Barry's Guide to a Meaningful Purim


And Mordecai wrote these things…to command them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar…the days that the Jews had rest from their enemies…and turned from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.


Dear Friend,

At the end of a long, hard winter, when we seem surrounded by powerful enemies and dangerous threats, the Purim story comes to restore hope that we may someday truly “have rest from our enemies.”

At Purim, there are four mitzvoth, or commandments, that are at the heart of the holiday. In Greater Boston, we have an incredibly diverse, active and welcoming Jewish community that wants to celebrate with you. Here’s my quick guide to making Purim all that it is intended to be!

  • Give gifts to the poor. The most important mitzvah is Matanot l’Evyonim, sending gifts to the poor, because it is meant to ensure that we have a real community. I hope you’ll join me in making a special Purim gift to Yad Chessed,  an agency that helps people in financial crisis, and plays an integral role in CJP’s response to Jewish poverty. Yad Chessed will give your donation to someone who is in critical need on the day of Purim which is part our Jewish tradition. It takes incredible coordination to make this happen, so please make your gift no later than 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 5.
  • Enjoy a festive Purim meal (Seudat Purim). This is usually a communal celebration (they came to kill us, we won, let's eat!).
  • Give gifts of food to our friends (Mishloach Manot). This mitzvah is meant to tie us together in a very personal warm face-to-face way, and it strengthens bonds between people we already know.

Where do all these Purim traditions come from?

At the heart of Purim is the story of Queen Esther, a courageous Jewish woman who must go to a weak and confused King without an invitation to beg for the lives of her people. To do so was a capital offense, even for a queen. When she hesitates, her Uncle Mordechai sends her a message:


‘Don’t think that because you are queen you can escape any more than all the Jews. Because if you don’t speak up at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish; and who knows whether you have come to the royal house for just such a time as this?’


The miracle of Purim really requires individual courage and love for the Jewish people, as well as a communal response. And we are truly those who live in the “royal house,” one of the wealthiest and most successful Jewish communities in this blessed country, and it is we who are called upon to bring “relief and deliverance” to our brothers and sisters in need. 

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner suggests that when we look down at our lives from a distance, we can see a network of connecting lines that bind us together and give meaning to our lives.  These “invisible lines of connections” as he calls them, are the fingerprints of God, a sign of His involvement in the world. 

Excluding the poor, the vulnerable and those with disabilities smashes the “invisible lines of connection,” obscures the “fingerprints of God” and destroys the possibility of the miraculous.

This year, I encourage you to keep the possibility of miracles alive—in your heart, in your actions, and in the lives of others. Together, we’ll illuminate those invisible connections, and reveal our very best selves to the world.

Happy Purim!

Barry Shrage


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