Forgive the short dispatch today! As it is Purim, I have had the immense pleasure of spending most of the day delivering the Mishlo’ach Manot bags made by Cheder to a variety of you. This particular activity is immensely fun– an experience I can only guess compares to that of Santa’s theoretical elves. Yet, it isn’t just a fun thing to do– delivering food and gifts to one another– it’s actually one of the four commandments which we’re obligated to do, today, on Purim. Along with hearing the Megillah read, enjoying a festive meal, and giving charity to the poor– sending food (mishlo’ach manot) is an obligation incumbent on us as Jews. What a telling representation of Jewish celebration that we commemorate a bloody, complex, slightly-inappropriate holiday by delivering food to one another.
In his book on Megillat Esther (Manot haLevi), Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz writes:
“[The goal of Mishlo’ach Manot] is to increase peace and friendship. This is the opposite of what the enemy (Haman) assumed, for he said that we are a scattered and fragmented nation. He meant that instead of being a unified nation the Jews are scattered and fragmented by argument. The Sages therefore decreed that we should send presents to each other.”
What a fitting message for our own time. In the face of societal conversations which pitch Jews against one another, and then which rely on the fact that we can’t even agree among ourselves to justify abuse, there is no better rebuke than to extend a hand and give each other gifts. In a society riven by debates which affect our community deeply, Leave/Remain, JVL/JLM, Labour/Tory, Urban/Rural, etc etc– we should embrace the opportunity to demonstrate to our enemies, and ourselves, that friendship comes first.
Chag Purim Same’ach,