Hi all! PURIM is coming!
I know how much everyone loves Purim! And here, we are busily preparing for the big day, but I needed a break, so I'm ignoring my crazy house and writing a blog post!
There are 4 mitzvot of Purim.
I'm pretty sure that if you're reading this blog you've already figured out how you will keep the first one - megillah. Enjoy hearing the story of Purim, read right out of a parchment scroll (yes, it's real parchment, and yes, I've read it from the scroll), twice on Purim! Once at night and again in the day. Don't forget that it really should be heard twice!
The next one I'd like to talk about is "matanot la'evyonim" - the mitzvah of giving gifts to poor people. This is where the majority of my Purim budget goes. This year, we did a pantry challenge a few weeks ago and earmarked the money we hadn't spent on groceries as our matanot la'evyonim money, but obviously you can give less than this. You need not give a week's worth of grocery money. Enough to pay for a meal is usually considered sufficient, and you can even give gifts of food! However, we decided that this, for us, is what we wanted to focus on, so we chose to give extra and I would encourage all of you to do the same!
The next mitzvah I want to discuss is mishloach manot - sending gifts of food to friends.
As I've said in the past, the mishloach manot practice seems to have gotten out of hand in many places.
Some people seem to enjoy making elaborate and fancy (and expensive) mishloach manot, and other people feel pressured to keep up with the Cohens, and make elaborate and expensive and numerous gift baskets, spending lots of time and money doing so. And if you are one of the people who can do this and it is not a source of stress for you, go for it. But if it is, and especially if it gets in the way of your matanot la'evyonim observance, it's time to re-evaluate.
Our community has a "lottery-style" drawing - everyone who chooses to particpate is assigned one family to give mishloach manot to. Now, that mishloach manot is expected to be NICE - i.e. food that can be used for a seudah, not junk and candy. So we'll be doing that. In addition, we will probably choose a few other people to give mishloach manot to, and we make some extras to give to random people who are working, mostly because the kids really like to go around in their costumes and deliver little packages. BUT we have opted out of junk - we now give a baked or cooked item, and a fruit, tied up in some sort of recycled packaging, with homemade "happy purim" labels. These do not have to be expensive at all. I've minimized to the point where I have, at times, simply put a muffin and an orange in a bag with a note. Other times I've gone a little further and included a homemade bread instead of the muffin. Either way, they are still mishloach manot, and perfectly good ones!
Personally, I'd prefer a small mishloach manot with something real in it over a basketful of candy any day. The last number of years, we've had to debate what to do with the candy we've received... Do we Give it away or Throw it away, that is the question?
What do you do, if you don't eat candy, with the junk you receive?
P.S. Next post about Purim, I'll write about the fourth mitzvah - the seudah (Purim meal). Stay tuned! (Find it here)