By Larry Gordon

Not so long ago, PPP meant Payroll Protection Program which was a way to get the U.S. government to pay businesses to not furlough their employees during the pandemic so the country wouldn’t come undone during an unprecedented crisis.

The current PPP—Pre-Purim Preparation—that we are dealing with is arguably more interesting and enjoyable. For the last many years, people who prepare shalach manos, for example, have been using the camaraderie-establishing good deed as a way of also communicating a message above and beyond the desire to fulfill the mitzvah.

Aside from communicating a message—sometimes of a political nature, if the situation calls for it (as it might this year)—there are more common observations or themes conveyed through shalach manos.

For example, there is Shabbos, which is an essential dimension of our lives and a theme we might enjoy utilizing as a way of expressing the oft-used sentiment of “Good Shabbos.” That usually includes a bottle of wine, challah, and so on.

Over the last several decades, my wife, Esta, has come up with a series of creative and thematic shalach manos presentations. My responsibility in the past was usually to write a poem to solidify the message our assembled package was attempting to convey.

Preparing these ideas and items for Purim used to be a very big deal here. Don’t misunderstand—it is still a big deal but the volume has decreased to an extent, mostly by choice.

There was a time here when Esta was busy working on shalach manos for at least two weeks before the chag. First we had to prepare our own presentation packages and then we had to do kid-size packages that the children wanted to bring to their friends. The entire enterprise was quite an avodah. It was exhausting—not so much for me—and then there was the matter of dividing everything up and finding the right place in the closets and cupboards to put everything away the day after Purim.

Once upon a time shalach manos was a simple matter but still an important and beautiful mitzvah. My mother went through the same drill, though it was much more simplified. My parents’ shalach manos amounted to—as far as I can recollect—a whole pineapple along with some cake or cookies on a nice paper plate sometimes covered or wrapped with colorful cellophane in order to enhance its attractiveness.

For my part, for many years I knocked myself out on Purim day ferrying the kids around to their friends, rebbeim, and teachers to deliver shalach manos. Then there was the segment of the day where I drove some of the children around to deliver the baskets to our friends and neighbors.

Frankly, I don’t remember my father doing that at all. Other than to their immediate family, such as their parents and siblings, my parents only gave shalach manos to those who brought them shalach manos. That meant they did not have to traverse the neighborhood but just sent back the neatly put together packages with whoever delivered the baskets or plates coming my parents’ way.

Of course, there is a much easier way to deliver shalach manos, and very often to get that done all you need is a cellphone and the correct addresses of your relatives and friends. But while those elaborately assembled, well-wrapped gift baskets are impressive and express the fact that people are thinking about you, they lack the personal touch and whatever else comes along with the effort to put these things together.

Exchanging these food packages is an important element of the Purim celebration but we cannot overlook the other essential aspects of the chag, which includes reading the story of Esther and Mordechai in the Megillah and the all-important mitzvah of matanos l’evyonim.

Some of the noted philanthropists in communities around the world distribute more charity on Purim than on any other single day of the year. In some places there are lines of people waiting for an audience with those who are casually referred to as “big givers,” and many know that it is worth the wait.

I know a few people who live in Israel who have not been with their families on Purim for many years (except during COVID). That is, it’s well worth it for them to be here in New York or other parts of the U.S. than at home for Purim.

I know one such person who is waiting for one of his children to have a baby, and if it is a boy he will have to fly back to Israel for the bris. I asked him about the shalom zachar and he told me that he has discussed it with the family and they will have to reserve decision-making depending on the timing. I said to him that I think he’s hoping it’s a girl, but he just looked straight at me, not displaying any favoritism on the matter.

The yeshiva boys gallivanting in stretch limos from home to home took a hit during the pandemic, and preceding that there were issues about offering underage people alcoholic beverages, which potentially spirals to create another series of problems.

So homeowners are now much more careful than they once were about offering wine or whiskey to people without ID, who are driving, or who may be underage. It’s advisable to not offer any liquor or wine to anyone. If they’re thirsty let them drink a Diet Coke. Or water.

Over the years I’ve written many poems to accompany our shalach manos each year. Here’s one as an example. It may not be the best I’ve written but it’s one I was able to find, so here it is.


Whether it’s the one of life or to the city we all take the train

Early morning, afternoon, through the sun or in the rain

It’s a livelihood and a life that we are endeavoring to sow

All the while seeking to both materially and spiritually grow

It’s a long year filled with joy, anguish, as well as great need

With calls to donate, assist, and reach out as well as feed

A time to stand in contemplation and quietly invoke life’s balm

To beseech and implore our Father in Heaven with poetic psalm

We anticipate Purim but never seem ready for the baskets we cram

As we labor to fill them with unique things like chocolate, wine, and jam.

This yom tov seems to be the antidote to all of Israel’s historic tough times

Which for one day dissolves into nothingness similar to these rhymes.

Our gift and hope for you and yours is that all good things be spread

With ease and flair that one uses to distribute jelly on bread

If only every day can be like this, to meet, exchange greetings, and wish

And then as the day dissolves into the past, sit down and enjoy a favorite dish

Thankfully, the essence of Purim is absolute, limitless, and unbridled joy

Leave it to the rest of the year to be quiet, reserved, and at times a little coy

It is time to share with family and friends, a little “shivered” filled with booze

As we pay tribute to Mordechai and Esther, two outstanding, really great Jews

Through the thicket of the day as we jump, sing, and pray with feeling

For all good things including peace as well those who need healing

It’s a day on which reality is not what it looks like or really seemed

And may it herald the era that brings all of us power to be redeemed.

Happy Purim.

Anyway, I see I wrote that back in 2006. There’s a plethora of those poems sitting around in a file. Just for the record, sometimes the items and foods that Esta would like to place in the shalach manos arrive here way before the idea for the poem or the first words are formulated.

A few days ago she came home with bags of dried fruit chips from a company called “B’fruitful.” When I saw that I suggested that we buy some small calculators and write a poem around the theme of “Be fruitful and multiply.”

That is still in the ideation stage. I’m working on the poem.

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