Why do we give Mishloach Manot on Purim?
Contributed by Rav Nissim Mordechai Makor
The giving of Mishloach Manot is one of the four mitzvot established by Mordechai and Esther to be performed on Purim day. These are hinted by the letter Hebrew letter ‘מ’ – mem
All the 4 mitzvot begin with a ‘mem’ and are:
|משלואח מנות||Mishloach Manot||Gift sending|
|מתנות לעביונים||Matanot L’Evyonim||Money for the poor|
Alluded to in Megillat Esther, these mitzvot are: reading the megillah, eating a festive meal , giving money to the poor (matanot l’evyonim) and giving gifts of food to friends (mishloach manot).
The mitzvah of mishloach manot is based on Megillat Esther (9:19 and 22), which states that Purim was established as a day “of gladness and feasting, [a yom tov] and of sending portions one individual to his friend [and gifts to the poor].” Like all of the mitzvot of Purim, it applies equally to men and women (Rema, OC695:4), but there are various opinions as to how this principle is applied in practice. The Magen Avraham (695:14) and Mishnah Berurah (695:25) express surprise that many women are not scrupulous about personally performing this mitzvah and suggest that a married woman possibly fulfills the obligation through her husband. Nonetheless, they say that it is proper to be stringent, implying that a married woman should, in fact, send her own mishloach manot.
There are 4 main questions on why we have food parcels and gifts to the poor
1.Why Purim ? There are other chagim in the year to have special Mitzvot to show love and unity.
2. Why Mishloach Manot . Just give vs why send?
3. Why give two items to one friend, but to the poor just give one item to many?
4. Why give only ready cooked foods to friends – mishloach manot, but to the poor – matanot levyonim – give food or money?
1. Why Purim?
Purim is a special chag with Mitzvot for showing Love and Unity between Jews and between Jews and Hashem. Because Purim is the main Chag that will never be nullified (gemora) Purim we acknowledge the completion of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai where we said ‘We will do then we will understand.’ In the Megilla is says v kaymu v kiblu hayehudim asher hitchilu la’asot. The Jews achieved what they set out to do at the giving of the Torah.
2. Sending Mishloach Manot
The giving of ‘Mishloach manot ish Leryahu’. This represents a Jew giving to his friend Chaver – Hashem. How can Hashem be considered a chaver of Hashem? The word mitzvah comes from the Aramaic word Ztivosa. To connect and ‘chaber’. By a jew doing the mitzvah of Mishloach Manot he is connecting to Hashem.
A mitzvah has to be done in action it is not enough to do in thought and to get excited about the idea. On the other hand he shouldn’t do the mitzvah coldly without feeling he should do it with feeling. That’s why we have Mishloach Manot. to give the mitzvah wings so it becomes exalted. The ShLaH says the Mitzvos are spoken about in the higher worlds but are hinted to do in the Lower worlds.
3. Why give two parcels of cooked food to one friend and one item of food or money to two or more poor people?
The items of food should be fully cooked ready to eat. You are not fulfilling the obligation by giving frozen meat for example.
We mentioned giving to one friend this is to Hashem who is ONE performing a mitzvah is connecting to Hashem. The mitzvah has to be in deed that’s why the food has to be ready cooked. Torah and mitzvot are considered like food and drink that connect the body and soul that is why we need two items in relation to Torah and Mitzvot.
Giving food parcels to a friend is related to someone on par with you in Torah and Mitzvot.
4. Matanot L’Evyonim
Giving food or money to a poor person related to being mekarev another Jew who is distant from Hashem. That is why we give him one thing – Hashem is One. But we can give either money or food. So we do not limit our service to Hashem to our personalities. Some are serving out of Love some fear.
We can see from all these answers that Purim is not just for ourselves to celebrate but to connect to Hashem and connect to others. Coming closer to Hashem whilst bringing others closer all year long.
More on Purim
I recently heard a shiur from Rabbi Mansour about Purim and he explained it in a very different way. He explained that Mordechai, Esther and Haman are the reincarnations of Adam, Eve and the snake and Purim is part two of the story that started in Genesis and is the Tikkun for the sin of Adam roughly 3500 years earlier.
Esther wrote, TichTov, 9:29, about the events. Why? Because now that we beat the snake, we need to publicize the victory and show humans that you CAN win the battle over the negative side. This was the climax of the story that started in the Garden of Eden and we need to tell the world.
The question is asked; “what was the fruit that they ate”. There are many ideas, but the main one is that it was grapes.
The story in Genesis goes like this; Hashem tells Adam not to eat from the tree. Adam tells Eve not to touch the tree. He put a stringency in it, a fence around it. The snake knew this and pushed Eve into the tree. He said; you see you did not die. She said ok, but I still can’t eat from it. The snake was clever. He said ok, but Hashem didn’t say you can’t drink from the tree. He took a bunch of grapes, squeezed them and out came wine.
