The Talmud tells us that “when the month of Adar arrives, we increase in joy”.
This joy is clearly celebrated throughout Israel, especially on the holiday of Purim, when the country turns in to one big celebration with parties, Megeillah readings, feasts, parades, and spreading of joy. On Purim we are commanded to do four Mitzvot: hearing the Megilat Esther, enjoying a festive feast, sending Misloach Manot (gifts of food to friends), and Matanot LaEvyonim
(gifts to the needy).
The first three of these Mitzvot are widely celebrated and practiced in all sectors of Israeli society. Megillah readings are held throughout the country, family and friends gather together for Purim celebrations and readymade Misloach Manot are available in stores all over Israel.
It seems, however, that Israel’s cultural celebration of Purim forgets the last, and perhaps the most important, Mitzvah - Matanot LaEvyonim. On this day of joy and celebration, perhaps it is easy to forget those less fortunate then ourselves, which is why this Mitzvah holds such importance. When we are commanded to turn grief into joy, we must not only think of ourselvces, but of those who’s grief is unimaginable to us.
This Purim in Israel Matanot LaEvyonim holds a strong importance. There are nearly 38,000 Asylum Seekers facing forced deportation from Israel. At the end of last month the IMPJ released a position paper calling on the Government of Israel to withdraw from its present decision to deport Asylum Seekers to African countries while reaffirming Israel's right as a sovereign democracy to decide on its immigration policies. Last week we called on our Rabbis, congregations, and members to devote Shabbat Mispahtim and all Shabbatot this month to the discussion on this crucial issue, including planning on how to help. In the spirit of Matanot LaEvyonim let us all join together and stand up for those less fortunate for us, for the stranger in our land, as we are told in Exodus 22:20: “And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."
During this month of Joy, let us help and spread joy to all those who seek refuge. Let us peruse a proper and proportionate plan consistent with Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state; with the sensitivity of Jewish tradition to the stranger and the refugee; and in accord with international law.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv