It was a week before Purim and everyone in Cedarville was busy preparing for the holiday. But before they cooked their Purim meal or prepared Mishloach Manot -- the two gifts of food we send to friends and neighbors to help celebrate the holiday -- they were busy preparing their Purim costumes.
"What are you going to be this year?" Seth asked his twin sister Sarah.
"You'll see!" answered Sarah. "It's a surprise."
"What about you?" David asked Seth.
"I'm not telling either," said Seth with a laugh. "And you?"
"Try and guess," said Eric.
"The wicked Haman? Queen Esther? Mordechai the Jew?" guessed Seth.
"Wrong, wrong, wrong!" laughed Eric. "You'll never guess!"
It seemed as though no one could guess who or what anyone else would be this year. They all tried, but all the guesses were wrong and no one would tell. As Purim day approached, all the town could talk about was costumes. What would everyone be wearing? In all the guessing and excitement, they almost forgot to prepare Mishloach Manot!
On Purim day, the townspeople streamed out of the synagogue after hearing the Megillah, the story of how the Jews of faraway Shushan were saved from the evil Haman by Queen Esther and her wise uncle Mordechai. The town of Cedarville was transformed. The streets were full of balloons and streamers. Masked children and adults went back and forth bringing boxes and baskets of Mishloach Manot to their friends. But this year, something looked very strange. Everyone was wearing the same costume!
The entire town had dressed up as Dr. Mitzvah! Everyone wore a little black mustache, a neat pointy beard, a gray bowler hat and a red dotted bowtie. There were tall Dr. Mitzvahs, short Dr. Mitzvahs, fat Dr. Mitzvahs and skinny Dr. Mitzvahs. Some wore big masks; others had small ones. Some carried a doctor's bag and others held baskets or boxes.
"Wow! This IS a surprise!" said David. "Look over there! There are five big, strong Dr. Mitzvahs in a row. I bet those are the Steel Brothers from the Goat Farm."
"And look at that funny Dr. Mitzvah lady," giggled Sarah. "I'm sure it's Dr. Mitzvah's housekeeper, Mrs. Goldengreen! Those are her shoes sticking out under her skirt!"
"And look at us!" laughed Seth. "We're a pretty funny looking bunch ourselves!
A regular Dr. Mitzvah Brigade!" They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"Let's go see what Dr. Mitzvah dressed up as!" said Sarah. "I hope he's wearing a costume or we'll never find him with all of these Dr. Mitzvahs walking around. Won't he be surprised to see us looking just like him!"
They hurried past the corner of Cobblestone Lane and marched up to Dr. Mitzvah's little house next to the neatly lettered sign:
DR. EMANUEL J. MITZVAH
Doctor of Mostly Everything
They rang the bell and waited patiently. No one answered. They knocked on the door. No one came to open it.
"Maybe he's out delivering Mishloach Manot," suggested Bruce.
"Or taking care of a patient. People get sick on Purim too," said Seth.
"Sometimes from eating too much candy!" said David. "Anyway, here comes Mrs. Goldengreen in her Dr. Mitzvah costume. Let's pretend we don't recognize her."
"Dr. Mitzvah! We were waiting for you to come home," cried all the children.
"Were you now? Well, you'll have to keep waiting. I'm not Dr. Mitzvah. I'm me -- Mrs. Goldengreen! Fooled you, didn't I? I knew this costume was a good one. But I thought one of you was Dr. Mitzvah -- I just wasn't sure which one!"
"Really? That means our costumes are pretty good too!" said Sarah. "None of us are Dr. Mitzvah. I'm Seth; she's Sarah. The rest are David, Eric, Bruce and Julie! But where is Dr. Mitzvah?"
"I don't know," said Mrs. Goldengreen. "It's getting late and he hasn't even delivered his Mishloach Manot yet. It's almost time for our Purim meal. I wonder where he can be. It's not like him to be so late."
"We could ask around. Maybe someone has seen him. What did he dress up as, Mrs. Goldengreen?" asked Seth.
"I don't really know. I didn't see him. He left the house bright and early this morning to hear the Megillah at the synagogue and he hasn't been back since."
"Well, since everyone in town seems to have dressed up as Dr. Mitzvah, if he's wearing a different costume, it should be easy enough to find him," said Sarah.
"Of course, if he DIDN'T dress up, it will be impossible. There are so many Dr. Mitzvahs walking around today!"
Suddenly a little man with a moustache and pointy beard, a gray bowler hat and a red dotted bow tie turned the corner onto Cobblestone Lane.
"Here comes another Dr. Mitzvah," said Eric.
"Maybe he's the real Dr. Mitzvah!" suggested Seth.
"Of course I'm the real Dr. Mitzvah!" said the man. "Who else would I be? The question is, where is Mrs. Goldengreen? It's almost time for our Purim meal and we can't begin without her!"
Suddenly Dr. Mitzvah noticed the collection of Dr. Mitzvahs standing in front of him. "My, my, look at you all! It's like I’m looking into the mirror in a funny house. Dr. Mitzvahs in all sizes and shapes!"
"But why are you dressed as Dr. Mitzvah?" asked Sarah. "And why didn't you deliver your Mishloach Manot? "
"I didn't have time for Mishloach Manot," said Dr. Mitzvah, "but I shall give each of you a box right now!"
"Of course you didn't have time!" said Mrs. Goldengreen. She was a tiny bit annoyed. "You were gone all day long. Where were you? Disappearing is no way to celebrate a holiday, especially when there are so many things to be done!"
"Is that you, Mrs. Goldengreen? Even you look like me today! Indeed there are a lot of things to do on Purim and I was doing one of them! I was busy bringing Matanot La’evyonim -- gifts of money to the poor who can't afford to make their own Purim meal.
"Everyone in town was so busy with costumes and the Megillah and Mishloach Manot that I was afraid they would forget about gifts for the poor. So I decided to look after those who needed extra Purim assistance. And while I was distributing Purim money, I checked a few patients and visited a few others. It added a bit of Purim joy to their day. It's lovely to make people happy, isn't it? I was so busy that I didn't have time to come home and put on my Purim costume."
"What costume were you going to wear?" asked Seth.
Dr. Mitzvah looked out of the corner of his eye at Mrs. Goldengreen. "Well," he said with a grin, "if Mrs. Goldengreen can dress up as Dr. Mitzvah, then I can dress up as Mrs. Goldengreen!"
"Me?" cried Mrs. Goldengreen. "Oh my, you wouldn't make a very good housekeeper, Dr. Mitzvah. You don't even know how to set the table properly!"
"And you," answered Dr. Mitzvah, "wouldn't make a very successful doctor. The only medicine you would ever prescribe would be tea and honey!
"However," he continued, "I do think the two of us would make a splendid Purim couple! And since Purim is an upside-down turn-around sort of day, I was planning to serve Mrs. Goldengreen her Purim meal instead of her serving me mine!"
And may you all have a Happy Purim!
JUST PUBLISHED! Now you can read twelve wonderful Dr. Mitzva stories by Yaffa Ganz, complete with bright, charming, full color illustrations in a brand new book designed just for young readers. Available from Feldheim Publishers.