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The Message of Mishloach Manos

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“… There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples …” (Esther 3:8)

How was Haman’s claim of Bnei Yisrael’s dispersion beneficial for his proposal to Achashveirosh?

If Bnei Yisrael were united, they would have formed an independent country that could have harmed Achashveirosh’s kingdom. However, because they were scattered, it was easy for Achashveirosh to rule over all of them.

However, Haman’s scheming went further than this simple explanation. In mentioning that Bnei Yisroel were scattered, he was insinuating that it would be easy to destroy them due to their diversity. He knew that when Bnei Yisrael are united, they merit a special protection from Hashem. But now that they were becoming assimilated among the nations, they had distanced themselves from Hashem, and the time was ripe to destroy them. (Rav Chaim Freidlander, Sifsei Chaim, vol. 2, 199)

My kids have been waiting for two months already. Two whole months of constant waiting, wondering when Purim is finally going to come. When will the parties start? The costumes, treats, and gaiety?

Eventually, I get carried along as well. I find myself roaming the stores, looking for bargains in baskets, sales in cellophane. I’m cooking and baking, cutting and pasting. Then comes the day of Purim, and all my weeks of preparation are consumed in a few hours.

And I’m left with the mess. Motzaei Purim, I’m stuck with a tired family, sticky costumes, piles of cellophane, and stacks of dirty dishes. Baruch Hashem for every day. Tomorrow we start cleaning for Pesach.

But one minute — where was Purim? I want to feel it for a minute. To grab the corner of the celebration and to truly feel it in my heart.

As a result of Haman’s accusation, Esther commanded Mordechai to gather all the Jews. To bring everyone together in unity to daven and fast; and to prove that all this trouble started because they were scattered and were absorbing all the negative influences of their galus, and as such, there was no unity among them. To counterbalance this, they needed to rally, united around Mordechai, the gadal hador.

The megillah says: The Jews in the kingdom should stand up for their lives. The Gra points out that the word “stand” is written in singular. Only if they all stand up in complete unity, as one, will they merit protection from Hashem.

Our chachamim understood with ruach hakodesh that the future generations will also need to learn this lesson of unity. And that’s why they established the special mitzvos of Purim. Mishloach manos and matanos l’evyonim. By doing these mitzvos every year, we reignite the message of that time — our strength is in our unity. (ibid.)

The chachmim instilled this message for the future. For our small generation today. The disposable generation. They specifically established for us the mitzvos of michloach manos and matanos l’evyonim.

Mishloach manos is not simply an opportunity to exchange recipes and to fill my pantry with chocolate.

The Puirm seudah is not just a meal with a lot of extra desserts.

And matanos l’evyonim is not simply handing a coin to a collector at the door.

Suddenly, I understood Purim. The true concept enveloped me and all my pressures fell away. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if the cellophane didn’t match the ribbons. And it didn’t matter if I received the same package of wafers from everyone since they were on sale this year.

Purim is about promoting friendship. And creating achdus. My neighbors and I have an agreement: you don’t send to me, and I won’t send to you. But suddenly, I am seized with the urge to package up a huge basket and send it to that neighbor who always parks in front of my house. And to the one whose son always plays his music at midnight. I want to give to them, to show them that I am extending my hand in friendship.

It’s explained in Maseches Derech Eretz Zota (chapter two): If you want to befriend someone, you should give to them.

Generally, when we like someone, we give to them. But from here we learn that the opposite is true. If you want to like someone, then give to them.

In the beginning, it will be a superficial action alone. But eventually, it will lead to a true inner feeling of friendship and love. And that is the purpose of mishloach manos. To connect in friendship and arouse the power of unity. From Mordechai’s time until now. (ibid.)

There’s plenty of chocolate and wafers in the store. But achdus can only be found in the heart.

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