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Suggestions for Purim

The happy holiday of Purim is today, and Shushan Purim – which is celebrated in Jerusalem - begins tonight.  The following suggestions can help us to strengthen the Purim spirit of joy and unity:  

1. As the old Jewish saying goes, "When the wine comes in, the secret comes out." There are people whom we love and respect, but we often keep it a secret. This is the secret which needs to be revealed on Purim.
I was once a guest at a Purim meal with a young rabbi and his family, and there were other guests, as well. A yeshiva student, who was somewhat high from the wine he was drinking, came to visit. This yeshiva student had a daily study session with the rabbi. When he joined us at the table, we could see that his face was glowing. Suddenly, he began to tell everyone how much he loved and respected the rabbi. With deep emotion, he passionately described the various traits of the rabbi that he admired. The love flowed from his heart, and another beautiful secret had been revealed.

2. There are some ugly secrets which should not be revealed on Purim. These are the petty hatreds and prejudices which sneak into the human heart. Such ugly secrets may need to be revealed to ourselves or to a spiritual advisor for the purpose of cleansing and healing; but they should not be revealed at a Purim gathering for the purpose of spreading the poison.

3. On Purim day, we have the mitzvah of "mishoach manos" - the sending of food portions to someone we know. Jerusalem residents and others who celebrate Shushan Purim will send mishloach manos on Monday. 
There is a custom to send mishloach manos to someone we may have quarreled with during the year. In addition, we should not forget to send misloach manos to people who are homebound or in residences for the elderly, hospitals, etc. In such cases, don't forget to also bring the most important gift: Yourself! 
One Purim, I had to take a bus to get to my host's home in a different neighborhood of Jerusalem. I therefore decided to give misloach manos to the bus driver, and he was very happy to get the gift. If you live in Israel and you are traveling in a bus or taxi on Purim, why not bring mishloach manos for the driver? 

4. On Purim day, we have a great and joyous feast with many guests. Let us try to make sure that everyone we know has a Purim feast to go to. While most of the Jewish people will have the feast on Sunday (today), Jerusalem residents and others who celebrate Shushan Purim will have the feast on Monday.

5. On Purim day, we give gifts to the needy - money and/or food. Many synagogues and tzedakah organizations have a discreet way of distributing gifts to the needy on Purim.

6. Call relatives and friends - especially those you haven't spoken to for a long period - and wish them a Good Purim. Messages through e-mail are nice, but a phone call can be even nicer and more personal.

7. We eat and drink more than usual on Purim, but we should be careful not to overly indulge if this will cause us to get sick. On Purim we celebrate life, and our eating and drinking should therefore enhance life. "Le Chaim" - To Life.

8. We read the Book of Esther at night and in the morning. If you are unable to go to a communal service (where it is chanted to an ancient melody), then read it wherever you may be. Yes, even if one person studies words of Torah, the Shechinah - Divine Presence - is with this person (Pirkei Avos 3:7) . And through reading the story, you will strengthen your link to all the Family of Israel.

When Purim is celebrated in the proper spirit, we can truly say, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brethren also dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1). May the era soon arrive when all humankind will experience this unity. 

Have a Good Purim!

For further information on the laws and customs of Purim, visit: 
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