There are people for whom Purim is a nightmare. Everyone else is dancing and they just want to close the windows, lock the door and wait in the darkness until it’s over already.
We will pay them a visit, come into their homes, those families that suffer all year long. We will turn on the lights and play Purim music, make them happy and put a smile on their faces that will last a long time.
We will come with our shalach manos, with a respectable donation that will be sufficient not just for Purim.
So every single Jew will be happy on this day…
Adar of last year was the saddest Orit ever had.
The happy Purim songs burst out from the plaza of the school building, flood the street and penetrate the little windows of the senior living home. Orit hears the Mi… shenichnas… Adar… and imagines how her friends are dancing now with energy and joy.
These childish dances don’t interest her at all.
She climbs up to the second floor. Ima is in the activity room as she usually is at this time, hanging loosely in a wheelchair and gluing colorful pearls onto a picture. Her hands tremble, the can with the pearls gets pushed to the side and dozens of pearls scatter under the tables and wheelchairs.
“Oy”… Ima says with a heavy voice. “Everything… fell…”
The activity counselor of the senior living home hurries over. “It’s okay, Tzippy, we will pick everything up. Show me what you did so far.” she leans over the partially completed picture and caresses Ima’s hand. “It looks great! Marvelous!”
Orit wants to cry, to run away quickly before the tears escape. Orit presses a kiss on Ima’s loose cheeks and runs away from this terrible place.
Purim songs are still coming out of the school building. Her friends are surely dancing, thinking that life is a party. What do they know about a young mother who is suddenly degenerating? A mother for whom no cure has been found and who lives in a senior living home like an elderly woman? What do they understand about being the oldest girl in the family and taking care of younger siblings who are falling apart one after another from all the stress and pain?
Orit runs home. She goes dazedly past costumed children and shop windows displaying beautifully crafted shalach manos. She opens the door of their apartment, and no pot of soup is waiting for her, a strong odor is coming out the bathroom, piles of laundry are almost sliding down to the neighbors, and Abba is still sleeping since last night.
Abba sleeps for weeks and weeks with a severe clinical depression. He doesn’t function and doesn’t get out of bed, and when his condition reaches a dangerous stage there is no other alternative than to hospitalize him.
The children are divided up between foster families. The ground gets pulled out from under their feet. Abba and Ima are sinking, and they are left alone, crying out for help. The approaching Purim and all the happy tumult around them doesn’t put a smile on their faces at all. Their distress screams out to Heaven.
Besides the meals, warmth and attention they receive from the foster families, these children need professional emotional assistance. Someone to unburden their pain to, to pour out rivers of pent-up tears… and we will be the ones to facilitate this!
Purim of 5781 was very sad for them, but this Purim will be happy – thanks to us! We will join with Orit and her siblings in the simcha circle. We will give to them with all our hearts, with love!
Ben-Tzion’s children were also abandoned suddenly. Five little children aged nine and under, whose mother got up one day and disappeared.
She left behind piles of dirty laundry, leftover food in the fridge, a request for language therapy for one of the children, a crying baby who is dependent on his mother… All attempts to reach her are unsuccessful, no one knows if she is abroad or in Israel.
Ben-Tzion was left with five little children and paralyzing shock. The first two days he was walking around, dazed. The children ate what they found, the oldest filled up bottles of cold milk for the youngest, and they fell asleep in their clothes on their beds.
Afterwards, when the neighbors heard about the tragedy, cooked meals started to flow in daily. One neighbor comes in to bathe the children, to comb out their lice. Another takes the dirty laundry home and returns it ironed and fragrant, and a third neighbor sits with one of the girls to help her with her homework.
It sounds unreal. Even Vaad Harabbanim, which is unfortunately used to hearing tragedies, had a hard time digesting this story. How can a mother just disappear like that and ignore the children she gave birth to? How can she have no compassion for her two-year-old baby who screams at night and looks for her? How can she not even call?
But those are the facts.
Adar comes, and the children need costumes. The home doesn’t have a dollar anyway, there is no daily routine or schedule, everything is catastrophically upside down, the children are falling apart and Ben-Tzion doesn’t know what to do with himself…
Look the child in the eye – the child whose mother left him. See the abandonment, the shame, the anxiety. How much are you willing to invest to make him happy? How much is one smile of a Jewish child on Purim worth to you?
