The joyous holiday of Purim, celebrating the victory of the Jews over the evil Haman, brings with it the mitzvah (commandment) of mishloach manot, literally, “sending of portions,” is derived from a verse in the Book of Esther:
They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor. Esther 9:22
According to the halakha (Jewish law), every Jew should send a food gift consisting of two different types of food to at least one recipient. This mitzvah can only be fulfilled by giving food. Money or other material items cannot suffice. While the halacha only calls for the giving of two food gifts to one friend, a person who gives mishloach manot to more than one person is called praiseworthy.
This particular mitzvah bears a powerful message relating to the holiday. Haman accused the Jews of being “a scattered, and divided nation” (Esther 3:8). This act of sending food is a message of hearth and home that unifies people on the most basic level. Misholkach manot illustrate that the Jewish people are not divided, but rather that we are united as one large family. We are all together in one land, one house, rich and poor, young and old, and by sending food that can be eaten at the Purim feast, it is as if we are all partaking of the feast together.
Normally a family custom, Rabbi Tuly Weisz transformed this mitzvah into a heartwarming act that brought a spark of joy to IDF lone soldiers.
“These are our sons and daughters who cannot be lighthearted and joyful on Purim,” Rabbi Weisz explained. “Just a few years ago, they were wearing costumes and sitting down to a Purim feast with their families. Now, they are in uniform, protecting Israel. We need to show them that they’re family, all of Israel, is helping them have a real Purim feast while they are guarding the borders.”
To emphasize this point, Israel365 dedicated a center for lone soldiers as a home away from home for young IDF soldiers who have no family in Israel. Lone soldiers are new immigrants, volunteers from abroad, orphans or come from a broken home. Many come from far away to serve in the IDF and it is estimated that there are currently about 7,000 young men and women and as they are highly motivated, about 40% serve in combat units. They have no immediate family in Israel to support them and when on leave, many of them struggle with basic needs that a family would solve. In addition, loneliness is a major problem for many lone soldiers.
Rabbi Weisz explained that the Israel365 Lone Soldier Center serves a specific group of lone soldiers who, in addition to their army duties, are learning in a yeshiva environment where they continue their religious studies in depth.
“The Israel365 Lone Soldier Center is designed to enable them to continue their studies and their prayers despite the special challenges facing them,” Rabbi Weisz said. “They can also hang out, have a meal.”
The Israel365 Lone Soldier Center was dedicated on the holiday with the traditional public reading of the Scroll of Esther, read from a hand-written parchment scroll. Baskets of food were distributed to all of the soldiers, thereby fulfilling the commandment.
“I made it very clear that the Purim baskets were a personal gift from our donors,” Rabbi Weisz said. “This spreads the word, gathering more people together in praising God for saving the Jewish people.”
Rabbi Weisz noted that there was an additional message conveyed by the simple gift of food.
“In the time of King Ahasuerus, the only people who stood against the threat Haman for the Jewish people were Mordechai and Esther,” Rabbi Weisz said. “The baskets graphically showed that, thank God, we are living in a different time when there are a lot of Mordechais and Esthers from outside of Israel who are standing with the Jewish people and supporting the IDF.”