Monday, March 21, 2011
Purim: I'm Not a Minimalist
Someone showed me an article printed in a publication that I believe has little purpose except to reinforce the insecurities people have about mishloach manot and introduce a few more you probably never even considered. I publish a lot of ideas that I'm certain are disliked by many, so I hope I won't be accused of being the pot calling the kettle black, but I had to wonder what the purpose was to publish such an article? The article actually had something in it that reminded me of a LONG overdue post, but that will have to wait for a few days as I take care of some other things. So, back to mishloach manot for now. . . .
Another idea I was re-alerted to again this year is PIP (on a chat board I saw mention that the idea was promoted in Mishpacha). I published this idea in 2009 when I received it. At the time I thought it intriguing enough to publish the forwarded text on Orthonomics, even though I did **not** advocate the approach and had no plans of adopting such an approach then or now. But I did understand the sentiment that there is a need some have for "permission", so to speak, to tone things down where needed. As the saying goes "ideas have consequences" and the discussions surrounding mishloach manot got me thinking about the consequences of implementing such ideas or acting on insecurities being promoted.
My thinking came to a head yesterday and today. We received two very grateful thank yous for our mishloach manot. The first was from neighbors that are not fully observant who were thrilled to receive our little package of treats and wrote us a little thank you note. I've often wondered if the non-Shomer Shabbat living in a heavily Shomer Shabbat neighborhood feel invisible? It is a nice chance to connect with these neighbors especially on a day that is festive and relaxed. The second thank you was from an elderly, never married man we met at another community member's sukkah a few years back. My husband wrote his name in our notes and we have been delivering a meal-in-a-bag mishloach manot annually (real food for a lunch or dinner). I can't even tell you how appreciative he has been and he has taken it upon himself to send us a fancy gift basket mishloach manot himself, which is appreciated but certainly not expected. At this point the gifts are not "equal" (an insecurity) but that isn't the point of mishloach manot, is it?
Another insecurity mentioned is making someone feel like a chesed case or feeling like a chessed case when people remember you once a year. Certainly one doesn't want to make anyone feel like a chesed case, but I think it would be sadder to not deliver to those who will feel grateful and appreciative because someone out there took a mitzvah designed to bring people closer as an insult.
It happened that I when I went on a run to deliver to our aforementioned friend, I brought extra mishloach manot to give to other people who might not receive many and might be watching a stack multiply outside their neighbor's door. Turns out that no one had put a label on these (I believe I mentioned my worker bees didn't finish the job). What hashgacha I thought! I can deliver these to some widows, widowers, and divorcees we are acquainted with, but don't interact with often, anonymously and hopefully no one will feel embarrassed.
Ultimately I am very uncomfortable with promoting a trend of a minimalist trend of mishloach manot. I was thinking a little bit about it in terms of a takana and why a way of doing thing should be changed. The most famous takana I can think of is that of burying the dead in simple clothing (my apologies for the original mistake). In death there is really no purpose to take our wealth to the grave. I can think of no constructive purpose to anything more than a minimalist burial. In fact, quite the opposite. We can't bring the material into the next world, only our mitzvot. Whatever material goods we may leave in this world on our passing are best used for good in this world.
Limiting mishloach manot to the minimal level of fulfilling the mitzvah, as opposed to encouraging the kehilla to exercise some thought and discretion, is not something I want to see encouraged as a trend. The parade of children in costume is something that brings a neighborhood alive on Purim. There are so many people that we can bring simcha to with this mitzvah. There are tremendous opportunities for chinuch on Purim day. Let's leverage those opportunities and not go overboard just because the Schwartz's went crazy and made "everyone" they sent to feel inadequate!