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Friday, March 18, 2011

Get Rid of the Insecurity and Just Enjoy Purim

Over at Matzav, you can treat yourself to typical Purim ranting. I recall at least part of this rant from a Yated gem of the past. It is really a shame that a more lighthearted, fun holiday turns into a stress fest for so many people (particularly the women folk).

Do some people have out of control mishloach manot? Sure. Do some people have misplaced priorities? Sure. Have some people taken a lovely mitzvah promoting friendship and perverted it into yet another competition? Sure. Is there unnecessary pressure? Sure. Do some people spend ridiculous amount of money? Sure.

Can we control any of that? Probably not. But we can work to control our own insecurities (and in turn hopefully raise more secure children who won't feel the need to constantly peak over their shoulders). And perhaps if we work to control our own insecurities, we will start to have more Purim fun, rather than pressure to match the neighbor who has been thinking about a costume to coordinate with the mishloach manot package theme (or is that a mishloach manot package to coordinate with a costume?) since Rosh Hashana.

In the grocery store I ran into a lovely friend who always makes a very attractive mishloach manot packages. We enjoy receiving her package each year and always hide it away to enjoy without the children. As we were talking, she mentioned some of her own insecurities which surprised me because I would love to pull off such a lovely (and frugal) presentation.

Over here in the Sephardi household, we just can't seem to get it right. The goods might taste great, but something always seems to go wrong and it doesn't quite come together as envisioned. It isn't easy combining frugality with participation from children with a reasonable quantity with all of the other things I'm juggling during this time of the year. So, we just do what we can manage and that varies from year to year.

So after a marathon of creating with the kids (who ultimately left me holding the bag because the work isn't as much fun an hour later) and a packaging idea that the assigned packager wasn't quite coordinated enough to pull off, we have a basket full of tasty mishloach manot that weren't quite what I envisioned.

And do you know what? I'm accepting what is. We can give these out with a big smile. And we don't need to worry about what others might bring because this isn't an office gift exchange.

While I am critical of overspending and inappropriate displays of wealth or "wealth", I think we can enjoy other people's Purim fun even if we choose a different route. I don't think that in this lifetime we will ever have themed mishloach manot. And I doubt we will ever have costumes to match our mishloach manot theme because I don't sew and prefer to pick up costumes in the thrift store. But I can still appreciate the creativity of our neighbors who show up in great costumes with nifty packages even if we are putting our cookies and candies on a plain paper plate or brown paper bag and sporting a run of the mill costume. We can appreciate what our friends and neighbors bring us even if we are reciprocating with "less" (just say thank you is a midda I work on with my kids, and Purim is a great time to put that midda on display).

On that note, have a Purim Sameach and enjoy the chag anxiety-free.

And one final note, it is clear that many of us would like to see a sense of balance restored in the kehilla. But I don't think complaining about someone's Three Blind Mice Purim theme is going to restore the balance. I do think working to rid ourselves of insecurities and making choices without offering excuses (be it a choice about mishloach manot, consumerism surrounding yomim tovim, or camp) will rub off on others.


Tamar said...

Hi Sepharadi Lady,
Someone might have already mentioned this on your blog as a great idea for Purim, but over here we have what's called a "Gmach Tachposot," or "costume gemach." Pretty much every community I've lived in has at least one gmach that opens a few weeks before Purim stocked with costumes and accessories -- it's expanded over the years to include costumes for all ages, not just kids. Some of them require a pikadon of around 50 shekel or so to be returned to you after you've returned the costumes you've borrowed clean and in good condition. I've never had to spend more than a few shekel on Purim costumes because of these fabulous gmachs -- a real time-and-money saver for large families! Maybe think about starting one in your school or shul next year! (one of my kid's gannanot had one in the gan, and a friend runs one out of her house -- in the previous yishuv we lived in, it was a yishuv-wide mega gemach that opened for a few days with literally hundreds of donated costumes) Purim sameach v'Shabbat Shalom

Nephew of frum actuary said...

