Best Gifts for Purim and Where to Get Them
Based on the story from the book of Esther about the near annihilation of the Jews in the Persian empire, Purim is one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar.
The Story of Purim
As it's written in the Torah, a Persian vizier, Hamman, had been plotting to have all the Jews in his empire killed, putting them into “lots” that would determine when they would be executed.
However, when the Persian emperor Artaxerxes took a Jewish woman named Esther as his wife (though he didn’t know she was Jewish at the time) and found out Hamman’s plan, as well as his wife’s lineage, he had Hamman killed and instituted a law that would allow the Jews across Persia to protect themselves.
An unprecedented declaration of friendship, this was a time for Jews in Persia to rejoice.
Since then, the story has served as an important reminder of the infinite yet sometimes hidden presence of god and is celebrated each year in the month of March as the holiday of Purim, which comes from the Persian word for “lots.”
The Best Gifts for Purim
According to the Torah, there are two mitzvahs to fulfill on Purim: the sending of portions one man to another, and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:22)
This line has morphed over time and made Purim one of the biggest gift-giving holidays on the Jewish calendar.
Today, it is understood that every Jewish person over the age of 13 should send at least two food items, known as Shalach Manot, to someone in their community, and also give two donations to charity.
However, many people go beyond this and use Purim as an opportunity to give to friends, family, neighbors, and more.
Not sure which Purim gifts to give. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Ready Made Food Items
Since it is explicitly mentioned in the Torah, the giving of food to others is paramount to Purim. However, what’s important is that these foods be “ready made,” as in the receiver can consume them without having to do anything.
These gifts are meant to provide a benefit to the lives of others. Leaving your loved ones to cook is seen as bestowing undue hardship upon them and is generally frowned upon.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great options when it comes to ready-made food items, such as:
Gift baskets are a great choice for Purim gifts for a couple of reasons. For one, they usually contain many food items, which helps fulfill the mitzvah of giving at least two food items to one other person. In fact, Purim gift baskets give you the chance to give a whole assortment of different foods, which is always appreciated.
Another reason gift baskets are great is because you can personalize them based on the person to whom you are giving. If they're a chocolate lover, you can send them a basket full of sweets. Or if they prefer saltier items, there’s a basket for those two.
This type of personal touch goes a long way on Purim and will help you give more meaningful gifts.
If you don’t want to give an entire gift basket but still want to give something traditional and delicious, challah bread is a wonderful idea. This braided loaf of sweet bread is made by taking out a portion of the dough and setting it aside for the rabbi. Such an act makes the bread sacred and provides special meaning during a holiday.
Making challah bread can be a difficult task, especially if you’ve never done it before. But you can have ready-to-eat loaves sent directly to your friends, families, and neighbors. An easy way to spread the bounty on Purim.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Because of the roots of the story of Purim — ancient Persia — it is common to eat a lot of Middle Eastern foods during Purim, such as beans, lentils, and stews. Nuts and dried fruit are also a frequent part of Purim. If you know someone who loves nuts and dried fruit, you can send them some tasty snacks, or an entire gift basket for them to enjoy. And since these foods are ready-made, they satisfy the mitzvah.
These triangle shaped pastries are meant to be “Haman’s ears.” Depending on which history you read, this is either a symbol of Hamman’s foolishness as he plotted against the Jews or a representation of the triangular hat that he is said to have worn.
In either case, these delights are very common during Purim celebrations. Send some to your loved ones as your food item. Or, stick them in with a gift basket to make your donation even more delicious.
Although food is the only thing you’re required to give, many people like to go above and beyond during Purim, and one of the ways to do this is by giving the gift of wine.
Purim is not the only holiday where it would be appropriate to give the gift of wine, but wine also plays a more important role in this celebration than in others.
In fact, it is expressly encouraged in the Torah for people to drink heavily during Purim so that they can “blur the lines between God and man” just like in the story of Esther and Hamman.
So, if you know someone who enjoys having a few libations, send them a bottle or two of special wine so that they can celebrate Purim in style.
An integral part of the entire Purim celebration is to recognize the omnipresence of God. Even though we may not always see Him, He is always there, guiding us and helping us along the way, just like he was as Hamman tried to have the Jews in Persia killed.
Therefore, it’s become quite common to dress up in costumes during Purim. Masks meant to look like the three main characters from the Purim story — Esther, Hamman, and Mordechai — are also common.
This is a great gift for children so that they can have some extra fun on the holiday while also learning its important story.
Money to the Poor
Lastly, the other mitzvah involved with Purim is the giving of money to charity. The Torah does not specify how much you should give, but it does say you should give to at least two people or charities.
Give what you can. Every little bit makes a difference and is all in the spirit of Purim. Not sure where to give? Ask at your temple or synagogue. Collections are often being run to help increase the impact of Purim donations.
Chag Purim Sameach!
Although gift giving is an essential part of Purim celebrations, it doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Simple food items and other traditional gifts go a long way towards building the strength of your community and also honoring your faith in God, which are ultimately what’s most important.
Now that you have some ideas of what to give, start spreading the joy. Happy Purim! Or, as they say in Hebrew: chag Purim sameach!