This month, we celebrate the most joyous holiday on the Jewish calendar—Purim, or Lots. We celebrate the courage of Queen Esther, the character of Mordechai who would not bow to anyone but Hashem, and recognize his willingness to raise his orphaned cousin, and we laud the thwarting of Haman’s (BOO!) plans to annihilate us all.
There are many fun and even silly ways to celebrate Purim; we gather (often virtually, these days!) for Purim parties, wear any and all kinds of costumes, make lots of noise—even in the synagogue(!)—whenever we hear Haman’s (BOO!) name mentioned during the Megillah reading and some of us take to heart the “commandment” to drink so much they cannot discern the difference between Mordechai and Haman (BOO!).
There is one more ritual in which many of us engage which we call Mishloach Manot or Shelach Manot—the sending of portions. Jews traditionally give gifts of at least two ready-to-eat treats to friends and neighbors and many make sure to reach out to those who are homebound with these special packages. The Book of Esther tells us that “the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in unwalled towns, made the 14th of Adar a day of gladness and feasting, a holiday of sending portions to one another.” Because the word “portions” is plural, we have, to this day, included at least two different types of foods in our gifts.
By sharing treats with our neighbors, we not only carry on this centuries-old tradition, but in this way, we work to ensure that everyone may participate in the feasting which is part of this happy time. Even those who have very little are enjoined to send portions and, if their poverty is great, we are told, they are to exchange packages with another so that each person still winds up with sweets to enjoy during this joyous celebration.
Sending portions is a wonderful reminder to all of us to share what we have. It is an opportunity to remember those who may not have food with which to feast, or even with which to feed their families, and to think about those who all-too-often reside below the radar and may be forgotten.
Years ago, when I was quite ill and resting at home, the Sunday School students at my synagogue stopped by with a small bag. Totally unexpected, I opened the package and found sweets and raisins with which to celebrate Purim. Sometimes, the smallest packages bring the biggest smiles and make the biggest difference.