No Strangers

Friday, 19 February, 2021 - 12:20 pm

dena.jpegOur daughter Dena turns two today and she’s so excited that she has been singing ‘happy birthday to Dena’ all day.

Dena is our ninth child, kein-ayin-hara, but there is something different about her that I noticed lately, something our other children never exhibited. Growing up in a home where Shabbat guests, visitors and Walmart vendors were constantly present, none of our other children were ever ‘afraid’ of strangers as infants or toddlers like the typical toddler may be; they readily accepted the hugs, cuddles and high-fives from our guests. So when we had a backyard coffee with two friends a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see Dena shying away from the guests, which appeared unusual, until I realized that since Covid hit right about her first birthday, she doesn’t really know life with guests.

I sure hope that by the time she turns three and begins lighting Shabbat candles, and hopefully way before that, we will be able to host again and she – like her siblings – will learn to enjoy and cherish our wonderful community members. In the meantime, however, she – and all of us – are craving friendships, yearning to hang out with our friends and cannot wait to celebrate together again in large groups.

Friends and friendships, our feeling of belonging to a family and a community, are critical components of our life and essential to healthy survival. Zoom just doesn’t cut it.

Here’s one solution: Purim.

Purim is coming up in just one week. Some of the Mitzvot of Purim, like hearing the Megillah (which, btw, you can do safely this year) or eating a feast with your family or friends; take work and planning and may not available to everyone, certainly not during a pandemic. But there are two other important Mitzvot on Purim, which are relatively easy to do and can be done safely even now.

Giving charity to the poor (can be done virtually here, note Purim charity to the poor in the comments) and Mishloach Manot - sending gifts of food to a Jewish friend (can be done virtually via any website that will deliver kosher foods) are two of the Mitzvot of Purim you can safely – and easily – do. On this holiday when Haman accused us of being a ‘scattered and dispersed nation’ we always show our unity, our togetherness and our strength as a people.

I once heard that of the critical components for survival: shelter, food, water and air, the more essential the need, the cheaper it is. Food cost much less than a home, water is very cheap and air is free. I’m not one to set a value on a Mitzvah, but I think this year for sure, the two easiest Mitzvot of Purim are also the most critical.

The pandemic has caused us all to be under major stress and it is no secret we can all do better in our relationships with some friends, and perhaps even family. This Purim, send a gift of ‘Mishloach Manot” – some kosher food to a few friends, perhaps those whose relationship with you has been strained lately, and show them (and yourself) that our friendship, our community, our people, are still one and still strong.

Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman


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