One of the customs associated with that day is giving shalach manos, presents of food, to our friends and acquaintances. Each year, I hear different stories of how shalach manos set off a chain reaction. For example, one of my business associates gives out shalach manos to his clients for Purim and matzos for Pesach. Last year, when he brought one of his clients the matzos, the client told him: “You wouldn’t know it, but thanks to you, we make kiddush every Friday night.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you sent us a very nice Purim basket. One of the things in it was an attractive wine flask. It was so striking that we decided to keep it on the dining room table. On Friday evening, our younger daughter suddenly said, ‘Let’s make kiddush like grandpa does. Here, there’s already wine on the table.’ Well, we did, and we’ve continued to do so every week.”

Or there’s another one who gives out his shalach manos a day early because he doesn’t go into the office on the holiday. So one of his clients comes home with the package and his son asks him what it is. He explains and soon the child has his mother baking cookies so that he can give out shalach manos to all his friends.

And it didn’t stop there. After he gave out the cookies, his friends wanted to know why he was doing this and soon he had ten kids gathered around his mother and she was telling them the story of Purim.

Or there is the secretary who always shares her morning coffee break with two friends. Well on Purim, one didn’t show up, because she was “down.” So the secretary took the Purim basket that her boss had given her and ran to give it to her friend to cheer her up.


The names of Jewish holidays are of substance, each one expressing the theme of the holiday. In that context, the name Purim is significant, because it is not even a Jewish word. Instead, it is the Persian term for “lot.” Moreover, the casting of the lots was performed by Haman with the intent of destroying the Jewish people. That is hardly a matter to eternalize in the name of a holiday.

On the other hand, mystically, the name Purim is understood to reflect extremely high spiritual energies. Indeed, the Hebrew name for Yom Kippur is Yom Kippurim which can be rendered as “a day like Purim.” In other words, the holiest day of the Jewish year is almost as important a day as Purim.

The name also points to another connecting point between Yom Kippur and Purim. For on Yom Kippur, lots were also cast. This was the means used to determine which goat would be sacrificed to G‑d and which would be the scapegoat sent to Azazel.

Why are lots cast? When a decision is not being made intellectually. When we know what to do, we do it. There are times, however, when we do not know what to do and then we cast lots.

Most of the time, this is a lower level than acting rationally. It’s just there is no other alternative. But there is also a higher level of not knowing, one that transcends knowledge. As the sages of the Kabbalah would say: “The ultimate of knowledge is not to know.” Because knowledge can grasp only what is defined and limited and G‑d as He is in His essence cannot be grasped or comprehended. It is through not knowing that we connect to Him on that level.

For that reason, when the Jews accepted the Torah, they said: “We will do and we will listen,” making a commitment to act before they knew what G‑d would command them to do. In that way, they stepped beyond their minds and committed themselves to G‑d in His essence.

Our Sages say that what the Jews began at Sinai, they completed on Purim. Just as at Sinai, they made a commitment that transcended intellect, so too, in the time leading up to the Purim miracle, they committed themselves entirely, with no restraints, above the limits of their minds.

On this basis, we can understand our Sages’ statement: “A person is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim to the extent that he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’” Every year on Purim, we make a commitment that is unlimited by our intellect.

And this unlimited commitment connects us to the essence of G‑d. Now there is nothing, no matter how far-removed from G‑dliness, even Haman, that the essence of G‑d does not relate to. And so we call the holiday Purim, to emphasize the lottery, an approach of not-knowing, and use the Persian term. Our intent is to bring the influence of the holiday down to the lowest levels of worldly existence and transform them into holiness.

Looking to the Horizon

Our Sages teach that in the ultimate future: “All the festivals will be nullified with the exception of Purim and Chanukah.” Our Rabbis explain that the intent is not that we will cease observing the other holidays, but that they will no longer stand out as prominent days.

Why are the holiday’s special days? Because in the present condition of the world, G‑dliness is hidden. As such, on the festivals, when a greater than ordinary dimension of revelation is manifest, they stand out.

In the era of Redemption, by contrast, the revelation of G‑dliness will be an ongoing aspect of existence. Then the festivals will not be unique. They will be observed and all their laws will be kept; but the spiritual nature of the days will not stand out as special in comparison to the constant revelation that will characterize that era.

This is not true in regard to Purim. Even within the setting of revealed G‑dliness that will characterize the era of Redemption, Purim will be special. Not only will we observe the laws of the holiday, its unique spiritual significance will stand out prominently. For as stated above, Purim connects us to the essence of G‑d. Therefore even in the era of Mashiach, it will stand out as a special day.

Our Sages did not teach us about this unique quality of Purim only to inform us about what will take place in the future. Instead, this knowledge gives us the ability to celebrate the holiday with more energy and vitality at present.