Rosh Chodesh Adar has arrived, and Jewish hearts and minds are now drawn to the upcoming joyous Yom Tov of Purim.
For the youngsters, the planning revolves primarily around their costumes. For many yeshivah bachurim, the focus is on the forming of groups to go collecting tzedakah on Purim night and day.
In homes throughout the community, intensive planning is ongoing with regard to the mishloach manos that will be sent on Purim day.
There are two primary reasons given for this unique mitzvah that we only get to perform once a year.
The Terumas HaDeshen teaches that it is to make certain that every Jew — regardless of financial status — is able to have at least two foods to eat for his Purim seudah. As the Chasam Sofer explains, the reason this mitzvah is also performed when someone sends to a person who has an ample food supply is in order not to embarrass those who truly don’t have.
The Manos HaLevi, one of the most comprehensive meforshim on Megillas Esther — written by Harav Shlomo Alkabetz, the mechaber of Lechah Dodi as a Purim gift for his father-in-law — gives a different reason: The purpose of mishloach manos, he teaches, is to increase unity, peace, feelings of friendship, and ahavas Yisrael.
There are numerous relevant lessons we can learn from both explanations.
If the sending of mishloach manos is intended to serve the purpose of increasing good feelings, wouldn’t spending large sums of money, or even exerting major effort into preparing a lavish package that would make a recipient feel uncomfortable or pressured to reciprocate, be contrary to what this mitzvah is all about?
Mishloach manos is meant to ensure that no one will be embarrassed and that those who struggle financially will have a joyful Purim. There are many circumstances when less is actually more, and the simpler the mishloach manos that is sent, the greater the feelings of friendship that are created.
As we begin planning the Purim seudah, let us also remember all those who live alone or who find it difficult to make a seudah on their own. For those sitting at a crowded table partaking in a lively Purim meal, the thought that there are individuals out there sitting in silent, empty apartments is almost inconceivable. Yet the reality remains that there are wonderful people in our community who, for a variety of reasons, are waiting and hoping for an invitation. Let’s not let them worry and agonize until the last minute, and instead call them well in advance. Guests enhance and enrich a Purim seudah. Let’s hope they realize that they are giving far more than they are receiving.
Then there are some who truly prefer to stay home but would be delighted to get a short visit and a mishloach manos that can actually be eaten at their seudah. Indeed, Purim is a most hectic day, one filled with numerous obligatory visits to relatives, Rebbes, teachers, employers and close friends. Yet it is often the visit to the person who is alone that can prove to be the most rewarding way to perform this mitzvah.
Because no one should be lonely on Purim.