Family First – or Last?

March 20, 2011 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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This Sunday (20th March) we will celebrate Purim, the happiest day in the Jewish calendar. There are many lessons to be learned from this special day. One of them is the true meaning of kindness and unity.

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

Sometimes the desire to be kind and generous can be selective.  There are some people who become involved in all sorts of communal welfare activities. They spend days and nights volunteering for benevolent causes, caring for widows, orphans and all disadvantaged individuals. They spend hundreds of hours raising funds for a variety of important charity causes.

But sadly, the same people often seem to disappear when it comes to family and close friends. They ignore the needs of their children, spouse and others that are close. They spend very little time playing with their children, helping their spouse or socialising with family friends.

On the other hand, there some good people that are selective the opposite way. These are the model parents, husbands/wives or friends. These are the people who know that family is priority and that charity begins at home. These are the parents who will do homework with their children, spend quality time at home and always help a friend in need.

But when it comes to supporting the general community, sometimes these same individuals are nowhere to be found.   They have no interest in community affairs, welfare causes or institutions that don’t directly affect their personal life.

One of the important lessons learned from the Purim festival is that happiness and joy cannot be experienced alone. To be really happy one must celebrate and share the joy with others. Selfish joy is meaningless. On Purim therefore, before we eat the festive meal, we perform two mitzvahs:

a)      Mishloach Manot – We send two edible foods to a friend

b)      Matanot Laevyonim – We give monetary gifts to at least two poor people.


The purpose of these mitzvahs is to ensure that we include others in our celebration. But it also teaches us that we cannot be selective in our generosity and our sense of unity. True selfless love and benevolence means that we learn to balance the needs of those that are close as well as those who are distant. We show our love for close family and friends by sending them food gifts. But we also reach out to those who we might not even know by donating to those in great need. One without the other cannot achieve the true Purim spirit of joy and unity.

So this Sunday do both mitzvahs, and then sit down to a real festive meal, say Lechaim and experience true joy.


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