May 12, 2024
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May 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Gallows Humor with Ernest & Julio

“Heads I go to the party, tails I don’t”


Ah, Purim, what a holiday. It’s the only day you can drink in shul. Except for Shabbos. And you know, some people make a big deal this time of year about the tipsy congregants getting rowdy in synagogues, but in my shul they just call that musaf. At this point perhaps I should note, out of shidduchim considerations, that I do not daven in my shul. Neither does the guy who sits next to me. But I digress.

I don’t know about you but I find it almost impossible to concentrate on the Megillah when I’m dressed like a certain character and some guy dressed as that character’s arch nemesis sits right near me.

Take last year, for example. I was dressed as Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt and some guy dressed as Moshe Koussevitsky plants himself in the pew right across from me. I think I would have been ok had it not been for his incessant humming. At a certain point, I’d had enough, so I go “Hey Moish, your Shoshanas Yaakov makes the angels cry—and I don’t mean that in a good way.” My rabbi felt it was a hefsek, but I’m still not convinced. It’s not like I went and started in on his Kol Nidre or something. I bet across the bridge they wouldn’t have sent someone up to replace me in reading the megillah—they get me over there.
Times sure are changing. My nephew likes to dress up like a girl for Purim, and so in years past he would ask to borrow my wife’s sheitl. This year, he asked to borrow my tefillin.

When I’m finished getting into my costume, I can devote my full attention to shaloch manos. Everyone has a shaloch-manos secret, and here’s mine: If you can’t think of a theme for your shaloch manos, focus on a color. I find it much easier. Sure, the year I was doing an all-yellow shaloch manos, the company that makes Lemonheads was in receivership, so I had to organize a buyout, but usually the challenges that come up are nothing a couple of gallons of food coloring can’t solve. I am still waiting for a call-back from the biotech firm that I have working on developing a dark pink banana for my “Back-to-the-Fuchsia” theme.

Of course I’m just kidding about the whole banana thing. I don’t give fruit in my shaloch manos, because I don’t consider myself better than other people.

There was once this guy I really didn’t like but I felt I had to give him shaloch manos even though I really didn’t want to, because he is married to my sister. I got him, though. Everything in the package was the same bracha. In fact, everything in the package—the challah, the orange, the cookies—was made of marzipan. Even the halvah was made out of marzipan. I call that beauty my “mannah” from heaven theme.

A staple of my shaloch manos package is, of course, hamantashen. Oh, and also it’s the little bent metal fastener holding together the corners of the actual package. But I digress yet again.

I love hamantashen as much as the next guy. Well, okay, maybe even a little more than the next guy: the taste, the shape, the symbolism—that cookie’s got it all! And I often think, if hamantashen accurately represent Haman’s ears, he would have been well served with a Q-tip.

It’s a wonder he heard a word Mordechai said with that kind of lekvar build-up. But what I can’t understand for the life of me is how it makes sense to name a delicious cookie after Haman, a man who made our lives miserable by complicating our once simple existence and leaving us to forever contemplate what he was even thinking? I wonder, though, if that’s how Fig Newtons got their name.

There are some beautiful customs various communities have regarding shaloch manos. Apparently some communities give out money instead of food. One Purim I received over $200. I remember it well. It was the year I visited my cousins for Megillah and dressed like a hobo.

Another beautiful custom has developed where people send their shaloch manos with cards that have rhyming messages. But last year I had a “friend” who sent me a card written in prose. Clearly we aren’t as close as I thought.

I always send a proper rhyming card, which I try to tie in to the essence of the package contents as well as the occasion at hand. As a public service, I have included some classic cards that you can feel free to use for your shaloch manos:

If Haman had his way,

our people he would starve

I’m so glad we beat him

The cookies, by the way, are pareve.


Achashverosh had Haman hanged

From a tree as tall as a tower

You might want to put the yogurts in the fridge

They’ve been on your porch for an hour

After the cap-gun smoke has cleared, the bottles of Malaga are empty, and the whereabouts of my kids are neither known nor much of a concern, I’ll fall asleep, unable to distinguish between Mordechai and…um…and the guy from the cookie.

But, as they say, for every Purim there’s a Shushan Purim. And I have hazy but fond memories over the years, of waking up early on Shushan Purim afternoon, hung-over with what feels like an actual grogger in my head, with colored paper streamers and marzipan crumbs and hamantashen flakes all over my shirt, the detritus of a Purim well spent.

And I’ll think to myself, not bad for Adar Rishon. Bring on Adar Sheni, baby!

When Avi and Neil are not writing, they enjoy reading the Jewish Standard, (;-P) making abstract marzipan sculptures, and running errands for the Kinderlehrer family.

By Neil Kinder and Avi Lehrer

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