By JLNJ Staff | March 24, 2016
Jerusalem—This week, Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Purim, which dates back to before the common era as a celebration of the successful Jewish resistance against a Babylonian state-sponsored apartheid. Though the miracles in the time of Mordechai and Esther were primarily of a political and military nature, the observance of Purim was established as a day of unity and thanksgiving, through four main commandments (mitzvot) of the day: reading/hearing the megillah (considered as the Halel [thanksgiving] of the day), sending packages (mishloach manot) to friends, giving more charity than usual (the gemara uses the term “kol haposhet yad,” indicating that on Purim, we give to anyone who sticks out their hand to ask for funds) and eating a festive meal together with family and friends. The overall theme of our modern-day Purim celebration truly is remembering the miraculous events, showing our gratitude to Hashem for saving us, and sharing this gratitude with others.
In Israel, the Jewish state especially shows its colors around Purim time, as the streets of nearly every city are filled with children and adults in costume, exchanging mishloach manot packages. However, Israel’s low minimum wage levels and relatively high, if stable, unemployment, ensure the unfortunate reality that some of those in the street are not giving out packages, but rather collecting. For the children, this can be the most difficult; seeing friends in nicer costumes and giving out more expensive mishloach manot, trying to understand why they cannot. Many of Israel’s numerous and generous chesed organizations have been working for years to look for ways to bring a wholesome and meaningful Purim celebration to those who cannot afford it. However, among these, Colel Chabad stands out for one simple reason—its Purim activities are an outgrowth of their everyday chesed activities. For Colel Chabad, every day is Purim, and their chesed fulfills the four mitzvot of Purim on a daily basis.
Purim for Colel Chabad begins with a special celebration at the Grabski Center for Multiple Sclerosis patients, so that even those who are too ill to join the outdoor festivities can have the party brought to them.
Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad, explained that this annual party really helps the disabled participants feel the Purim spirit: “Despite their physical limitation we ensure that they celebrate a joyful Purim just as anyone else.”
On Purim day, packages are delivered to the usual 8500 recipients of their food parcels from Colel Chabad or Pantry Packers. In addition, 250 special mishloach manot are given out to all of the widows in Colel Chabad’s Widows and Orphans program. The highlight of the holiday, however, is always the festive Purim seudah in the afternoon, and Colel Chabad does not disappoint; their 23 soup kitchens will be cooking up delicious feasts for over 2200 needy individuals and families. Megillah is read beforehand, to ensure every one of their beneficiaries can fulfill all four mitzvot of the day.
“In the soup kitchens, we feed everyone a full Purim feast,” said Rabbi Traxler, “We serve fish, soup, meat with all the extras just like anyone of us will have at home. No one should feel lacking on Purim.”
An enjoyable observance of Purim is a sum of its parts, and thanks to Colel Chabad, thousands of needy individuals will be able to fulfill the four mitzvot of Purim and have a unique and special celebration, even if they can’t afford it. For, Colel Chabad though, it’s just another day’s work.
By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel