Rabbi Grossman, Head of School

There are four mitzvot, four commandments that we are required to perform on Purim: Listening to the reading of the Megillah, partaking of a festive meal, sending gifts of food to friends, and giving alms to the poor.  Though these requirements seem unrelated, there is a common thread that runs throughout: all of these mitzvot are fulfilled with others.  Purim, the happiest of Jewish holidays, is a holiday that cannot be celebrated alone, because happiness is tied to community and communion.

The Megillah should be read with the largest audience possible, minimally in a minyan, a quorum of ten.  Mishloach manot, gifts of food, must be exchanged between people, and we must seek out the poor in order to fulfill matanot l’evyonim, the requirement to give charity that is specific to Purim.  The seudah, the Purim meal, should not be taken alone. 

We live in a time of increasing solitude.  Children (and adults) spend more time alone today than in past generations owing primarily to technology and devices that allow us to isolate ourselves with our screens; they obviate the need for companionship in order to be amused, educated or entertained.  Purim reminds us that true joy can only be experienced in the company of others.  At Akiva we speak always of the value of family and community as core to our mission and culture.  We look to community and family as means of support and comfort; Purim reminds us that being part of a collective is also the key to happiness.

Rabbi Grossman, his kindergarten stormtroopers and mini Darth Vader.

The mitzvot of Purim inspire happiness in other ways as well.  Giving to others, through charity and gifts, is a proven source of uplift.  Giving is a joy for the recipient—we all like to receive—and it is also a source of pride for the giver, who feels the sense of esteem and honour in the ability to help others.  Seudah, eating together, is a timeless vehicle for friendship and pleasure.  Just as we as a society are spending more time alone in front of our computers, our modern work and social schedule have resulted in fewer family meals.  Celebratory feasts such as the Purim seudah are reminders of the delight of sharing a dinner with loved ones and acquaintances.  And even though Akiva has a “no sharing” rule for food in the school, our unique lunch arrangement, where our children eat together in a warm classroom environment rather than in an institutional mess hall, helps our students experience the delight of breaking bread together.

I wish the entire Akiva community a joyful Purim filled with the company of friends and family, the joy of giving, and the happiness of sharing food and time together.

Chag Purim sameach