Monday, March 01, 2010

In Lieu of….

Guest Post

The following was submitted by an individual in Chicago whose opinions I value. She wanted to share her thoughts with my readers on an issue that she feels has gone mostly unaddressed and therefore gone awry in recent years. I agree with her and have decided to post her words as a guest post. By request she will remain anonymous.

Without exaggeration, I believe we received over 40 cards this year, all with the title , “in lieu of…” and continued with similar verbiage about how instead of giving Misheloach Manos this year, “a donation has been made in your honor” to the fund of this, that, and the other. I believe that everything from planting trees in Israel to some of our favorite institutions were supported this Purim “in lieu of” giving us Misheloach Manos.

Please understand, this is not about candy and cookies. We were fully endowed this year by our friends and families as usual. This is about, when did Purim become the holiday of giving Tzedakah to anyone else other than Matanos Levyonim? Why are we giving away thousands of dollars to anyone else other than Aniyim on Purim?

Don’t mistake me. I’m all for giving Tzedakah. But if you want to support your favorite yeshiva, be a sponsor at this year’s dinner. If you want to plant trees in Israel, do so on behalf of someone’s Simcha.

The only money that should be given out as Tzedakah on Purim is Matanos L’Evyonim and preferably Aneyei Ircha. I know it sounds almost blasphemous. For years, Yeshivos have had a Minhag of sending Bochrim all over the US to do put on Purim shtick and collect for their Yeshivos. Some might even say its part of Simchas Purim… a long standing Minhag…etc.

But I think we need to take a step back to remember that the Mitzvah of giving Tzedakah on Purim IS Matanos L’Evyonim. Similarly, our obligation to give Tzedakah on Pesach is to give Maos Chitim. Why don’t we see Bochurim doing a song a dance to collect for their Yeshivos on Erev Pesach? Because it’s preposterous. And has no place. And should not have a place on Purim either.

Knowing this, in Chicago last year, a group of men got together and realized that likely over $1,000,0000 was leaving Chicago each year on Purim. They estimated that 90% of those funds were given to institutions outside the community. They felt, and rightly so, that this was completely unacceptable. There were record numbers of families in our own community who could not put food on their tables.

They asked the community to take on a pledge to give 80% of the funds that people intended to distribute on Purim to what they called “The Purim Fund, ” a fund which was established to go directly to Aniyim here in Chicago. Last year they raised $75,000. The money was given to the Rabbonim of participating shuls in town and given directly to Anyimin in the shuls.

This year, they raised over $100,000. And next year, they hope the numbers go up even more.

Please note that I’m not advocating that people stop giving Misheloach Manos. Or stop having Simchas purim. Im simply advocating for the Mitzvah of Tzedakah the way it was originally intended.