It may have appeared as an assembly line, but, as a child, I saw it as a profitable and joyous dance. My mother z"l and ybcl"c, my sisters, began baking a few weeks before Purim for the Mishloach Manot packages our family would send out to friend and foe all over Toronto. Our dining room table was covered with these gift baskets filled with food and wine to add to the recipients' Purim feasts. We would put out one table for all the Mishloach Manot we would receive, another for packages to send in response to people who sent Mishloach Manot to us, and, a third table with bowls of dollar bills. One bowl to collect money for Matanot la'Evyonim, gifts to help the poor purchase all they would need to make a Purim feast, and one bowl was to give a dollar to the child who delivered a package to, and for us.
A child would knock on the door with a basket from someone, would be given a dollar to thank him or her for delivering the Mishloach Manot, and then would be handed a gift basket for the person who was kind enough to send Mishloach Manot to us, plus a second dollar for delivering our package. The best part was, because of all the packages we received, I didn't need to spend my dollars on candy and chips, but on other less important things such as books and toys.
Many of the recipients of our packages would not hand me a Mishloach Manot in return, I believed because who would be pleased with something baked by my sisters, however, in reality, it was because most had never heard of Mishloach Manot. Interestingly, their tips were always more than a dollar!
It was this Dance of Mishloach Manot that changed the way I pray, learn, and teach. Every action triggered a response. Each Mishloach Manot was a call of friendship and was received with a joy that spread from the recipient to the child making the delivery, to a gift in response; tentacles of joy that crossed and wove all over the city, entangling all of us in their net. Imagine our prayers, mitzvot and study, performed as this kind of dance!
"He called to Moses (Leviticus 1:1)," as the Heavenly Angels call to each other, lovingly granting permission to each other to join in celebrating God (Isaiah 6:3). God's call to Moses was not a summons but an invitation to respond. God's original invitation was rejected, "God, the Lord, called to the man (Genesis 3:9)," as an invitation to repair the relationship damaged by the Tree of Knowledge, but Adam hid in fear. He felt inadequate. God now calls out again in invitation to a humble man stuck outside the Tabernacle, and, symbolized by the small letter aleph; an invitation to the inadequate in him to join in conversation despite his inadequacies. Moses heard the invitation and ran towards the Tabernacle to join in a loving dance.
We move our bodies as we pray to celebrate the dance, joyously overcoming any sense of inadequacy in response to the invitation of the call of prayer.
We share an insight or idea as an invitation to respond, as a gift similar to Mishloach Manot; a gift that creates a dance of giving, receiving, and sharing love and friendship.
Those who hear the call as an invitation to respond to God even when we feel inadequate, will confidently answer, "Yes!" to Job's question, "Will he have the spiritual pleasure of feeling close to God so that he can confidently call out to God at all times (Job 27:10)," and the Dance of Mishloach Manot will last the entire year.
The Foundation Stone calls out to you to join our annual Megillah reading and study on Purim evening, March 15, at 9:30PM, at 4704 Delafield Ave. Bronx, NY 10471.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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