Mishloach manot: Celebrating Purim during a pandemic

Photo of gift baskets
Yoninah/Creative Commons
Yoninah, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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As a Jewish person, I was super excited to make “mishloach manot,” gift baskets of food and drink given to family, friends and anyone else during the holiday of Purim. Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people faced persecution and threat of death, but were saved by the bravery of a member of their community, Esther (if you know the story of Esther, this is that story!). The idea behind mishloach manot is that you ensure everyone has a way to celebrate the holiday of Purim by giving them food and drinks. Even if you don’t celebrate Purim, the beginning of midterm season is a great time to give back to your community and show your friends that you appreciate them. Here’s my process of making mishloach manot to show my friends how much I appreciate them for the rest of the year!

Why I decided to make mishloach manot

This is the first year I’ve actually made mishloach manot myself! In the past, I’ve received mishloach manot packages from my home synagogue, but I’ve never thought to make them myself before. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of the past year, I haven’t been able to see a lot of my friends. One of the activities I especially miss is being able to get together with friends for Jewish holidays and for the weekly Sabbath meal on Shabbat. Because I haven’t been able to do that, this felt like a good time to do a little more giving than I normally do. Everyone’s feeling the strain of midterm season and the pandemic, and being able to bring a little gift to some friends is a great way to show appreciation when you can’t physically spend time with them. 

Selecting the items

Traditionally, mishloach manot are filled with goodies that don’t require any difficult preparation in order to enjoy them: things such as dried fruit, packaged chips or snacks, bottled drinks and especially hamantaschen, a traditional Purim cookie. Regardless, people put lots of different things in mishloach manot, including small trinkets or cards or anything else that would make your friend smile. When I was preparing my mishloach manot, I put boxes of raisins, packs of popcorn, homemade hamantaschen, packets of tea and a little card with a message to my friends.

Creating and delivering mishloach manot

Once I got all the supplies I needed, I grabbed some paper bags and put everything inside! Though I didn’t end up doing this, it would be super fun to decorate the containers to make them extra special. A big consideration of mine was how many mishloach manot to make. I’m definitely not made of money, and it also takes a lot of time to put everything together. I ended up focusing on giving mishloach manot to the people I live with, and to friends that I’ve celebrated Purim with in the past. On Purim, I’ll collect everything in a large bag or box and walk around Berkeley to drop off my mishloach manot to a few friends. I’m super excited to wish a happy Purim to some friends I haven’t seen in a while, even if it’s just through a COVID-safe handoff.

Other ways to give back

Making mishloach manot is not the only way to give back. If you don’t have the time to make a basket, you can buy your friend a coffee or send a card. I love that celebrating Purim reminded me to send my friends some appreciation, but this whole year has been hard, and there’s no reason not to continuously give little gifts to friends who are struggling with midterms or going through a tough time. Sometimes, even just sending a meaningful text or phone call checking in on someone can be as important as giving them a physical gift. 

Giving back to people other than friends

Another important part of celebrating Purim that I really enjoy is the tradition of giving back to people in need. On Purim, you’re supposed to give charitable donations or food to people that can’t afford these things. You don’t have to just give back to friends, you can give to people you don’t know at all. This is a great practice to be reminded of during Purim, and a good thing to continue year round if you’re able.

I love showing my friends that I appreciate them, but I don’t always make the time. Purim is a great time to give gifts to friends and family, and it can motivate you to show the appreciation that you feel. Happy Purim!

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].

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