(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A municipal chief rabbi is speaking out against one of the time-honored customs of the upcoming Purim holiday.
A key part of the celebrations is mishloach manot, sending friends and relatives food parcels generally containing overwhelmingly sticky and unbearably sweet candies and chocolates which are, for the most part, devoured by sugar- happy children. To the dismay of dentists, however, Rabbi Ephraim Zalmanovitz, municipal chief rabbi of Mazkeret Batya, is recommending that the public refrain from such largesse this year.
Zalmanovitz has called on the residents of his city – and the wider community – to reduce the amount they spend on mishloach manot to the minimum necessary and instead increase the amount of money they give in donations to charitable causes on Purim – a practice known as matanot la’evyonim, literally gifts to the poor.
“In our permissive and competitive times, the custom to send fantastic baskets full of candies to as many people as possible has taken hold, particularly amongst those observant of the mitzvot,” said Zalmanovitz. “The person is saying ‘Look how rich I am, giving so generously to others.’ The custom has become an uncontrollable competition and extravagance is celebrated.”
He also noted that most of the sweets are not kosher for Passover and are usually thrown away before the holiday, which is celebrated just one month later.
Zalmanovitz also took the opportunity to have a swipe at the haredi community’s bete noir Yesh Atid chairman and former finance minister Yair Lapid.
“It is especially pertinent to halt this bad custom in current times, in which [former] finance minister Yair Lapid has failed in his attempt to fulfill his promise to improve the income of the middle class, while at the same time succeeding in raising the cost of living, and housing prices continue to rise,” Zalmanovitz observed, despite the fact that state-paid rabbis are forbidden by law from making political speeches or engaging in political activity.
The rabbi added that Jewish law requires one to send merely two ready-to-eat items of food to one person to fulfill their obligation in regard to mishloach manot.
“It is therefore important to reduce the money spent on mishloach manot to the minimum possible, as the arbiters of Jewish law have ruled, and redirect the money saved to make increased donations to charity, for those who can afford to do so,” he said, noting that the most important aspect of giving on Purim was to those in need.