PURIM – IS IT REALLY ABOUT JAPANESE CARAMEL CHOCOLATE APPLES?

Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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We put so much care and effort into making our mishloach manos beautiful.

We fill them with exotic things like caramel-chocolate-covered apples. We then have beautifully costumed children deliver them to family and friends.

The family and friends who receive those mishloach manos see the care and effort that expended on those mishloach manos. That fosters feelings of appreciation and love. And such feelings are important. Why? Because they can help reverse whatever disunity arose between us and family and friends all year long.

And Purim is a good time for reversing disunity. Why? Because Purim always addressed disunity.[1]

It goes back to the genocidal decree against the Jews[2] that sparked the Purim story. That decree was issued because Haman defamed us by claiming: “there is a people [the Jews] who are scattered and separated.” [3]

That defamation included two different adjectives, “scattered and separate. That seems to indicates that Haman was noting that we were divide in two different ways. That may have included the following two divisions.

One division was physical.

That resulted from us being scattered among small settlements all across the vast Persian empire. That division rendered each settlement too weak for effective self-defense convinced Haman that he’d defeat us

The other division was social.

That resulted from us being were divided socially through petty in- fights separated us from one another. Haman knew of those in-fights and of how they lessened our right to divine assistance. That knowledge furthered his assumption that he’d defeat us.[4] As well, he may have assumed that those in-fights diminished our ability to coordinate our defenses.

Now if our weaknesses stemmed from communal division, then reversing division would reverse weakness. Which is why we responded to Haman’s threat by calling for communal unity.

Such a call for unity prompted Esther asked Mordechai to: “bring all the Jews together.”[5] Bringing “together” meant healing communal divisions.[6]

And such a call for unity is mishloach manos’ raison d’etre.

We see that in how mishloach manos differ from the many other mitzvos that involve giving of ourselves to others. Most other such mitzvos address other people’s physical needs. We give charity. But to people who need charity. We leave crops in our fields. But for hungry people who need them.

Mishloach manos, though, are also given to the affluent.

Mishloach manos, then, don’t address people’s physical needs. They, rather, address people’s emotional needs. They’re statements of love and care that create unity where there’s been disunity and positive feelings where there’d been negativism.

And that, of course, is apropos on Purim when we’re reversing the disunity of being “scattered and separated.”[7]

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

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

Our need 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 disunited by infighting.

As in Esther’s times, that disunity can be reversed by statements of love and care.

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

But it’s not simple.

Healing divisions requires soul searching and difficult conversations. And we dread such soul searching and such conversations..

So we don’t soul search our souls and we don’t have those conversations. Instead, we busy ourselves with fancy mishloach manos – that then aren’t sent to the people who 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.

That can result in Purims that fill some pantries with caramel-chocolate-covered Japanese apples but leave some hearts aching with hurt.

And that’s a tragedy.

Let’s not have such Purims.

Let’s, rather, send mishloach manos to those 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.

And, if necessary, let’s pair those mishloach manos with some soul searching and some healing conversations.

Channeling all that time towards relationships won’t leave time much for ferreting out caramel-chocolate-covered apples.

And that may lead to less elaborate mishloach manos.

That, though, may also lead to unity and love.

And isn’t that what Purim is all about?

[1] Manos Halevi 9:18.

[2] Esther 3:9

[3] Esther 3:8

[4] S’fas Emes, Purim 5649

[5] Esther 4:16

[6] S’fas Emes, Purim 5649

[7] Manos Halevi 9:18.