When Half is More 


Purim is a holiday of celebration. Reversing an evil decree, the triumph of Jewish life over the threat of annihilation. Our sages established a fascinating, and very wise, set of communal and individual laws to commemorate this holiday. 

Individually we are obligated to retell the story by reading the Scroll of Esther and we must indulge in a festive feast (so very Jewish!) Communally we are obliged to give charity to the poor and send our neighbors gifts of delicacies and fine food.

These rituals help to remind me of how important the Lemonade Fund is. Financial assistance helps reverse an evil decree by allowing patients to focus on treating their illness that, if left untreated, threatens their lives. We come to the aid of those less fortunate. And our grants can help patients celebrate a festive meal they thought was not possible. They can celebrate like everyone else…

But there is another part of the Purim ritual that we sometimes overlook. On Taanit Esther (the Fast of Esther), which is on the day before Purim, it is customary to give a half-shekel to charity, or a half the standard coin currency where you live. (In addition to the requirement to donate to the poor on Purim day). 

Our tradition teaches us that in the times of the Temple, on the first day of the month of Adar, the Beit Din (Jewish court) would issue a proclamation reminding people that they needed to give a half-shekel to go toward the Temple offerings in the coming year. Every individual had to give this flat-rate contribution. Regardless of his or her wealth. Meaning even if you had more, you were not permitted to give more. The underlying lesson: every single individual has an equal portion in the communal sacrificial offerings. Before God, all were equal. Wealth or poverty had no influence in the heavenly court. 

Just like wealth or poverty do not influence who breast cancer strikes. But poverty does adversely affect breast cancer outcomes. 

So our grants are all about evening the playing field. Every Lemonade Fund application is vetted and verified with social workers using an anonymized, detailed point system to determine eligibility and grant level. 

So it’s not just that we do it. It’s how we do it. One half-shekel at a time. 

In lieu of Mishloach Manot, you can send a Purim e-card to friends and family and support the Lemonade Fund’s work at the same time!