Purim is an unusual holiday in many respects. First, Esther is the only biblical book in which God is not mentioned. Second, Purim, like Chanukah, traditionally is viewed as a minor festival, but elevated to a major holiday as a result of the Jewish historical experience. Over the centuries, Haman became the embodiment of every anti-Semite in every land where Jews were oppressed. The significance of Purim lies not so much in how it began, but in what it has become: a thankful and joyous affirmation of Jewish survival against all odds.
Fun costumes, drinking (for those who drink), delicious hamantaschen, Haman, Esther and Mordecai, another tale of Jewish persecution and redemption: these are the first thoughts that come to mind when I think of Purim. Though all of these images are important parts of Purim, we cannot forget that another crucial component of the celebration is to remember the less fortunate. There is a serious component on Purim, called “matanot l’ev-yonim”, which means “gifts to the poor”. All of the fun and merriment of the holiday aside, the true obligations of Purim are not fulfilled if we do not help the needy. But, with all of the partying associated with the holiday, it is easy to focus on our wants and forget about others’ needs.
The Megillah, or the Book of Esther, instructs us that “sending food portions one to another and giving gifts to the poor” must be included in our Purim celebrations. Traditionally, adults must give donations to two people in need as well as two different foods to someone who is hungry. The two donations to the poor can be given as food or money to cover the cost of a meal. Of all the mitzvoth that are required of us on Purim, giving to the poor is surely the most important.
Everyone should make matanot l’evyonim a priority. It is never too late (or early) to enhance how we celebrate a holiday, and during this year’s Purim celebration, I challenge you to try something new. For every hamantaschen you eat, every drink you enjoy, every time you hear Haman’s name, try putting
R5 into a jar. After the festival, double the money you saved and find a way to help someone in need. Donate it, buy someone a sandwich, or do something to help someone less fortunate, and I am quite sure that you will have a chance to celebrate Purim in a more meaningful way.
Chag Purim Sameach – Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Lisa Paquette on http://www.reformjudaism.org/)
|Torah Reading for Shabbat Tzav
(Reading Lev. 6:1-7:7; P p.688; H p.429);
Haftarah: Jeremiah 7:21-8:3, 9:22-23 (Plaut p.701; Hertz p.439)
Torah Study with Rabbi Schell
Podcast of Rabbi Schell’s weekly Sermons Tuesdays on Radio Today (10h30) or: http://goo.gl/LsHQrY.
Parashat Tzav repeats and enlarges the descriptions of the sacrifices already discussed in last week’s reading of the Torah. We are also given a description of the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests in the sanctuary and the dedication of the first sanctuary.