Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5762 - February 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Chinese Cuisine Packs a Purim Punch
A True Purim Story, New York

Last Purim many amazing things happened which I can only attribute to Hashgocho Protis, individual Divine Providence.

First some background. I am fortunate to have a fine Russian woman help me with our family housekeeping. Irina did not only take this job for financial reasons; she also wanted to learn more about keeping a kosher home. At the time, her family wasn't interested, but Irina wanted to know more and felt Hashem would help her the rest of the way. Her bar- mitzva-age son was fairly interested in Judaism but her teenage daughter was definitely not thus inclined.

Last Purim, which was on Friday, I invited Irina and her children to spend the Friday and following Shabbos with us. To my surprise, not only did her son agree, but her daughter Elena decided to come along, too. Early Purim morning, we sped off to shul through the mounds of snow which had fallen the night before. In shul Elena politely refused my offer of a printed megilla, even in English, and seemed detached from the proceedings. When we returned home, she looked bored almost to tears.

As I rushed around finishing preparations for the seuda, I was at a loss. How could I help Elena make a connection to this holiday? I hoped Hashem would show me the way.

With the number of extra guests we had coming, I realized I wouldn't have enough food for the meal. Suddenly, I was inspired. "I'll supplement with some glatt Chinese food, which the teenagers are sure to enjoy." As I was in the midst of ordering, Elena materialized at my elbow, looking at me expectantly.

"Hold on a minute," I said to the person taking my order over the phone.

"Are you ordering Chinese?" Elena exclaimed, eyes shining, excitedly perusing the menu from an ad I had cut out. "Wow! Hey, can you order me won-ton soup? And lo-mein? And beef and broccoli? I love that! And steamed dumplings?" The list went on and on, and so did Elena.

At first I was taken aback. Then I thought, "Isn't this the very mitzva of Purim, to rejoice with food, to really indulge for once? And don't we know that on Purim we're supposed to hand out tzedoka to whoever asks? Whoever stretches out a hand? Purim demands from us a special level of giving, giving without analzying whether a person really needs what they're asking for. I guess that sometimes a person needs things and can't even explain why he needs them. By asking for all of this food, Elena is extending her hand; she is asking for something she wants very much. And that is enough reason for me to give it to her, to make her happy on Purim in her way. She may not connect to the megilla or to shul or to the other aspects of Purim, but I am sure that she will enjoy this seuda all the way, and that's also an important element of the mitzva of Purim."

All this came to me in a flash, and without even missing a beat, I ordered everything she had asked for, down the line. I certainly didn't want the kids squabbling over why there wasn't enough to go all around. I wanted to maintain a very happy, festive atmosphere at our Purim feast. And I succeeded.

At the end of the meal, Elena sighed with bliss and exclaimed, "That was terrific! I had no idea that Chinese food could taste so good without pork!"

With the seuda over, we dashed out to deliver m'shloach monos. As we dropped off the last one and sped home, I heard shattering glass and a loud crunch. I glanced in my rear view mirror. Not 50 feet behind me, two cars had crashed in the intersection I had just crossed. As I prayed for Hashem to help the people in those cars, I also thanked Him for His having spared me such a terrible fate.

Back at home, I quickly readied everything for Shabbos. Then I sank down on the sofa and spoke to Elena. "Today is a special day for prayers, especially for the psalms written by King David, which contain all the wishes a person could want." I told her about the connection between Purim and Yom Kippur and explained why people have the custom of saying Tehillim on Purim. "I am going to pray for a few minutes now. If you would like, you can say this one (I leafed to perek 130) in English and then you can ask Hashem for whatever you need, because He is really close to us and listening right now. He will hear whatever you ask Him. Just open up your heart and tell everything to Hashem."

She took the book from me and earnestly recited that chapter while I said mine. And she and her brother stayed over for the following Shabbos.


A week later, Elena's mother came to me, visibly shaken. "You are not going to believe what happened," Irina said. The night before, Elena had made a startling announcement to her parents. Apparently, she had prayed to G-d the week before for something she wanted very much, and that wish had come true. At the time, she had promised herself that if Hashem really listened, she would commit herself to not eating pork for the rest of her life. And that is what she had openly declared a week later to her mother!

Our Purim seuda had helped, of course. She had seen that food could taste great even without pork and realized that she could really manage without it...

"For the past week," her mother related, still in shock, "she has quietly been avoiding eating any pork. She didn't tell us until she saw for herself that it was possible. And now that she knows she can do it, she has announced that she will never eat it again in her life."

That's not all. Elena's decision tipped the balance in their house. Until then, Irina and her son wanted to keep kosher while Elena, her father and an older child from another marriage had been against it. It was three against two for treife, but now that Elena had changed her mind, the balance had shifted to three against two in favor of kashrus.

By Rosh Hashona, the family had completely banned pork from the house and is now working towards kashering the home. So actually, the turning point, the venehapoch hu, occurred on Purim.


This fall, Elena's family moved to a new neighborhood and she began attending a new public high school. She was appalled at the way the students treated each other. At that school, it was a sport to start false rumors about other people and watch their reactions as the lies spread. Someone decided to target Elena and she was devastated as she tried to squelch the rumors.

"What's going on?" she asked her mother.

"It's called loshon hora," her mother explained. "It is a terrible sin. It is against the Torah." Irina had been listening to the tapes I had given her as she commuted back and forth to her job with us.

At that point, Elena decided to learn everything she could about proper speech and resolved never to hurt anyone as she had been hurt. She began learning from the Daily Companion to Shemiras Haloshon. By the Tenth of Teves, she took on the fast for the entire day. And she began wearing long skirts.

Now it is almost a year since last Purim. Elena has asked her mother to transfer her to a girls' Torah high school. Seeing how kids without Torah treat one another has made her very sensitive and she wants out of that hostile environment.

This is the strength of a person who turns to Hashem with a sincere heart, and this is how they are helped by Hashem to come back. I hope that this story inspires readers to reach out to our not-yet-frum fellow Jews this Purim as never before, to invite them to our seuda and to bring m'shloach monos to those who don't usually receive them.

You can never know how much of a punch is packed away in that Purim food. Just like Shabbos has its elusive ingredient, so must Purim have its own special walloping flavor with long lasting effects...

[how now chow mein]


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