By Hannah Berman

Most people have heard of bear hunting season, deer hunting season, duck hunting season, as well as several other hunting seasons. Dates for hunting seasons differ from state to state, but most have a duration of three months. There is, however, a lesser-known hunting season. It is one that does not differ from state to state and it lasts nowhere close to three months. We know it as costume-hunting season. This season is short. It lasts approximately two to three weeks and always begins shortly before Purim.

Unlike animal hunting, which is mainly a male-oriented sport, most fathers are not involved in costume hunting. The responsibility of securing costumes belongs almost exclusively to moms. Babies and toddlers don’t have an opinion. They don’t care what they wear, so a mom will dress them in an outfit of her choice, and it goes without saying that the cuter, the better.

While Purim is a happily celebrated holiday and one that provides much joy, there is a serious component to it as well. We have obligations on Purim. One is to hear megillah reading on the eve of Purim and another reading the next morning. Other obligations are having a seudah, giving to the poor, and giving mishloach manot of two or more ready-to-eat foods to at least one person. Giving to the poor isn’t restricted to Purim; it is something we do all year. But the mitzvah of mishloach manot is strictly for the holiday of Purim.

We normally give those treats to relatives, close friends, and neighbors. Unfortunately, most of us forget about giving to people who are in need of receiving. These are people who are unlikely to receive a package from anyone. Some adults fall into that category, but the real concern is for children. Nothing is sadder than seeing the look on the face of a child who stands by and watches as classmates exchange packages with one another while he is left out. There are always a few children who fall into that category. Even the most sensitive of children often fail to see what is happening and to recognize how painful this is to those youngsters who are on the outside. These might be children who are shy and, because they have a difficult time making friends, are often left out. Or it might be a special-needs child who needs a package. Some children receive very few packages and others receive none at all.

Bear hunting, deer hunting, duck hunting, and costume hunting notwithstanding, it would be a good idea to propose a different type of hunting season. This would be a season not to harm but to help — a season when we hunt for lonely children to alleviate their distress. Chances are that in every grade, classroom, or social group there is at least one lonely child. Making sure that these children are welcomed and included all year long is the optimum, but it is especially essential on Purim.

To quote Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, this is how to go about it: Make a list of all those to whom you want to send mishloach manot, throw it out … and then give to those who didn’t make the list! Think beyond those you know and send to someone new this year.

This is known as a Purim initiative, and we have volunteers — kids and adults — who are happy to deliver. To anyone reading this who has a child who might benefit from visitors bearing treats on a mishloach manot plate, call or text Rina at 516-633-3080 or Helen at 516-659-3226 for more information. All requests are confidential.

That’s the way it is, and, more importantly, that’s the way it should be. Happy Purim to one and all!

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.

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