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The Call of Shushan Purim

From the sound of her voice, I could tell she was no longer in the simchah spirit of Purim


AS I sit in my office on Shushan Purim, reviewing the events of the last 24 hours, I appreciate the downtime. It’s a day to take stock and wind down from the frenetic pace of Purim. Once I became a rav, I understood all too well why the name of the Yom Tov of Yom HaKippurim can also be understood as “a day like (=k) Purim.”

The responsibilities of a rav to his kehillah on Yom Kippur are quite daunting. Nevertheless, in certain respects, they don’t come close to the level of intensity and the interpersonal challenges the day of Purim imposes on the rav of a shul.

The beautiful constant flow of people and the necessity to retain a smiling countenance can be a formidable and sometimes strenuous challenge.

The necessity to be directly involved in the collection and distribution of matanos l’evyonim is coupled with the need to constantly remain focused on the dignity and honor of both givers and receivers.

The struggle to recall the names, schools, and grades of the children who cheerfully deliver mishloach manos is demanding and an often elusive and overly ambitious objective.

And the myriad of halachic questions during the day has unique Purim-related aspects.

Questions from people who fell asleep for a moment during the Megillah, or those who are “sure” they didn’t hear the complete multisyllabic and longest word in the Tanach, “veha’achashdarpenim” are the most popular.

One year, as I sat quietly in my office as many were recovering from the Purim festivities, my silent sanctuary was punctuated by the shrill of a ringing phone.

It was Mrs. Friedstein*. From the sound of her voice, I could tell she was no longer in the simchah spirit of Purim.

“Is it too much to ask of my married son to make sure to bring his mother a nice shalach manos? I know he works hard and has many learning sedorim. However, couldn’t his wife, my daughter-in-law, have brought over a simple shalach manos? Is that too much to ask? They live only a 30-minute drive from us!”

All my proposals of possibilities that Mrs. Friedstein should contemplate to give her children (read: daughter-in-law) the benefit of the doubt fell on deaf ears, including, “I’m sure they planned to bring you a shalach manos but had an emergency.”

“What greater emergency exists than to visit your mother on Purim?!”

Thankfully, it was time for Minchah. I informed my irate congregant that I was not minimizing her plight, and would do my due diligence to resolve this crisis.

I arrived at Minchah and spotted Ephraim Friedstein, Mrs. Friedstein’s 11-year-old grandson, with his younger brother. I’m unsure why I did what I did, but after Minchah, I approached the two boys and innocently asked them how their Purim was.

From the discomforting giggles and their smiling looks, I knew I’d hit pay dirt.

“So how was Purim? Did you visit your grandmother?”

The boys looked at each other and then looked at me. And then the story came out.

“Well, we were on our way to visit her, and we had a beautiful shalach manos. But on the way over, we met some other boys, and before we realized what had happened, we all ate the shalach manos. So we never got there!”

I gave them my phone and had them call home with this information. Then, I brought them to my house, and my wife arranged a beautiful Shushan Purim shalach manos for them to bring to their grandmother.

It was already after Maariv when I called back Mrs. Friedstein.

Before I could say a word, she excitedly told me, “Rabbi, I have the most thoughtful daughter-in-law in the world and the best grandchildren a bubby could want….”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1005)

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