Joy and Generosity: Giving on Purim

As we will discuss, there is a mitzvah to be joyful on Purim, and giving gifts is one way we can create such an atmosphere. To begin:

  • When has someone brought you a feeling of joy?
  • What did they do and how did they do it?
  • Has this joy ever come from someone unexpected?

Towards the end of the Purim story, after Haman's plan has been overturned and the Jews of Shushan are saved, the Scroll of Esther describes how Jews would celebrate the holiday of Purim for generations to come:

(כ) וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב מָרְדֳּכַ֔י אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח סְפָרִ֜ים אֶל־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר֙ בְּכָל־מְדִינוֹת֙ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ הַקְּרוֹבִ֖ים וְהָרְחוֹקִֽים׃ (כא) לְקַיֵּם֮ עֲלֵיהֶם֒ לִהְי֣וֹת עֹשִׂ֗ים אֵ֠ת י֣וֹם אַרְבָּעָ֤ה עָשָׂר֙ לְחֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֔ר וְאֵ֛ת יוֹם־חֲמִשָּׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֖ר בּ֑וֹ בְּכָל־שָׁנָ֖ה וְשָׁנָֽה׃ (כב) כַּיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר־נָ֨חוּ בָהֶ֤ם הַיְּהוּדִים֙ מֵא֣וֹיְבֵיהֶ֔ם וְהַחֹ֗דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר֩ נֶהְפַּ֨ךְ לָהֶ֤ם מִיָּגוֹן֙ לְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמֵאֵ֖בֶל לְי֣וֹם ט֑וֹב לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת אוֹתָ֗ם יְמֵי֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה וְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּמִשְׁל֤וֹחַ מָנוֹת֙ אִ֣ישׁ לְרֵעֵ֔הוּ וּמַתָּנ֖וֹת לָֽאֶבְיוֹנִֽים׃ (כג) וְקִבֵּל֙ הַיְּהוּדִ֔ים אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־הֵחֵ֖לּוּ לַעֲשׂ֑וֹת וְאֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־כָּתַ֥ב מָרְדֳּכַ֖י אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (כד) כִּי֩ הָמָ֨ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֜תָא הָֽאֲגָגִ֗י צֹרֵר֙ כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֔ים חָשַׁ֥ב עַל־הַיְּהוּדִ֖ים לְאַבְּדָ֑ם וְהִפִּ֥יל פּוּר֙ ה֣וּא הַגּוֹרָ֔ל לְהֻמָּ֖ם וּֽלְאַבְּדָֽם׃ (כה) וּבְבֹאָהּ֮ לִפְנֵ֣י הַמֶּלֶךְ֒ אָמַ֣ר עִם־הַסֵּ֔פֶר יָשׁ֞וּב מַחֲשַׁבְתּ֧וֹ הָרָעָ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־חָשַׁ֥ב עַל־הַיְּהוּדִ֖ים עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וְתָל֥וּ אֹת֛וֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֖יו עַל־הָעֵֽץ׃ (כו) עַל־כֵּ֡ן קָֽרְאוּ֩ לַיָּמִ֨ים הָאֵ֤לֶּה פוּרִים֙ עַל־שֵׁ֣ם הַפּ֔וּר עַל־כֵּ֕ן עַל־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הָאִגֶּ֣רֶת הַזֹּ֑את וּמָֽה־רָא֣וּ עַל־כָּ֔כָה וּמָ֥ה הִגִּ֖יעַ אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (כז) קִיְּמ֣וּ וקבל [וְקִבְּל֣וּ] הַיְּהוּדִים֩ ׀ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ם ׀ וְעַל־זַרְעָ֜ם וְעַ֨ל כָּל־הַנִּלְוִ֤ים עֲלֵיהֶם֙ וְלֹ֣א יַעֲב֔וֹר לִהְי֣וֹת עֹשִׂ֗ים אֵ֣ת שְׁנֵ֤י הַיָּמִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה כִּכְתָבָ֖ם וְכִזְמַנָּ֑ם בְּכָל־שָׁנָ֖ה וְשָׁנָֽה׃ (כח) וְהַיָּמִ֣ים הָ֠אֵלֶּה נִזְכָּרִ֨ים וְנַעֲשִׂ֜ים בְּכָל־דּ֣וֹר וָד֗וֹר מִשְׁפָּחָה֙ וּמִשְׁפָּחָ֔ה מְדִינָ֥ה וּמְדִינָ֖ה וְעִ֣יר וָעִ֑יר וִימֵ֞י הַפּוּרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה לֹ֤א יַֽעַבְרוּ֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַיְּהוּדִ֔ים וְזִכְרָ֖ם לֹא־יָס֥וּף מִזַּרְעָֽם׃ (ס)

(20) Mordecai recorded these events. And he sent dispatches to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, near and far, (21) charging them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, every year— (22) the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor. (23) The Jews accordingly assumed as an obligation that which they had begun to practice and which Mordecai prescribed for them. (24) For Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the foe of all the Jews, had plotted to destroy the Jews, and had cast pur—that is, the lot—with intent to crush and exterminate them. (25) But when [Esther] came before the king, he commanded: “With the promulgation of this decree, let the evil plot, which he devised against the Jews, recoil on his own head!” So they impaled him and his sons on the stake. (26) For that reason these days were named Purim, after pur. In view, then, of all the instructions in the said letter and of what they had experienced in that matter and what had befallen them, (27) the Jews undertook and irrevocably obligated themselves and their descendants, and all who might join them, to observe these two days in the manner prescribed and at the proper time each year. (28) Consequently, these days are recalled and observed in every generation: by every family, every province, and every city. And these days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews, and the memory of them shall never perish among their descendants.

  • In the passage above from the Scroll of Esther, how many Purim-inspired mitzvot do you count, and what are they?
  • Why do you think those mitzvot are associated with Purim specifically?
  • From a first read of verse 22, how do you understand the interpersonal Purim rituals known as "Mishloach Manot" ("gifts to one another") and "Matanot le-Evyonim" ("presents to the poor")?
    • Take a peek at "Translations" in the sidebar.
    • How do the various translations of verse 22 understand these rituals differently? (Compare the "The Metsudah Five Megillot" translation, for example!)

Think about what it might look like to provide money or food to others.

  • How can Mishloach Manot and Matanot le-Evyonim help contribute to the joy of the holiday?
  • What kinds of important bonds could giving create, especially in a time of social distancing?

Here are two videos to help you start thinking creatively about giving Mishloach Manot and Matanot le-Evyonim this year:

We have seen what we are asked to give and how we are to do it, and the video highlights a few recipients of our giving. The Megillah, however, doesn't specify to whom we should give.

  • Who in our communities might be particularly appreciative of us sending them a gift during this time?
  • Which populations have been particularly vulnerable to the economic consequences of the pandemic? Are there certain groups whose vulnerabilities have been exploited?
  • How might you help others through Matanot le-Evyonim this Purim? Who do you want to help, and how?