April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Every year around this time, we all ask the same basic question: “What do I want to give for shalach manot this year?” But no one really asks, “What do the people around me want to get?” Isn’t it about the receiver?

“No. I have a theme.”

Unfortunately (fortunately?), you have 500 receivers, and you don’t really have that kind of time. So is there something that everyone wants?

And the answer is no.

First things first, let’s get this out of the way: The best food to give—the thing everyone wants—is matzah and wine. Period. Everyone will love you. And the next year, people you barely even know will give to you specifically because they hear that you give out matzah and wine. You’ll have so many people giving to you that you won’t be able to get rid of all the chometz you get from them. So by all means, do not give out matzah and wine. You have to think of yourself too.

But aside from that, based on some research in which my wife and I asked around, it turns out that every single person prefers to get something different. Some people like homemade food, for example, because they feel like it’s more personal. It’s something they can’t get in the store. Because we’re all adults here; we know how to go to the store.

Personally, what I want most is to not have to come home at night after the seuda and make piles: “This stuff has to be finished before Pesach. This stuff goes in the cabinet. This stuff goes in the loose candy bin. Here are all the little drinks we have that we’re totally going to forget about.”

I don’t want that. What I want is something I can eat on Purim. If you give me some kind of real food that I can eat for lunch instead of trying to sustain a full-grown adult for an entire day of running around on nothing but the loose nosh that no one bothered wrapping properly, that’s my favorite.

On the other hand, homemade food is usually perishable. This was some people’s biggest issue. People are like, “I don’t know how long this has been out of the fridge before it got to me.”

Yeah, like you don’t make your kid a tuna sandwich at 8 a.m. that he’s going to eat in school at 1 p.m.

Maybe it’s not about how long it sat in the other person’s car—which is cold, by the way—it’s about how long it sat in your house until you decided to go through it. If it’s too cold for your kids to deliver mishloach manot without putting on coats over their costumes, the perishable food on your doorstep will be fine.

Personally, I don’t know of anyone who ever got food poisoning from a mishloach manot. On the other hand, I do know loads of people who have thrown up on Purim, and I always just assumed it was the alcohol.

Now I’m not so sure.

My point is that everyone wants something different, and that’s impossible, so you might as well just give everyone the same thing—whatever’s convenient for you. Or fun for you to make.

That’s why some people give out a theme. No one said that they want a theme. People give out themed mishloach manot so that the recipient can go, “Oh. A theme.” And that’s it. Or not even realize that there is a theme because it’s been cannibalized before they got a chance to look at it.

Fortunately, this isn’t usually a problem, because people who give out a theme usually hang out at the door so you can look at their mishloach manot and realize it’s a theme. They just stand there, and they’re like, “So did you get the theme yet?” Like the thing that took them weeks to put together is something you’re going to figure out in 10 seconds with your front door open. And you say, “Sure… It’s… Um…” And then they tell you. So that’s fun.

I also feel like I should point out that in general, themed mishloach manot are the hardest to sort after Purim. The theme is very rarely, “Foods that a sane person would eat together.”

But the good news is that whatever you do one year is not necessarily what you have to do every year. You can change it up.

For example, last year my wife and I gave out rolls, primarily because we’d made a bar mitzvah shortly before Purim for which we’d bought 120 rolls and had over a hundred left. We also gave out tuna, pickles, hot peppers, and a bottle of water. Some people told us afterwards that they loved it, and some people probably tossed the tuna immediately after they got it.

But my wife was very excited about it, because that was the first year that we actually got compliments. Most years, we’ve given out whatever was on sale, but everyone knew what was on sale, because at that point there was exactly one grocery in town. We never got compliments on those. But probably no one threw anything out either.

So we changed it up from candy to real food. My wife assures me that it’s not about us getting older, it’s about the people we’re giving to getting older. Which it just now occurs to me is not something I should have put in an article.

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

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