The letter reads:
One of the nicest traditions on Purim is giving the gift of food to friends. This is called a "Mishloach Manot" (Mish-LO-ach MaNOTE) - the sending of gifts. According to Jewish law, one should give a gift of two different types of food to at least one person. This law is described in the Book of Esther (9:22) as part of the proper celebration of Purim. The giving of gifts to one another helps to create a feeling of community closeness and hope at a time of year when we are still burdened with the bleakness of winter. There is a rabbinic teaching that we should not only give gifts to friends, but to someone who is new in the community, to those who are needy, and to those whose spirits would be bolstered by knowing that someone cares.
That last line in particular, whose spirits wouldn't be bolstered by knowing that someone cares?
Christianity and Judaism are very closely tied, however the tradition of Purim disappeared as we took on new traditions. In the religions calendars, Purim seems most closely tied to Mardi Gras or Carnival. Included in Purim celebrations is wearing costumes and partying. What I really like is the Purim celebrations include reading from the book of Esther and booing when the bad guy's (Haman) name is mentioned and cheering for Mordecai (Esther's cousin who encouraged her to stand up to Haman) and Esther. Hearing this reminded me of the children's plays I would take Ashley to at Hopewell's Off-Broadstreet Theatre, but without the thunderstorm Bob Thicke would always include.
A small Purim fact that has stuck with me ever since my friend Dave shared it with me:
What I find interesting about the Purim story is that megillah (the book) lists Ethioia as one of the countries where the word went out to fast to give Esther strength, but Ethiopia is not listed in the countries where it says the word went out that they were successful (in stopping Haman) and then when it was found that Ethiopian Jews were still practicing it as a fast.
In any case, receiving the basket was even more special to me because I had only heard about the tradition for the first time a week earlier when I attended a Rosh Chodesh meeting at our local synagogue, which meets in my church. Rosh Chodesh means the first day of the Jewish month, as marked by the new moon. An ancient tradition that disappeared for a long time only to come back within the past 50 years is that on Rosh Chodesh the women have a day off (who needs International Women's Day only once a year, when you can have this 12-13 times a year) from their daily work because they refused to give their gold earrings because Aaron ordered their husbands to part with their gold in order to build a golden calf (which obviously is wrong). Since the women were right in the long run, they are given a day off from sewing, spinning, and weaving (skills used to help build the Tabernacle).
Don and Ashley are enjoying the treats. I am glowing in the sentiment. The box is filled with Israeli sweets, including homemade Hamantashen (tri-cornered cookies in the shape of Haman's pocket, though there is other possible symbolism). The chocolate one was particularly tasty.
Thank you Nancy and Peggy for thinking of us and including us in your tradition.