Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PURIM: Sending gifts to friends and those in need

10th of Adar, 5770

During the day of Purim –Sunday February 28th- we send two presents to at least one of our friends. These presents consist of food, ideally food to be used during the Purim banquet (Seudat Purim). It is customary to include at least two different types of foods: a drink and some baked product, for example.
The intention of this Mitzvah is to promote harmony (shalom) and friendship and strengthen our unity.
In certain circumstances, Mishloach Manot could be also a very discreet way to send food to those who need it, but would feel very uncomfortable to ask or even receive charity from others.
Another special Mitzvah that we have in Purim is called: Matanot laEbionim. "Presents to needy people". Originally, these presents also consisted of food, given to those who could not afford otherwise, to celebrate and enjoy a nice Purim banquet.
The custom is to give at least two presents, or as is usually done today, its monetary equivalent to at least two poor people.
If our means are limited, our Rabbis indicated that we should be more generous in giving to the poor and needy than in spending for our own Purim banquet. They said: "There is no greater happiness than to lift up the hearts and spirits of the poor, orphans and widows".
It is appropriate to perform these two Mitzvot before starting the Purim banquet