Purim M&Ms

By; Rabbi Lily Solochek

Happy Purim! 

With its whimsical silliness, Purim is unlike most Jewish holidays. We dress up in colorful costumes, shake noisemakers and stamp our feet in the synagogue, and celebrate with music and food. We recall an incredibly dramatic story of the Jews of Persia who are almost attacked by the evil viceroy Haman; we recount the bravery of Queen Esther risking her life to save the Jewish people; and we celebrate with parades, Purim shpiels (comical retellings) and triangle shaped cookies. Purim offsets the seriousness of the story with parody and laughter. 

Traditionally, there are four rituals to engage with on Purim, and conveniently they all start with the letter M, making them mnemonically easier to remember: Megillah (retelling the story), Seudat mitzvah (sharing a meal with friends), Mishloach Manot (giving gifts of food), and Matanot la’evyonim (gifts for the poor). This year I invite you to think about these M&M(&M&Ms) rituals of Purim connected to our work to end college hunger. 

First, we must tell the story (megillah). 1 in 3 college students experience food insecurity, but their struggle remains unknown to many. Increasing awareness is the first step in ending campus hunger. We can educate our communities and shine a light on the problems of access, inequity, and systemic barriers for college students to pursue their education and have food on the table. Telling these stories can be as simple as informing our friends and family, or as large as hosting an education and advocacy event with Nazun. Each time we spread awareness we get one step closer to solving this issue. 

Sharing food (seudat mitzvah) is a central part of most Jewish celebrations. Enjoying a meal with friends and strangers helps us build community and reminds us that we are all interconnected. As we enjoy Purim celebrations and foods, let our gratitude spur us to action to ensure everyone has equitable and consistent access to their own meals as well.

Many of us celebrate Purim by making hamantaschen, triangle shaped cookies, and sharing them with friends. The tradition of mishloach manot, giving small bags or baskets of food to friends and family, asks us to include two different food items. Giving food should center the human dignity of the person receiving it; they should have options to choose what they like, what they want to eat, and what will bring them joy. Too often we see people experiencing food insecurity expected to just accept whatever they are given; mishloach manot reminds us that college students should not have to accept a diet of discount, nutrient deficient foods because that’s what is cheapest, everyone should be able to pick the foods that are best for them, that will nourish them and bring them joy.

Finally, on Purim we give money to those in need (matanot la’evyonim). We might choose to give directly to those experiencing hunger, to donate food or money to our local college food pantry, or to support the work of organizations like Nazun that are working to end college hunger. No gift is too small (or too large!). By sharing our resources we help build a brighter future for current and future generations of college students and help ensure that no one has to choose between their education and putting food on the table. 

This year, let’s remember the M&M(&M&Ms) of Purim. Let us spread awareness, build community around our own tables, remember the dignity of choice, and donate to those in need. Together we can take the next step towards a world without college hunger.