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Music of Halacha: Purim

Mishloach Manot: Purim Madness


One of the significant myths when I was a Yeshiva student was that one should send Mishloach Manot to someone who is not a friend in order to reach out and create, improve or repair a relationship.

I remember thinking about every Mishloach Manot I received whether it was a message that the sender did not consider me a real friend.


I couldn’t get myself to do it. I could not send Mishloach Manot to all the people I did not like, not only because I couldn’t afford it, but because I felt like my mother forcing me to say “I’m sorry,” to my sister when I was not at all sorry. (Still not!)

I’m ashamed to admit that I did try the “be nice” approach to Mishloach Manot. I sent my nicest packages to people I did not like. It didn’t work. It certainly did not make them like me.

I wonder how to send a meaningful Mishloach Manot package. I want my one gift – one package of two ready to eat foods – to be meaningful. I am only sending one. Although this is one of those Mitzvot that we say “the more the merrier”, I will, as always, only send one. Therefore, I want it to express something important. (I am not counting the mass Mishloach Manot fundraising packages.) Shall I focus on; “As water reflects a face back to a face, so one’s heart is reflected back to him by another,” as urged by Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz? How would my package appear? It would probably depend on the friend. Whoever you are; you will know exactly how I feel about you!

Perhaps my Mishloach Manot package should be designed to provide all the necessities of a Purim feast for someone who cannot afford to make his own Seudah, but sent as a “Friend Package” rather than a gift to the poor, so as not to embarrass him. (Responsa Terumat HaDeshen #111. Responsa Chatam Sofer O”H #196) Thank God, I do not have any friends in quite such desperate straits. I could, of course, simply want to share my joy of the day, (Bach O”H 695) and then I will add a funny thing or two (I have been known to be funny now and then. OK, more then than now,) or prove that Haman was lying when he described us as “scattered and disconnected”. (Chatam Sofer) I also have the option of sending gifts as an expression of my feelings of abundance, (someone minimized them lately, one minute, I’ll find them!) now that I have been freed of the threat of Haman. (Derech Pikudecha –Dinov) Oh no! The price of my Mishloach Manot just skyrocketed.

No matter which of the above approaches I will eventually choose my Mishloach Manot will not be cute, or a gimmick. I will prepare it with great care, love and respect for the recipient and the Mitzvah. This is one Mitzvah I really want to do correctly, as I intend to send only one. Why only one?

The other big Mitzvah of the day is Matanot La’evyonim, providing the poor with all they need to make a Purim feast. We live in difficult financial times. There are far too many people who have absolutely nothing. They have lost their jobs. Many have lost their homes. I cannot celebrate my Purim without making certain that I have helped others celebrate theirs. This Mitzvah will reflect whether my Purim joy is self-absorbed or a reflection of the joy experienced by all of Israel.

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