The envelope of Vaad Harabbanim will come to them, too. Also there, we will be the good angels who give some strength to cope. Ability to grow, despite it all….
Zevulun shudders. He turns off the engine of the minibus, leaves the driver’s seat and runs to the child who is generously giving out sweet, sticky hot chocolate to his friends. The bottle is being passed from hand to hand, spraying hot drops that are getting absorbed deeply into the expensive upholstery of his tourist minibus.
The fancy LED lighting reflects off the dark glass of the windows and highlights all the little handprints on them. The velvet drapes that match the upholstery are already wrinkled and a little frayed at the edges.
Ribono shel Olam, since when do energetic young yeshivah students travel to school in an exclusive tourist minibus?
When he sits back down at the wheel, his cellphone rings. “Zevulun,” it’s his wife Gilah, “I am in the supermarket and the credit card is not being approved. Could you come here to give me your credit card?”
“No!” he yells and stops himself immediately. “I am at work, Gilah. Sorry. Don’t buy anything right now.”
“But it’s Thursday alrea…”
He doesn’t hear the rest. He can’t hear it. He is already terribly pressured and the children’s chatter is grating on his nerves.
Until COVID hit, Zevulun made a decent living from driving tourists on trips around Eretz Yisrael. But now, where can you even find tourists?
During the first period, he got by with the various allowances and support for the self-employed from the Israeli government. After that he tried to use his fancy minibus to drive school children, but he understood very fast that the damage is worth more than what he makes.
He ended up staying at home depressed and broken. The children tiptoe around him, try not to make noise, not to ask for things and not to bother him, because Abba is very irritable. His wife tries to manage life without spending money, but after many years of living comfortably, financially she has no idea how to do it. They scrimp more and more and more and still finish each month deeply in the red.
What will Purim be like for them? Without beautiful mishloach manot like they are used to, without a lavish festive meal and without fancy costumes… Gilah suggests they take another loan but Zevulun gets upset just hearing the idea. We already have a million loans! No bank will approve another one!
“Maybe we should ask for matanot l’evyonim…” she dares to say quietly, and sheds tears as she remembers the dozens of tzedakah requesters who would come to them every Purim. “This year we are the true evyonim…”
They already see the light at the end of the tunnel. The business is starting to pick up little by little. But until it happens – we will support them! We will hold their hand through this tough wave, see to it that this Purim, too, will be a happy one for them!
People are sitting around the nicely-set tables and helping themselves to rolls and salads and mushroom blintzes. Every bite they eat takes oxygen away from her. Every piece of chicken and square of cake from the smorgasbord squeezes her lungs out more and more. They are drowning her more and more and more.
Alizah wakes up covered with sweat. All the pressures of the day drained off once more and appeared in nightmares.
The room is dark. Avraham’s bed, zichrono livrachah, is piled up with housewares for the young couple. A faint scent of flowers wafts in from the living room, and tomorrow, b’ezras Hashem, she will go with Avigail and Leah to take a look at Gemach basements that have wedding dresses.
Shimi doesn’t need a matrimonial dress, but a suit for a chasan is not cheap either. It’s going to cost a few hundred dollars…
You were just dreaming! Alizah says to herself. It will be okay; you need to be happy! You waited for this moment for so many years, and here it is, you merited having three weddings at once!
She doesn’t succeed in being happy. She is a lonely widow. Avraham her late husband left an inheritance of debts that she just finished paying off recently, and now she needs to organize three weddings…
A down payment at the wedding hall x 3. Invitations x 3. A photographer x 3. Towels x 3. Clothes. House supplies. Linen. Band. Shoes. Wedding dress. Alizah takes out her credit card again and again, divides it up into as many payments as possible, and knows she can’t cover the charge coming in on the 10th.
Purim is around the corner. They are supposed to send respectable shalach manos to the mechutanim, and Alizah doesn’t even dare think about it. Her credit line is totally used up, her children already used whatever savings they had over the last few years.
Three weddings of orphans could be such a happy thing, but the poverty is choking her and doesn’t leave room for anything. Instead of dancing in joy, will she drown in debts?