This upcoming Thursday is the festive holiday of Purim, which we celebrate the miraculous survival of the Jewish people in the year 357 BCE after there was a decree by the Persian King Achashveirosh to kill all the Jews in his vast empire of 127 countries.
One of the ways that the Sages instructed us to celebrate Purim is to send gifts of food to friends on this day. This is called “Mishloach Manot”. However, we need to understand, there are other holidays which we also celebrate the survival of the Jewish people so why is the mitzvah of sending gifts only done on Purim?
One explanation is that we find that when Mordechai asked Queen Esther to go to her husband Achashveirosh and try to rescind the decree against the Jews. Esther responded that she would do so but she was unsure of the outcome. Since the rule in Persia was that if you enter the king’s chamber without permission you get killed unless the King stretches out his scepter to you and I (Esther) have not been called to the king for the last thirty days. Therefore, Esther instructs Mordechai; “Go, gather all the Jews and fast and pray for me for three days.”
The commentaries explain that what Esther meant by saying “Go gather all the Jews” was that Mordechai should bring the Jews together in unity since when the Jews are unified with love, this elicits great blessings from heaven which would help Esther succeed in her mission.
It was specifically a woman, Esther, who had this insight, since a woman has the unique ability to bring people together through her extra sensitivity.
This explains why on Purim we celebrate by sending gifts. Since it was the unity which brought on the miracle it is appropriate that we celebrate this day by sending gifts which brings unity amongst us.