Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld Speaking Torah: “You may not turn your back and say amen”
Note: This message was originally distributed on March. 8th, 2017 to the Hebrew College community, alumni and friends.
One of my favorite practices on Purim is the mitzvah of mishloach manot — delivering gifts of food to friends and neighbors. Rabbi David Hartman relates this mitzvah to the fact that the Book of Esther, which we read on Purim, does not mention the name of God. Purim speaks to all those times and places in which it is difficult to discern the presence of the divine in our world. For Hartman, the obligations of Purim teach us that the religious response to the hiddenness of God is radical human responsibility. What do we do when we can’t see God’s face? We turn our faces toward each other, we take care of each other — by delivering gifts of food to friends (mishloach manot) and by giving tzedakah to the poor (matanot la’evyonim).
Why don’t we say a blessing over the mitzvah of mishloach manot? According to the Seridei Esh, R. Yaakov Yechiel Weinberg, the mitzvah of mishloach manot is intended to increase peace, love and friendship in the world— and as such, it is a mitzvah t’midit – a perpetual mitzvah that is incumbent upon us at all times and has no break. It is a mitzvah we can never say we have fulfilled, a mitzvah over which we can never say amen.
I hope you enjoy this week’s selections below — including a profound teaching by Rabbi Ebn Leader on the mystical significance of Shabbat Zachor and a video clip from Uncharted Journeys: Women Rabbis and the Transformation of Jewish Life. As a bonus, I am also pleased to share this link to a beautiful reflection by rabbinical student Josh Weisman on learning from women teachers of Torah — it’s particularly timely today as we celebrate International Women’s Day.