“They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” (Book of Esther 9:22)
Although we should always show brotherly love to our fellow man, there is one special Jewish holiday where the fulfillment of brotherly love is actually a mitzvah (Biblical commandment). That holiday is none other than Purim, which falls this year on Thursday, March 1.
In the Book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim, a chain of seemingly happenstance events lead to the decree initiated by the Persian viceroy, Haman that mandated the annihilation of Jewish people throughout the ancient Persian empire. The evil decree however, was miraculously overturned due to the Jewish people uniting in brotherly love.
“One of the reasons God overturned the evil decree of their annihilation was because the Jewish people united and cared about each other during the time of the Book of Esther,” said Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, administrator of Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running charity, to Breaking Israel News.
“The greatest act we can do is to love and show care for one another.”
Purim is celebrated with four specific commandments (mitzvot), all of which demonstrate brotherly love. The first commandment involves reading or listening to the reading of the Book of Esther. Young and old unite together in order to hear the story from one reader in public readings.
A second commandment requires individuals to pack festive food packages and deliver them to friends or the needy. A third commandment mandates that charity be given to the poor. The Talmud even states that “all who extend a hand (on Purim), we are to give (charity).” Therefore, the destitute very much look forward to Purim as a time to be helped. Finally, there is a commandment to have a lavish Holiday meal, which is generally shared with many others and not in solitude.
While Purim is a very festive day, for Israel’s 1.8 million people living under the poverty line, enjoying Purim can be particularly challenging. Therefore, Colel Chabad, which feeds the hungry and provides for the needs of the poor and lonely all year round, organizes extra special meals and activities and gives out a large amount of charity on Purim in fulfillment of the holiday’s commandments.
On Purim alone, Colel Chabad will provide 25,440 of Israel’s struggling citizens, including elderly, Holocaust survivors, young widows and orphans, with a joyous meal and atmosphere, entertainment and companionship.
“In addition to the hot meals, food packages and entertainment, everyone who comes to Colel Chabad Purim celebrations leaves with a personalized charitable gift,” said Rabbi Lipsker. “Everyone knows that at Colel Chabad events they will only experience brotherly love.”
Part of spreading brotherly love involves protecting the dignity and self-respect of others. In that spirit, the organization goes to many communities to hang signs that not only advertise their Purim activities but also invite all to join the huge party with no questions asked.
Colel Chabad makes sure that the elderly and sick who are homebound experience the special mitzvot and atmosphere of Purim as well. Although the organization provides food packages to over 8,500 families and housebound seniors on a weekly basis, the number is higher on Purim. High school girls will spend the day visiting senior citizens in their homes bringing with them specially prepared Purim food packages and a joyous atmosphere of dancing and singing.
Colel Chabad does all that it can to increase joy and to decrease the challenging situations in the lives of people. With 2 out of every 5 Israeli children going to bed hungry, Colel Chabad does its best to let people know that they can count on the organization for help.
The Book of Esther highlights the events which, seem natural on the surface but turn out to be miraculous. Therefore, Jewish tradition holds Purim to be an especially auspicious time to offer heartfelt prayers to God for peace and goodness in the world and to ask for life’s challenges to be overturned.
“We pray every day for God to reveal more and more of His goodness in the world,” noted Rabbi Lipsker. “Colel Chabad acts as God’s messengers to bring miracles to Israel’s impoverished and suffering people, ensuring that those who are in need get help.”
To donate to Colel Chabad, please click here.
This article was written in coordination with Colel Chabad.