This is the reason that the first thing we do on Friday night after prayers is to do Kiddush, over what, grapes of course.
Every Shabbat we also do this Tikkun. Now we have to make the wine before Shabbat and only drink it on Shabbat. Also this is the reason that the mitzvah on Purim is to drink wine, not just any alcohol. Purim is Tikkun for Adam HaRishon.
Rabbi Mansour goes on to explaining that the number 70 is a very significant number connected to Purim. Examples are;
The Navi says the Redemption would come in 70 years. The whole story of the party is that the king thought the 70 years were up.
There were 70 days between the two letters. Mordechai waited on purpose.
Haman’s reign of power lasted 70 days, the 70th verse in the Torah is the curse of the snake,
and many more.
From all of this we see that everything is not always the way we see things. Sometimes things happen to us and we can’t make sense of it, but remember it could be about previous incarnations.
When we look at Purim from this angle, then the story takes on a whole new meaning and we can learn that the battle is never over. We ALWAYS have another chance.
Don’t waste it, use it!!!
Very interesting idea:
In the Megillah there are two very important words. They are: v’NaHaFoch Hu – ונהפוך הוא
The translation in The Stone Edition Chumash is; “and it was turned about” and in The Me’am Lo’ez, the translation is;
“it was just the opposite”.
What does this mean? Some commentators say these these two words are two of the most important in the Megillah.
The explanation of these two words are that things turned around for the Jews 180 degrees. Instead of them being the hunted, they became the hunters. It was such a radical change that not in their wildest dreams could the Jews have ever imagined that this could take place. Maybe they could of been just saved and not killed, but it was so drastic that even the people who were not connected to Haman, who were basically sitting on the sidelines, sided with the Jews. All the governors and leaders of the different country’s were the edict had been sent out to and under the control of Achashverosh, sided with the Jews. Suddenly it was politically correct to side with Mordechai and the Jews.
Such a turn around was unthinkable.
The Jews realized that they emerged “from mourning to festivity, from darkness to light.
Rabbi Mendel Kessin says that this situation has happened once before in history and will happen again in the future, with the coming of Mashiach, may he come soon. It happened at the Red Sea. The Jews were boxed in. On one side was the sea and on the other side they saw the mighty Egyptian army racing towards them. They could not see a way out of their situation, and suddenly it was all turned around. Hashem opened up the sea for them and drowned the Egyptian’s.
He says that in the time of Mashiach, we will see a similar turnaround.
This is a big secret and when we hear these words in the reading of the Megillah, we must believe will full faith that this can happen in our own lives for any problem we have. In the blink of an eye, Hashem can turn things around in our lives. Think of a person who has very big debts and one day, he wins the lottery.
Take this point to heart!!
An interesting fact about the Book of Esther. It contains 166 verses. This is also the precise number of words in the portions of Amalek, Exodus 17:8-16 and Deuteronomy 25:17-19. The “Great Hallel, Psalms 136, also contains 166 words, which is a praise for Hashem’s saving us from all our enemies.
The holiday of Purim does not seem all that miraculous and yet Purim is not only celebrated, but given a special place of distinction among the Jewish holidays. Compared to some of the other miraculous events in our history, for example, the splitting of the Red Sea, the stopping of sun, the well of water following us in the desert and many more, Purim might seem a little boring. Nothing in the Purim story can come close to these wondrous acts. Nothing supernatural happened, yet Rambam singles Purim out for special distinction among all the holidays. In his Hilchot Megillah, the Rambam writes that in the Messianic Era, all the holidays will no longer be celebrated-with the exception of Purim. Why???
We have to go deeper into the story of Purim to understand more fully the extent and nature of the Purim miracle. Many things happened during the story that seemed natural and unrelated, however, when all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, it all made perfect sense and a beautiful picture of providence surfaced. This is the secret of Purim to realize that Hashem is running things and He knows better than us. He does not just see the present like us, He knows what is going to happen in the future. The miracle of Purim is to see Divine Providence in every situation.
Each persons life is a Purim story. It is comprised of countless events that seem impossible to understand, that sometimes strike us as unfair. We have all experienced strange events that make no sense to us. Each domino, in isolation does not make sense but when all placed together it all makes perfect sense.
In today’s world, events don’t make sense to us; we cannot understand the things that happen to us and the Jewish people. We are left with so many questions. But in the time of Mashiach, everything will become clear.
The same thing happened to the Jews at the Red Sea. Chazal says about the splitting of the Red Sea, that the maidservant perceived a higher degree of revelation at the Red Sea than the prophet Ezekiel with his vision. What does this mean? How is this possible?
