Mishloach Manot and Building Community
By Rabbi Caryn Aviv
Purim is coming! Purim is coming! Every year, right around Valentine’s Day, I’m craving two things: the crocus buds that herald the coming of spring, and the countdown to Daylight Savings time. Both these yearnings always mean one thing: Purim is right around the corner!
Purim this year begins at sundown on March 6th. Last year I wrote about reamaining hopefuly that next year we would be able to gather and celebrate Purim just as joyously and raucously as we did in the “before times.” AND… here we are! We will even be celebrating Purim in person through our Shabbat aLIVE service on Friday, March 3rd.
Purim is such a flexible and fascinating holiday. Some people associate it as a Jewish mashup of Mardi Gras and Halloween – there are fun costumes, the encouragement of drinking adult beverages, raucous and often chaotic parties (or Megilla readings) where people are yelling, dancing, and overall having a great time. However, unlike Mardi Gras, there’s no association with the beginning of a period of abstinence. And unlike Halloween, where kids run from house to house to get treats, there’s a wonderful Purim custom, called mishloach manot, that reverse engineers the experience: kids and families give treats to others– specifically gifts of hamentaschen, fruit, and often a juice box.
I love the practice of mishloach manot because it’s all about strengthening relationships between people in your community with a tangible gesture. In fact, one interpretation of the custom is that it counteracts the accusation of the villain of the Purim story, Haman, who characterized the Jews of Persia as a ‘scattered and divided nation.’ The purpose of mishloach manot is to show that we care for one another and express that care by giving gifts of yummy treats, no less!
Especially now, I think we need to revive the practice of giving gifts of mishloach manot more than ever. Yes, we have expressed care for each other by wearing masks (another theme of Purim) and getting vaccinated to slow the spread of disease. But mishloach manot is all about bringing joy and delight to one another, and after all we’ve been through, who doesn’t need a little more joy?!
So my Purim plan this year is to make a huge batch of hamentaschen and deliver mishloach manot to my beloved team, my parents, my Open Tent Be Mitzvah students, and my neighbors – none of whom are Jewish, but who cares? I want to show them that I care.
How might you show your care for others this coming Purim, to celebrate and spark more joy in your life? How might you strengthen your relationships in your community with small gestures that convey care and appreciation? I’d love to hear from you!
Rabbi Caryn Aviv
Rabbinic & Program Director
Photos are all from a Purim themed, Hamantashen Open Tent Be Mitzvah class