We have four or five "Costume Gemachs" in our community as well. We run one of them ourselves. Just make sure (if you do it) to take a deposit so that you aren't chasing people after Purim.

As far as frugal Mishloach Manos, our best idea is giving out 20 OZ Cokes gotten from mycokerewards points. It looks expensive, but only costs taxes.

BB said...

You can find great stuff for presentation and for giving at the local discount chain- you know the one I mean. We found sets of bags, 10 for $1.

Best cheap costume I made for a kidlet: besamim. Kidlet already had the silver Hershey Kisses hat; I covered some foam board with foil to wear on the shoulders, strung cinnamon sticks to make a necklace, and kidlet carried a besamim holder of cloves.

Bob Miller said...

An ancient text says (rough translation): "Twizzlers and cookies will do as Mishloach Manot."

tesyaa said...

Brown paper bags, that's what we're using this year - you must have read my mind! :)

Orthonomics said...

Works for me tesyaa!

We have a costume gemach in our community too. Somehow, it is easier for me to let the kids pick out some inexpensive costumes from the rack at the thrift store Halloween time, than come to the gemach when I'm dealing with year end client issues. So we've yet to use the gemach. However, our costumes have been passed around the neighborhood and have had plenty of use. :)

JS said...

As I heard from a friend, "Our theme this year is the same as our theme every year: 'Things that were on sale and kosher at Costco!'"

Works for me! If people want to go all out, kol hakavod. If people don't, that's fine as well.

People forget what the basic requirement of the mitzvah and believe going all out is required. Reminds me of the hiddur mitzvah conversation from the other day regarding the "need" for sterling silver candlesticks, kiddush cups, etc.

I would just add that people won't stop being insecure because there's such a need for conformity in our communities. It's caused, in part, by everyone doing the exact same thing from when they are a small child. The people I find who are most secure and least afraid of what others think are those who are "outsiders" to a certain extent - they went to public school or were home schooled and did not go exclusively to yeshiva, they didn't go to sleepaway camps, they didn't spend 1-2 years in seminary in Israel, they didn't go to YU, Stern, or Brooklyn, or Queens, or Touro, etc.

Miami Al said...

There are always people that call all out for various things. It's easy to feel inadequate. OTOH, there are things that my family does that makes others feel that way.

Didn't your mothers ever tell you that God made you special, just the way you are?

Avi said...

Themes require creativity, not expense. Last year we did recession comfort food: milk (Costo) & cookies (homemade) in brown paper bags. I've been traveling so much this year that I wanted to skip the whole themed thing - I'm in charge of all things "creative" in the house, and I was burned out. My wife insisted, though, so I came up with a "theme" and now we're good to go. But I like the "mishloach manot" theme - I may use that next year.

Reader said...

Lots of left over green hats and funny green decorated hair bands from yesterday's green holiday (St. Patrick's Day). I think they can be recycled for Purim costumes.

A Fan said...

I always keep it simple but make a lot- you know, the fear someone will give to you when you didn't make for them...
Well, I'm 9 months pregnant now, so preparing 30 packages just isn't happening this year. I made 10, for families on our block and one couple we are very close with. I decided that since everyone knows I'm going to pop any day now, people will understand if they don't get a package from me this year- and anyone who doesn't understand is a petty person who I guess I should not be friends with anyway!

Aaron from L.A. said...

We're tired of all the misloach manot competition,too.Instead, we've decided to charter a plane and take 100 friends and acquaintances to Israel for Purim, where they will be treated to Purim dinner and a night's stay at the King David Hotel, and presented with mishlocah manot baskets.All the baskets will be exactly the same and will cost no more than $250 a piece.I will then hire myself out as an Eved Ivri to pay for it all.It's all my sneeky way of finding a shifcha canaanit.

Boxed Whine said...

I remember when we used to take foodstuffs from Shalach Manot given to us and put them in a new package to give to people who unexpectedly showed up so that they would not leave empty handed.

Ariella said...

agree 100% and will add a link within my latest post on mishloach manos.