At the Red Sea, Bnei Yisrael saw how all the pieces over the last year came together. In the normal course of events, we fail to perceive the hand of Hashem at work. We see suffering and evil and wonder where Hashem is. It is very difficult to connect all the dots. With the splitting of the Red Sea, the people saw without a doubt, the Hand of Hashem and understood their situation as never before. Bnei Yisrael was actually able to point their finger and recognize Hashem. So clear was it. This is what Chazal meant about the maidservant.
It says that the miracle of Purim was different to the supernatural miracles which were seen by everyone. The Purim miracle was a series of incomprehensible events woven together to bring about salvation. This is what the Messianic Era will be, may it come speedily in our days.
(Taken from an article from Rabbi Eli Mansour)
One of the reasons we drink on Purim is because when we are drunk we are not in control of our facilities. From this we learn the lesson of Divine Providence (Hashgacha Pratit) which is one of the biggest lessons of Purim. We like to think that we control our lives and that our actions are the cause of our successes however, we must realize that nothing happens by chance and everything is pre-determined and planned by Hashem. To understand this concept fully, we must know that we cannot lift our arm unless Hashem allows us to do it. One example of this is; why was Shushan the capital? The center of the world was Babylon. Shushan was a small city. There is a Midrash that says Achashverosh wanted to build a copy of the throne of Shlomo Hamelech and the only city where there were artisans who could do this intricate work was in Shushan. When it was finished, it was to big to move, so Achashverosh moved his capital to Shushan. Mordechai was there and Hashem did not want him to go to Babylon. A comparison of this today is; the President of America moves the capital away from Washington to a small town in Idaho because there is a piece of furniture that he wants to use. Incredible. This is just one of the miracles of Purim.
We know that Hashem’s Name does not appear in the Megilah, however, we do find it in code form. From the passuk below we see that the first letters of each word spell Hashem’s Name.
יבוא המלך והמן היום
There are a few other examples as well.
Again we see how Hashem is always there running things even if He is concealed.
Another big lesson about Purim is the idea of erasing Amalek(Haman).
We know on a deep level that all the stories in the writings are metaphors for the challenges we all face in our own lives on a day to day basis. With Amalek, who are our eternal enemies, it is completely a metaphysical connection.
Though we don’t know who Amalek is today, and we cannot do battle with him physically, we can however, do battle with him spiritually. The best way to understand about Amalek is through Gematria. The Gematria of Amalek is 240, which is also the Gematria for Safek, doubt in English. Doubt is one of the biggest tests we face as human beings.
The power of Purim gives us the power to erase doubt from our lives. Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz said: ‘Doubt is the root of all human difficulty’. Being able to get rid of doubt is one of our biggest tests in life. Knowing that Hashem is looking after us is one of the secrets to bitachon(trust, faith) and to getting rid of doubt.
The root of this doubt is found in the Torah, Exodus, 17:7, right before Amalek attacked Bnei Yisrael, where after seeing all the miracles in Egypt, the plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the Mann, the Children of Israel ask when they don’t have water: “Is Hashem amongst us or not”. How is it possible that after all these miracles that they saw, they still remained skeptical? What more evidence did they need!!!
Amalek enters the heart like a tiny worm-almost indiscernible, and plants doubt in the thoughts of one’s heart. Then, slowly, the power of Amalek grows as the doubt becomes bigger and stronger, and begins to “eat one up” from every angle, until the whole sacred edifice of the person collapses and crumbles. Doubts in Emunah are the entrance-way to a quick decline, and are the mother of sin.
The Essence of Emunah, HaRav Gamliel Rabinovitch, Shilta, page 3
The most powerful weapon in the “yetzer hara’s” arsenal is the ability to sow doubt in your mind about your beliefs. It tries to create uncertainty about things that are clear to you; to confuse your mind with false ideas and misleading arguments in order to steer you away from doing good and make you doubt you faith.
Duties of the Heart, page 10
The person who has complete faith and trust(Bitachon) in Hashem and is able to get rid of doubt; this is when one can say that they have erased the memory of Amalek. To remove doubt is one of the hardest tests for Jews. Everyone wants to know what will happen tomorrow!!! Therefore if we still have some doubts, and all of us do in some area of our lives, then we are still involved in the battle against Amalek. This is the reason the Prophet, Shemuel, told King Shaul to destroy everything, men, women, children and animals, to get rid of ALL doubt.
Purim reminds us that Hashem is the real cause of everything, no other explanation is necessary.
