It is Purim eve here in Tel Aviv (and everywhere outside Jerusalem and all ancient walled cities). Celebrants have already begun planning, creating, and posing in holiday costumes!
A key focus is on bringing joy to needy people as we observe these four mitzvot, commandments:
- Hear the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther)
- Participate in the Purim feast
- Send Mishloach Manot, gifts to friends, and
- most important, Give Matanot LaEvyonim, gifts to the needy.
A feast for the have-nots, too
Purim’s gifts to the needy are to provide more than mere sustenance.
The commandment of giving gifts to the poor on Purim teaches us that happiness is not the exclusive province of the rich. If it is, the celebrations should be canceled....
... Not surprisingly, Maimonides succinctly expresses this fact in his statement that 'gifts for the poor deserve more attention than the festive meal and gifts for friends because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes' (Mishneh Torah, laws governing Purim, Chapter 3, section 17). [Haaretz newspaper, March 4, 2007 | Adar 14, 5767]
How much to give to the needy on Purim?
I always respond that 'one should reduce what one spends on Mishloach Manot and give more to needy Jews.' — Rabbi Michael Broyde
The Megillah tells that when Queen Vashti refused to dance naked and entertain her husband and his friends, he had her beheaded. Today, many women still suffer physically and emotionally in abusive relationships. Jewish Women International has a comprehensive site devoted to this issue and resources.
"Megillat Esther…reminds us that history is capricious and life is fragile; that willing or not, we must confront our powerlessness and vulnerability, our inability to control everything. Or anything." — Rabbi Sharon Brous
Have a happy Purim!