Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
The Tur states that if two friends “trade” meals on Purim, they fulfill the obligation of mishloach manot. Ranunderstands this to mean that if in given year two friends do not have enough food for themselves as well as to give to a friend, each one can send the one meal he has to his fellow, so that both will have food for a Purim seudah and each will also have sent mishloach manot. Rashi, however, says it means they may eat together at one of their homes one year and at the other’s home the following year.
The Beis Yosef does not understand how this can possibly fulfill the obligation of mishloach manot. So Bach explains that if we accept the ultimate purpose of mishloach manot as creating unity, affection, brotherhood and genuine friendship among all Jews – family and friends as well as Jews I consider strangers – then it follows that by my willingness to dine together with my fellow Jew (to sit at his tisch with his rebbe at the helm) and be in good cheer doing it, the core of the mitzvah is fulfilled.
That is, simply sitting with my fellow Jew and eating with him (even if I eat my own food!) suffices to fulfill the mitzvah. Accordingly, says the Bach, they need not actually switch the place of the seudah – so long as they sit together under the same roof each year, the obligation is fulfilled.
Sitting ish l’reiyhu is not only the province of the needy. It may also be practiced by the wealthy. With the emotional distance between Jews so incredibly great, it is not farfetched to recognize that shrinking the physical distance between us might also diminish the psychological and philosophical one as well.
Let us find cheer and joy in sharing a meal with one another, rather than allowing our distance to harm us.
My grandfather, Reb Yaakov Zev Marcovici, z”l, was a gentle, kind and peace-loving man who would say about Jews who might not share his goals and values, they “were good, but only Shabbos tzu essen a kugel mit zei” good; that is, good but only so good as to eat kugel with on Shabbos.
For my grandfather and those like him, true happiness was embracing and being embraced by Klal Yisrael, sharing with and loving fellow Jews. His attic was accessible only by a side staircase. In that attic he kept a large wooden case filled with money, to which anyone in need, irrelevant of affiliation or persuasion, could come up to take what his needs demanded. No one – not even my grandmother – knew who came, when they came or how much they took. But come they did.
The holiday of Purim teaches us the importance of unity. For on this day we must reach out to Klal Yisrael. Better still, to follow my grandfather’s example. He embraced ish l’reyihu throughout the year, not only on Purim. Could he not rightfully sing Shoshanas Yaakov bireosam yachad techeles Mordechai? The Sighter Ravin Yitav Panim points to the joyous Purim song Shoshanas Yaakov which uses the phrase bireosam yachad techeles Mordechai, when they saw as one the techeles worn by Mordechai as a physical sign that acknowledged that it was the Jews’ bonding as one that countered Haman’s charge of mefuzar u’meforad.
When we Jews are b’yachad, we are redeemed. It is the unified nation that merits redemption; a splintered people remains in galus, both geographical and spiritual.
“Were Israel to be together in one ‘bundle,’ no nation or language could rule over them” (Bamidbar Rabbah 15).
After all is said and done in Megillas Esther, what are we left with? A raucous celebration of our miraculous escape from ruin? The extra imbibing, the feast, charity and manos?
The megillah ends summarizing the significance of Mordechai’s life: doresh tov le’amo vedover shalom l’chol zar’o – “he sought the good of his people and was concerned for the welfare of all his posterity (10:3). His life mission was to create peace, harmony, brotherhood and love among all of Klal Yisrael. Nevertheless, he was only “favored by mostof his brethren” (ratzui l’rov echav). Even a leader of Mordechai’s caliber has detractors. There are always those who find a leader less than perfect, even when it is obvious he seeks “the good of his people.”
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.
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