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The Meaning of Mishloach Manot


Baruch Hashem we are very close to reaching the goal of 100 participants for our Mishloach Manot fundraiser. However, there is something very important that I need to clarify. First though, we need to understand why Mishloach Manot was instituted in the first place. 

In the third chapter of the Megillah, Haman describes the Jews to Achashverosh as “…a people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm...”. This description wasn’t just about the physical reality of where Jews were located in the kingdom, it also underscored the disconnect that existed between the Jews themselves. Disunity has, and always will be, one of the main reasons for our problems. 

It is not coincidental then that Esther in chapter four, seeking a solution, tells Mordechai “Go, gather together all the Jews who live in Shushan…”. Unity played an important part in facilitating the positive turn of events in the Purim story. Therefore, after the Jews vanquished their enemies and a decision was made to celebrate the victory annually by creating a holiday called Purim, one of its rituals needed to emphasize unity. That is how Mishloach Manot came into being. The obligation to send food to one another was meant to foster a feeling of community and connectedness to each other.  

The basic requirement of Mishloach Manot is to provide two edible foods to another Jew. No more no less. Over the course of years, as Jews became wealthier, people chose to go above and beyond the basic two edible foods to another Jew requirement and began giving larger Mishloach Manot to more and more people. Eventually, this became very challenging, time consuming and expensive, especially when trying to do something different every year. Here is where the Shul’s Mishloach Manot Program “comes to the rescue.” By having the shul make and deliver Mishloach Manot to all the people in our community on your behalf, we remove (what has become) the burden of making and sending Mishloach Manot to many people.

BUT there is something very important you need to realize. Since the requirement of Mishloach Manot is to send two edible foods to another Jew, if you receive a package from 100 people, in order for those people to fulfill their obligation, the package would have to have 200 pieces of edible food! 

This being the case, then what’s the point of participating in the Shul’s Mishloach Manot Program if it doesn’t include 200 pieces of edible food? The answer is, it fulfills the spirit of the law by creating a feeling of community unity, with everyone giving to everyone and supporting the community’s core, the Shul, in the process.

However, since the Shul’s Mishloach Manot Program doesn’t fulfill the letter of the law, this means that everyone should prepare one Mishloach Manot and deliver it to someone else. 

One last thing. To properly fulfill the obligation of Mishloach Manot, the Mishloach Manot must be delivered on Purim day. But since the Shul’s Mishloach Manot is only fulfilling the spirit of the law, it can be delivered even before Purim.