The Mitzvah of mishloach manot (sending portions) is mentioned in Megillat Esther 9:19: “Therefore, the Jewish villagers, who live in open towns, make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar a day of joy and feasting and a festive day, and of sending portions to one another” as well as in verse 22: “as the days that the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month that was reversed from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day-to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”
The Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 695:4 explains what the mitzvah entails: One must send to his friend two portions of meat or food. Two portions to one person is the obligation.
The Maharal explains why we give mishloach manot on Purim in Or Chadash, Esther 9:22: In this way they overcome Haman and his seed who are the opposite of the unity of God. And that is why on Purim in particular we send portions to one another and gifts to the poor since these mitzvot emphasize that Israel is the most united people of all nations.
Giving mishloach manot helps increase peace and friendship and reminds us that we are one united group as opposed to what Haman told Achashverosh in Esther 3:8 “There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom…”
One of the highlights of Purim is dropping off mishloach manot for friends and coming home to receive packages that were left on our doorsteps. In recent years, many synagogues have organized communal mishloach manot programs which raise money for the synagogue but leave some members with only one package and can take some of the fun out of the day. If you live in one of those communities, it is important to still drop off packages for those who may otherwise not receive any outside of the communal project.
If we really want Purim to be a happy day, we must reach out to people who don’t receive any packages at all such as the elderly who are in nursing homes and the soldiers who are defending our borders.
If you are ambitious and you are willing to go out of your comfort zone, you can help create unity by giving a package to someone who would never expect one from you- a neighbor that you rarely speak to, someone whose religious observance or political beliefs differ from yours or even someone that you don’t particularly get along with.
If we want Israel and the Jewish people to be united in the way that they were when they celebrated the victory over Haman then we each really need to take the first step.
This Purim, instead of only celebrating with your friends, put a smile on the face of someone who would never have expected you to stop by and let’s bring unity back to Israel, one package at a time.