Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Purim Tradition

Tomorrow night begins Purim, a holiday on which the Jewish people celebrate our survival and rejoice that our ancestors were redeemed from the evil tyrant Haman. It is also a holiday on which we are commanded to share our good fortune with those in need. The mitzvah of sending gifts to the poor is based on Megillat Esther 9:22.

As Lois Goldrich explains the importance of matanot l'evyonim (gifts to the poor) on the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism website:
Gifts can be given directly, e.g., bringing food and clothing to a homeless shelter, or indirectly, through an organized charity. It is important to keep in mind that whatever additional tzedakah we give throughout the year, donations must still be given on Purim itself. How important is this mitzvah? As Maimonides writes in his Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Megillah 2:17): "It is better for a person to increase gifts to the poor than to increase his feast or the mishloah manot to his neighbors. There is no joy greater or more rewarding than to gladden the heart of the poor, orphans, widows, and strangers. For by gladdening the hearts of the downtrodden, we are following the example of the Divine."

Rabbi Menachem Creditor has shared a new Purim tradition that he learned from his teacher Marcia Brooks. She encourages people to bring boxes of Kosher pasta to synagogue to use as graggers (noise makers); shaking them for noise and then donating them to a food pantry once the Megillah is completed. With this new tradition, one fulfills the custom of drowning out the name of "Haman" from the Megillah reading while also performing the mitzvah of matanot l'evyonim.

And in my opinion, shaking a box of pasta is much safer than using those dangerous metal graggers that get rusty and sharp and can cut your finger!

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