Purim is for Giving

Created by Rabbi Shari Shamah, Jewish Life Specialist


There are four Mitzvot for Purim

  • Reading of the Megillah – מקרא מגילה/ Mikra Megillah
  • Sending of gifts to friends & family – משלוח מנות /Misloach Manot
  • Gift to the poor – מתנות לאביונים /Matanot L’evyonim
  • Festive Purim meal – סעודת פורים /Seudat Purim


What is the meaning behind Mishloach Manot?

עַל־כֵּ֞ן הַיְּהוּדִ֣ים  [הַפְּרָזִ֗ים] הַיֹּשְׁבִים֮ בְּעָרֵ֣י הַפְּרָזוֹת֒ עֹשִׂ֗ים אֵ֠ת י֣וֹם אַרְבָּעָ֤ה עָשָׂר֙ לְחֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֔ר שִׂמְחָ֥ה וּמִשְׁתֶּ֖ה וְי֣וֹם ט֑וֹב וּמִשְׁלֹ֥חַ מָנ֖וֹת אִ֥ישׁ לְרֵעֵֽהוּ׃

That is why village Jews, who live in unwalled towns, observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and make it a day of merrymaking and feasting, and as a holiday and an occasion for sending gifts to one another. (Esther 9:19)


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. (Esther 9:22)


Some say that sending Mishloach Manot unites the Jewish People:

Earlier in the Book of Esther, Haman then said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them. (Esther 3:8)


  • Does the requirement to send gifts somehow address this idea that Jews are scattered and divided?
  • If the Jews are scattered and dispersed, how do we go beyond our immediate community and send gifts to one another?
  • Do you think the notion that Jews are scattered and dispersed still holds true today?
  • Do you feel more connected to someone if you either send or receive a package?
  • Two times in the Book of Esther it mentions that a way of making Purim more festive was by sending gifts to one another. What does this say about the importance of this ritual by repeating it twice?
  • Do we need a reason to give gifts?
  • How do you feel when you give a gift?
  • What are some of the ways you share with others?

How does Mishloach Manot relate to Matanot L’Evyonim(Giving gifts to the Poor)?

There is a story in the Talmud that makes a connection:


In describing that same incident, Abaye said: When I left the house of the master, Rabba, to go to Marei bar Mar, I was already satiated. However, when I arrived there at Marei bar Mar’s house, they served me sixty plates of sixty kinds of cooked dishes, and I ate sixty portions from each of them. The last dish was called pot roast, and I was still so hungry that I wanted to chew the plate afterward.

And in continuation Abaye said: This explains the folk saying that people say: The poor person is hungry and does not know it, as Abaye was unaware how hungry he had been in his master’s house. Alternatively, there is another appropriate, popular expression: Room in the stomach for sweets can always be found. (Editor note:  best line in Talmud ever!)

The Gemara relates that Abaye bar Avin and Rabbi Ḥanina bar Avin would exchange their meals with each other to fulfill their obligation of sending portions on Purim. – thus hosting people/someone for a meal fulfills the mitzvah. (Talmud Megillah 7b)

  • Have you found that after receiving something (whether emotional, physical, tangible) that realized you needed it more than you knew?
  • What are some of the parts of this text that jump out at you?


Misloach Manot as an extension of Matanot L’Evyonim:  We know that it can be hard for some people with need to accept help.  We are also taught that we should be careful to not single out those without means (ie, leaving the corners of our fields unplowed so that someone with need can glean at night in privacy…).  Sending Mishloach Manot means there is no distinguishing between those who need and those who don’t, thus everyone can fulfill the mitzvah of feasting and rejoicing on Purim.


How much do you have to send?

The mishna mentions: And gifts distributed to the poor. Rav Yosef taught a baraita that the verse states: “And of sending portions one to another” (Esther 9:22), indicating two portions to one person. The verse continues: “And gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:22), indicating two gifts to two people. (Megillah 7a)


The Mishloach Manot Nitty Gritty:

You should strive to send two portions.  More is ok.  And if you don’t have items to give, you can trade with a fellow human.

  • The verb (mishloach) means “sending.” The act of sending is important. You can use a messenger, use the mail, or leave it at a front door.
  • Timing is everything. Traditionally, mishloach manot is to be received on the day of Purim.
  • To fulfill the mitzvah, mishloach manot packages must contain at least two foods. e., one hamantaschen and one clementine or a box of raisins.
  • Non-food items don’t fulfill the mitzvah but can be included if there are an additional two food items included as well.