Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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We put so much effort into making our mishloach manos beautiful, don’t we?

We have them filled with exotic foods like caramel-chocolate-covered Japanese apples. We then have them delivered by exotically costumed children.

We expend all this effort because mishloach manos are important – because they are statements of love that unite us with family and friends.

And those statements – and the unity that they create – are especially important on Purim. Why? Because Purim focuses on unity – or, more precisely, on the dangers of disunity.[1]

Tht focus is seen when Haman initiates his attack against us. He initiates by disparaging us as follows: “Haman told the king, there is a people who are scattered and separated.”[2]

Haman uses two adjectives to describe us as being a divided people – “scattered and separated.”

Each of these adjectives may be referring to a different type of division.

One of those divisions was likely physical.

We were divided into small settlements that were scattered all across the vast Persian empire. That may have deluded Haman into assuming that he would prevail against us because each small pocket of Jewry was too weak to effectively defend itself.

Our other division may have been social.

Within each Jewish community, petty fights may have separated people from one another. Those divisions would have diminished our ability to coordinate our defenses. Haman may have assumed that this inability would be another factor that would help him.

That petty infighting would have made us less deserving of divine assistance. Haman may have known of these weaknesses, as well. This would have been another reason as to why Haman thought he would prevail against us.[3]

If communal division was, indeed, our weakness, then reversing that division would reverse that weakness.

This may be why our attempts at reversing the weaknesses that Haman was exploiting involved calls for communal unity.

That call underpins Esther’s initial response to Haman’s threat where she tells Mordechai: “bring all the Jews together.”[4] That “bringing together” was a call to heal communal divisions.[5]

This call also underpins our mishloach manos.

And that’s because mishloach manos – which, at first glance, seem to be a sort of tzedaka that helps others with their Purim seudos – upon second glance, seem to be about something very different.

Had mishloach manos been a type of tzedaka, then they would be given to poor people who need tzedaka – the way other tzedakos are given to poor people. Mishloach manos, though, are given not just to the poor but also to the affluent.

Mishloach manos, then, aren’t about addressing people’s physical needs. They may, though, be about addressing people’s emotional needs. They may be about making statements of love that can unite family and friends.

And, as mentioned, that’s so apropos on Purim when we are reversing our Achilles Heel of being “scattered and separated.”[6]

This, then, isn’t just about Mordechai and Esther, then and there.

This is also about you and I, here and now.

Our needs for unity – within families, shuls and communities – is as relevant today as it was in Esther’s time.

As in Esther’s times, too many neighbors, family members and business associates are separated from one another by troubled waters.

And as in Esther’s time, if we create that unity, there will be all sorts of salvations.

But it’s not simple.

Healing some divisions requires soul searching and difficult conversations.

Such soul searching and such difficult conversations, though, are things that all too many of us dread.

So, we suppress those dreaded thoughts by busying ourselves with fancy mishloach manos – that we may not even send to the people who really need them.

Like the person with whom we had an altercation. Or the friend that is angry at us. Or the relative with whom we don’t speak.

The can result in a Purim that fills some pantries with caramel-chocolate-covered Japanese apples but leaves some hearts aching with hurt.

Let’s not have a Purim like that.

Let’s, rather, send the mishloach manos that we really need to send.

Like to the person with whom we had an altercation. Or to the friend that is angry at us. Or to the relative with whom we don’t speak.

And, if necessary, let’s follow up on that mishloach manos with whatever soul searching and difficult conversations are necessary.

Channeling all that time and effort towards relationship may not leave much time and effort for ferreting out caramel-chocolate-covered Japanese apples. And that may leave us with less elaborate mishloach manos.

But that will also leave us with more respect, unity and love.

And isn’t that, really, what Purim is all about?

[1] Manos Halevi 9:18.

[2] Esther 3:8

[3] S’fas Emes, Purim 5649

[4] Esther 4:16

[5] S’fas Emes Purim 5649.

[6] Manos Halevi 9:18.

[5] S’fas Emes Purim 5649.

[6] Manos Halevi 9:18.