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Better Than ‘Sweetish’ Meatballs

Welcome back to “How Should I Know?”—the column that’s about 33% advice, 33% “Where did this minhag come from?” and 33% sugar.

Dear Mordechai,

Where did this minhag come from to give kids candy on Simchas Torah?

H.M.

Dear H.,

It’s to keep them quiet in shul.

No, that can’t be right.

Okay, so that’s on a regular Shabbos. Candy is generally given out to keep the kids quiet in shul by giving them sugar and food coloring, which makes it harder for them to be quiet in shul. Maybe they’re quiet while they’re eating it, but to be honest, kids can run around just fine with lollies in their mouths. If you really want them to be quiet, you should give them pistachio nuts or something. They have to sit down for that.

So the first answer that comes to mind is that we want to show them that the Torah is sweet. There’s even a candy out now called “Torah Oodles,” which are awesome. I like Oodles, but until now I’ve been eating regular Oodles, like a sheigetz. But that answer’s too easy. The Torah is actually sweeter when you work for it, like with stuffed cabbage.

Though maybe it has something to do with the stuffed cabbage. Maybe the reason we eat candy is that candy is wrapped. That’s why every shul insists that the candy has to be wrapped. It’s not just because they want there to be wrappers everywhere. And if kids are going to eat wrapped food, it’s going to be candy, not stuffed cabbage. Otherwise there’d be wet cabbage everywhere.

It also happens to be that kids enjoy things more when there’s candy. At an upsherin, for example, you dip a lolly in honey on each letter of the alef bais so that the kid learns to love the Torah. You don’t dip a carrot in chummus.

“What? I’m teaching him that Torah is healthy! And good for his eyes!”

Kids don’t respond to that.

And think about it: Simchas Torah is a time that we all look forward to—we dance, we drink, we say Birchas Kohanim at the wrong tefillah, we do hagbah backwards, we have breakaway minyanim, we make fun of Sefardim, we take down the mechitzah… Good times. But what do kids do? Even the dancing isn’t so exciting for them, because kids dance in shul all the time. In fact, we give them candy on most Shabboses to stop them from dancing. And when they’re dancing on Simchas Torah, all they see is a forest of adults, and it’s less about having a good time and more about trying not to get stepped on. And it’s not like they get a hakafah.

So we need to do things to get them excited too: They get an aliyah! They all go under a big tallis! They get flags! Okay, no one’s excited by flags. It’s definitely our nerdiest minhag. Flags were invented by some healthy mommy who didn’t want to give her kids candy.

But maybe that’s why we give them candy: It’s, “Don’t take candy from strangers. Except on Simchas Torah!”

But I’m not sure that’s the reason, because what about all those shuls who have done away with the bulk of the candy, and they just give out one pekelah that is sponsored by someone? That kind of defeats the purpose, because once the kids get their one pekelah, they leave. Sometimes to see if they can catch another shul giving out pekelach.

So I think the candy started because it’s a siyum, and kids are taught in school that if you’re making a siyum, everyone has to give out candy.

So by that logic, everyone should bring some kind of candy to the Siyum HaShas. I’m being totally serious here. Imagine the pekelach we’re going to come home with. Just bring enough for 90,000 people—something that’s wrapped and has good hashgachos and that you can throw. And we should coordinate, so we don’t all bring lollipops, or two Winkies bound together like a sefer Torah or something.

And maybe to be fair, since it’s 90,000 people, let’s try to keep the candy costs to under a dollar each.

I haven’t spoken to anyone about this idea, but I’m sure I have the full backing of the nosh companies.

Got a question for “How Should I Know?” I hope you brought enough questions for everybody.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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