different experiences for me as well.

We are encouraged to send our Mishloach Manot, our gifts of ready to eat food for our friends’ Purim Seudah, through a third party, a messenger. Although this is commonly understood as involving more people in the joy of giving our gifts, perhaps we are re-creating the morning coffee left on the night table with a small note.

I know a couple that have two very distinct ways of presenting a gift. One is entirely focused on the gift. This spouse will spend hours preparing the gift, and then simply present it, focusing on the gift itself. There is no production or emphasis on the giving of the gift. The other spouse will also spend a great deal of time in preparing the gift, and dedicates a tremendous amount of thought and care in choosing the perfect gift. But, this spouse loves to make a huge production for the actual presentation of the gift. This spouse stresses the giving, not the gift. This spouse insists that the stress should be on, “See how much I care for you.”

The one who is focused on the “giving,” is the one who is present in the room to offer the coffee. The one who cares only about the gift, is the one who makes the coffee and lease it with a little note.

Purim Mishloach Manot emphasizes the gift, not the giver. The giver is almost, but not quite, invisible. It is not about the giver, but the gift. It is to create a sense of, “Wow! Look how much someone cares for me.”

People spend a great deal of time thinking of creative ways to present their Mishloach Manot. I often feel that the creativity is more important than the message. When that happens it becomes about the giver and not about the gift.

I suggest that we prepare our Mishloach Manot emphasizing, not us, the givers, but on making sure that the recipients will experience a sense of being very cared for by a friend.

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