Nowadays, in the times preceding the coming of Mashiach, which is the most difficult of the generations of our exile, we have to understand that the battle with Amalek is a daily struggle for all of us. Every day we have to make many decisions and lots of times we have doubt, our own little Amalek. If we are not conscious about the battle with Amalek every day, it is very difficult to defeat Amalek. Chazal says that Amalek, (Ref: Rabbi Shlomo Brevda, Shilta), comes to harm us with Kishuv (witchcraft/magic). They work behind the scenes and we don’t even know they are there. This is the reason why Amalek is so difficult to defeat. Doubt starts to creep in, we start to worry and suddenly we are on the ropes. We have to have complete Bitachon(trust, faith, certainty) in Hashem that everything that happens to us is for the best, even if we cannot see it that moment.
We have realize that the opposite to doubt is certainty(Bitachon) and the whole job of the evil inclination(Amalek) is to sever the Jewish neshamah (soul) from Hashem causing a spiritual death, which is much worse than a physical death. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov says that a lack of Bitachon causes this severing and spiritual death.
Rebbe Yitzchak of Vorke zt’l teaches that when Yitro heard of the great miracles at the Red Sea, he was tempted to become part of the Jewish nation. However, he recognized his low level and therefore he assumed that he couldn’t join them. But then he also heard about the war with Amaleik, which also represents the great war against the yetzer hara, and understood from this, that Hashem desires our struggle against the yetzer hara. This is even more important than our successes. When Yitro heard this, he knew that he too could join the Jewish nation.
Please understand that the process and struggle of life is the end goal, not the final result. In the secular world everything is about the bottom line, reaching the finish line, winning the game. In spirituality the opposite is true. Many time the odds are stacked against us and we cannot win but this does not matter to Hashem. All Hashem wants from us is to see how we handle the tests. Do we accept them with love, happiness and emunah, or do we fight them and bemoan our bad luck. Remember in spirituality there is no such a thing as coincidence, everything is directed by Hashem. Life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We are here for hopefully 120 years, don’t rush things. Remember the famous secular saying; “you are only here for a short time so remember to smell the roses along the way”.
In the Gemara, it says that a blade of grass does not grow until an angel tells it to grow. If this is the case for a blade of grass, how much more so for a human being.
Please try and internalize this lesson into your lives. If you do life will become so much easier.
To answer the question why no miracles were done for the Jewish people against Amalek and why we actually had to battle with them in a natural way, the Chatam Sofer explains that because Amalek weakened the faith of the Children of Israel, therefore the Jews themselves had to rectify this by physically doing battle with Amalek and could not rely on miracles.
This is why WE have to do the work and physically battle Amalek(doubt) ourselves, and cannot rely on miracles from Hashem.
It is imperative for every person to recognize that we do not celebrate Purim as a remembrance of the miracles that took place during those times long ago. We need to realize that all the holidays during the year are portals of time whereby we can tap into the same energy that was available on that day many years ago. If this is true, then we can bring the same miracles into our today to help us with any problem we have. True, today there is no wicked Haman trying to kill the Jews, Chas ve’shalom, but everyone has their own Haman in their life and to them that problem is a big deal. The energy today is not the same as it was at the time of the holiday, it is just an impression of the original energy, but nevertheless still very powerful. This concept applies to every holiday, Pessach, Shavuot Channukah. The same concept also applies to Shabbat when we open the ark and take out the Torah. We must imagine that we are back at Mount Sinai and are hearing the Torah for the first time.
Here is a cute story that happened at a Purim meal, but is connected to today’s times.
One Purim after the Seudah, Rav Tzadok HaKohen told the following story with his face aflame from the Kedusha of the day. He related that one day he was walking with his Rebbe Rav Mordechai Yosef of Izhbetza and suddenly he stopped and told the following story.
One Shabbos I was in Peshischa. Right before Havdala as Rav Simcha Bunim picked up the Kos, he said as follows. I am peering into the future of Klal Yisroel in the days preceding the coming of Moshiach. It will be a time when Yehudim will accustom themselves to extravagant luxuries and unnecessary expenses. Their normal income will not suffice them. They will be forced to find side jobs and additional sources of income. They will run day and night to earn what they need to support this lifestyle. They will invest their entire lives in a sea of toil and sweat. My hair stands on edge and my nails cut into my flesh as I imagine to myself what will be the fate of the Yehudim at that time. (Zichronam L’Vracha from “HaKohen”)
The story above is so relevant to today’s times. This Rebbe lived over 200 years ago. How many people today are running around like a mouse in a wheel trying to make ends meet.
If everyone is honest with themselves, I am sure that they can relate their own lives to the story above. Purim is a time to take stock of where we are in life and make a commitment to connect more to the spiritual and realize that the physical is an illusion and running after it only brings aggravation and worry about how we are going to pay this months bills.
Guaranteed Hashem will help us if we take on more spiritual actions.
Contributed by Rabbis Hymanson, Makor and Reb Levi