Eat, Drink, and Be Holy: Mishloah Manot
Each year, increasing numbers of Jews are discovering the wonderful
The Holiday of Purim
Purim custom of sharing food with friends and neighbors, giving at least
two types of food to at least two recipients. The mitzvah of mishloah manot is based on the verse in the Megillah instructing us to “send
On its surface, the holiday of Purim is fairly straightforward,
portions one to another” (9:22). Some people bake hamentaschen and
characterized by an atmosphere of joy and celebration. We are required to
other goodies, while others send food packages through their synagogue.
eat and to drink; we parade around in outlandish costumes; and we make
Use this opportunity to spread Purim cheer to those who might not
loud noises that can hardly be described as dignified.
otherwise receive such gifts. Consider bringing some brightly decorated
baskets to seniors, to the homebound, to newcomers, or to those whose
Still, beneath its almost too obvious guise of merriment, Purim is marked
families have moved away (your rabbi can provide you with names).
by a seriousness of purpose equal to that of the most solemn holiday. We
are required to perform a variety of mitzvot -- and from each we learn an
Based on the injunction in the Megillah that on Purim we must “send gifts
to the poor”(9:22), the holiday affords us a special opportunity to share
One of the most important things we learn from Purim is that no person
our good fortune with those in need. Gifts can be given directly, e.g.,
can exist alone. We share with others not only our daily lives but our
bringing food and clothing to a homeless shelter, or indirectly, through an
hopes and dreams as well. Hillel taught: “Al tifrosh min ha’tzibbur -- Do
organized charity. It is important to keep in mind that whatever additional
not separate yourself from the community.” In each of the mitzvot we
tzedakah we give throughout the year, donations must still be given on
perform on Purim, we learn something new about the concept of sharing.
Purim itself. How important is this mitzvah? As Maimonides writes in his
Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Megillah 2:17): “It is better for a person to
increase gifts to the poor than to increase his feast or the mishloah manotReading the Megillah
to his neighbors. There is no joy greater or more rewarding than to
Each year, we are required to listen to the complete reading of Megillat
gladden the heart of the poor, orphans, widows, and strangers. For by
Esther. We are instructed to listen to every word and to do this twice --
gladdening the hearts of the downtrodden, we are following the example
evening and morning. Surely, if the Rabbis simply intended that we
become familiar with the story, they would not have mandated that we
listen to it that often and that carefully. Perhaps, in attending these public
readings, we are being taught the value of sharing with the entire
Few things are more pleasurable than sharing a celebratory meal with our
community recognition of, and appreciation for, our collective triumph
families. Happily, the Megillah tells us that Purim should be a time for
feasting. This year, approach the Purim seudah with the commitment we
bring to preparing the Passover seder. Wear special clothing (off-beat
Defeating Haman was a shared enterprise. Mordechai and Esther led the
costumes are definitely permitted); prepare special foods; and learn Purim
way, supported by the prayers of the entire Jewish people. In every
songs. Try hard to arrange your work schedule so there is sufficient time
generation, there are those like Haman who prey on people’s basest fears
in order to maximize their own power. Confronting such evil must be a
shared responsibility. While one group may be singled out for harsh
treatment, it is the responsibility of all good people to fight against this
Finally, in the spirit of Purim parodies, we offer our “Top Ten” reasons for celebrating this unique holiday:
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rapaport House, 155 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
1. Making noise in shul is a mitzvah.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.uscj.org
2. Levity is not reserved for the Levites.
3. If you’re having a bad hair day, you can always wear a mask and no-one will know who you are.
Eat, Drink, and Be Holy:
4. Purim is easier to spell than the Hebrew name for the Festival of Lights.
The Holiday of Purim
5. You don’t have to kasher your home and change all the pots and
6. You don’t have to build a sukkah and eat outside.
7. You get to drink wine and you don’t have to stand for Kiddush.
8. You won’t get hit in the eye by a lulav.
10. You can’t eat hamentaschen on Yom Kippur.
THE UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM
Founded in 1913 by Dr. Solomon Schechter as the association of
Conservative synagogues in North America, the USCJ, through its numerous
programs and publications, serves as a resource to its affiliated congregations and works to formulate a Conservative Jewish response to pressing social
and religious issues. The United Synagogue, which works actively in the
areas of educational programming and youth activities, also maintains an
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