There is no discrimination when it comes to giving out money on Purim, rather anyone who extends their hand to receive give to him. (Shulchan Aruch)
There are four basic Mitzvos on Purim. 1) Megilla – To hear the reading of Megillas Esther in the evening and during the day. 2) Matanos L’evyonim- To give monetary gifts to two poor people. 3) M’shloach manos ish l’re’ehu- To give two types of food to at least one person. 4) Mishteh- To have a party with wine.
One way to approach Purim and Mitzvos in general is to obediently execute and perform the Mitzvos of the day. This is noble and admirable beyond description. The Zohar invites an alternative approach to Mitzvos. It states that the 613 Mitzvos are really 613 pieces of advice. How do we understand and reconcile that they are both commandments- required behaviors and yet at the same time they are some sound council that would be worthy to follow?!
The answer can be found in understanding the extreme dichotomy of the human being. We are composed of a body and a soul. Are we a body that has a soul or a soul that has a body? That is the question. To the body Mitzvos are commandments. They are directed at training and curing the uncontrolled passions of the body so that they align with the needs of the soul.
To the soul, the Mitzvos are a clear map to help it come closer to its Creator. The soul knows Mitzvos are a menu of opportunities. It has only to convince or coerce the body to come happily along. When that happens then the music of life awakens the feet and the dancing begins. I saw a quote, “Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear music!”?!
Going into any Jewish time zone is just like crossing through an earthly boundary. Even though it is not so recognizable in the dimension of time when we apply the logic of geography everything is explained. Every country has its customs, language, currency, rules, climate, risks, and rewards.
These are worthwhile to know before heading to a foreign destination. I would not want to go to the North Pole in shorts and a tee shirt. You can’t pay for a cab in New York with Pesos. Just as I would not want to spend a week in Paris and fail to see the Louvre, I cannot imagine visiting Jerusalem and not go to the Kossel. How foolish or tragic is that?!
Now we can revisit the Mitzvos of Purim day and understand how they are really a rich assortment of priceless opportunities.
1) Reading the Megilla we become overwhelmed with Emunah- belief and trust that we are not alone and there is a hidden hand carefully guiding our history, like a shepherd leading his flock.
2) We have a chance to exercise and flex the spiritual muscle of giving by lifting up those in need. We begin to manifest our oneness as a people when we realize that our joy is incomplete as long as another suffers from want. We have that chance to be angels- holy agents to our fellows.
3) Giving food gifts connects us with others. “We love the ones to whom we give”, Reb Dessler says. The more we give the more we love! Relationships have a chance to be repaired and reinforced. The Jewish Nation is forged into a ONE NATION like a giant Cholent on Purim. We start out separate beans, pieces of meat, garlic, onion, spices, potatoes, and water. Add heat and each individual ingredient begins to share some particle of its essence with every other ingredient in the pot, until such time as a piece of every one of us is invested in every one of us. By the time all the food and money have passed around on Purim this is what has actually happened, locally and globally.
4) Finally in that jovial spirit of being eternally bound together with all Jews and with HASHEM we can sip some wine and like rocket fuel it will propel us in the direction we are already heading.
Finally we should not miss out on the chance to stretch out our hand to HaMelech- Who is ready to fulfill His Purim decree, “anyone who extends their hand … give to them.” What a golden opportunity to pray for whatever we need while traveling though a place called Purim.