By Rabbi Yitzie Ross
With Purim around the corner, I wanted to share something with you that might be useful to many parents out there. It used to be that many children would be excluded from getting mishloach manos. Nowadays, many classes get together at one house at a certain time, and all the boys can exchange bags or, even better, all bring in one type of snack. It’s easier and more fun. Do you want to share with your readers?
I do want to share this, but not for the reason you’re expecting. I don’t think this is a good idea at all. Let’s discuss the history of this fad. A few years ago, there was a heavy snowstorm on Purim that made driving dangerous. A few ingenious moms came up with a solution to minimize the driving, and all the boys got together in one location.
It worked out wonderfully for that year, giving rise to the question: “Why not do this every year?” Here are some reasons.
- The mitzvah is to give specific foods to one or more people. Not to share candy as in other secular holidays. Yes, they’re children, but let’s train them in the mitzvos.
- As nice as it sounds that no one is being excluded, it’s inaccurate (see below). I know many parents who set up the mitzvah of mishloach manos in an organized fashion. They tell their children to pick some friends to give to, and they always suggest including one or two who aren’t as popular. It’s a wonderful way to teach children how to include others.
- The mitzvah of mishloach manos is a wonderful way to create and build individual friendships. With class gatherings, the children lose out on the excitement of going to a classmate’s house or hosting a friend. Instead it’s like being back in yeshiva. Ironically, those same boys that we are trying to “protect” are probably being excluded from most of the conversations, since the class is once again together.
- Many times, the class heads over to the rebbe as a group. However, the rebbe might prefer for the boys to come individually to give them each some special attention. I know that when my talmidim come over, I like to have only a few boys at the same time.
- Yiddishkeit is not about convenience. Sure, if we can make something easier we’ll go for it, but in this case, it seems like we’re teaching kids to cut corners.
- I know that driving our kids on Purim is frustrating, and I’ve also spent hours in the car trying to get to rebbeim and friends only to find out that they left already. However, many rebbeim and teachers give times that they’ll be home, and when your child gets to the rebbe or morah’s house and shows off his or her costume, it’s all worth it.
We need to remember that each one of the yomim tovim holds special memories for our children. They remember dipping the apple in the honey on Rosh Hashanah, lighting the menorah on Chanukah, and, yes, going to their friends and giving mishloach manos on Purim. I’ve asked a few boys about the class gatherings over the past years, and they don’t have such great memories of the experience. It’s the whole class together—nothing original, nothing memorable. Instead of remembering the excitement of giving mishloach manos, they remember having class gatherings to share candy.
I’m sure many parents will disagree with this, and that’s fine. The important thing is that you make sure your child has an unforgettable Purim for all the right reasons. Take your kids to visit their rebbeim and teachers and bring them to the rav. Purim shouldn’t only be about getting candy; it should be about giving to others and the excitement of being a Jew.
I would like to add one point to this article. I was at a wedding recently of a yeshiva bachur who was in his early twenties. I was astonished at how many of his friends were at the bar, and I’m quite sure that they weren’t getting Diet Cokes. Drinking is a serious issue, and I wonder what the yeshivos are doing to combat this.
When I was a teenager, I was told by a rebbe, “Alcohol can kill! You need to be careful and limit yourself! That being said, you’re all invited to my house on Purim and there will be plenty of alcohol.” Over the years, I drank irresponsibly at so many of the rebbeim’s houses. Looking back, I can’t believe my parents didn’t call the police.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that allowing someone under age 21 to drink alcohol on your property is illegal. Furthermore, alcohol can seriously injure or worse, chas v’shalom. I wish every yeshiva instituted a zero-tolerance policy on drinking. Until then, every parent should closely monitor where their children will be on Purim. Additionally, parents should make clear to their children (as well as to the rebbeim) that drinking will not be tolerated. If you’re worried about fulfilling the mitzvah, I can introduce you to many rabbanim who will list alternative concepts.
Have a Freilchin Purim!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.