A few years ago, a close friend was attempting to get his four year old daughter to sleep after a very busy Purim day. After lying down for a just a brief moment, she bolted down the stairs towards the kitchen. Upon looking at the kitchen table filled with all types of cookies, sweets and little toys one more time before she had to go to sleep she turned to her father and proclaimed, "Dad, this is the greatest day of my life!!"
I can recall that same feeling. When I was a child, right before Purim, we had a family discussion about how we were going to get rid of all the chumetz that we would accumulate in the form of mishloach manot. I understood that it would be my duty as the eldest child to lead the way by eating as much as I could.
Having such strong memories myself, it is no surprise that people are using new technologies to bring this joy and tradition to family members and friends across the globe. Megillat Esther tells us that ancient Persia has 127 provinces. The difficulty of sending a message-let alone candy-across this terrain is brought up several times in the Megillah. Now, however, I can log on and send gift baskets to my family in Israel that very same day. I love this service. My niece and nephews will all know who spoiled them and the parents..well it is 6000 miles away- too far away to get too upset with me. While it can be a fun mitzvah, mishloach manot serves several important functions for Jews. And one of them may be spoiling the children.
The Megillat Esther in the 9th chapter states: "And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasverus, both near and far, To establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly. Like the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned to them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."
The Talmud in Megillah teaches us that the obligation of sending mishloach manot is fulfilled by giving two food items to one person. This is learned from the verse "mishloach manot ish l'rayeihu", sending portions one to another, the word for food (manot) is plural and the word for friend (reyeihu) is singular. So it is two gifts for one friend.
Various commentators speculate on the reason for sending out these gifts.
The Trumat Hadeshen (Rav Yisrael Isserlin) connects the part of the verse "of sending of food gifts to one another" to the words preceding it "feasting and joy". According to this opinion, the purpose of mishloach manot is to allow everyone to be able to have a feast and celebrate Purim - even those unable to afford it. As we would not want to single out those who do not have the means to afford a Purim meal, we are told to give over these gifts to another Jew and help bolster their meal.
The Manot Levi (Rav Shlomo Alkabetz) provides a slightly different reason for mishloach manot. The Megillah says that Haman described the Jews at the time of the Purim story as "scattered out and dispersed among the people throughout the kingdom." Rav Alkabetz writes that to survive the decree of Haman required us to band together as one people. This evil decree forced us to put aside our differences and unite. Mishloach manot therefore is a means to bring us together and to help foster peace, brotherhood and love.
Following the different reasons they give for the mitzvah, the two sources disagree on the conditions necessary for its fulfilling. Since the Trumat Hadeshen believes the purpose is to provide a feast for someone who may not be able to afford it, if the recipient were to refuse the package, the mitzvah would not be fulfilled. However, according to the Manot Levi, since uniting the community is the goal of the mitzvah - as well as Purim - failure to address the package with one's name would cause the mitzvah not to be fulfilled. Therefore, to cover our bases, each person should send out at least one personal mishloach manot consisting of two foods. We do this even if we signed up with a charitable organization to provide mishloach manot to a whole list of people.
The mitzvah of mishloach manot, which arose on ancient Persian soil during our first experience facing total extinction as a scattered people in the Diaspora, exemplifies the need for unity and charity in times of trouble. By making the mitzvah particularly fun for the children, the lesson begins early.
Friday, Feb. 22 | Adar 12
Candlelighting: 5:22 p.m.
Mincha: 5:25 p.m.
Sh’kia: 5:40 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23 | Adar 13
Shacharit: 9 a.m.
Teen Minyan: 9:15 a.m.
Sof Zman Kriat Shema: 9:30 a.m.
Sunday Shacharit: 8:15 a.m.
Monday Shacharit: 6 a.m.
Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday Shacharit: 6:10 a.m.
Sunday Mincha/Maariv: 5:25 p.m.
Monday-Wednesday Maariv: 7:30 p.m.