Everyone loves Purim, but no one loves cleaning up from Purim. Yet the night after Purim, you have to sort through what you got for mishloach manos and figure out what to do with it. It’s like putting away groceries, if you bought minute amounts of hundreds of different foods – mostly unhealthy – and put no thought into grouping like things together in the same shopping bag. (“Why did we buy unwrapped jelly beans?” “Why is every can of soda in a different bag?” “Is this for Shabbos, or…?” “Why did we buy this thing if we don’t even know what it is?”)
Or maybe it’s like unpacking from a vacation, where you’re no longer excited, and you’re like, “Okay, what did we forget to eat or refrigerate earlier today?” And everything is crushed and a reminder that Pesach is coming. Because there’s no better way to put random chometz away than in a rush, drunk. I guess that’s what bedikah is for. “Honey, why is there a single serving of baked ziti in the basement pantry?”
In my house, we make a whole ceremony out of unboxing, because people have themes, and if we’re not all there when we take it apart, someone won’t get to witness the theme. So my wife and I both have to be present, and the kids are all there too, saying, “Ooh, can I have that? Can I have that?” And we say, “No, that’s for Shabbos party,” and we make a note to eat it before then.
Sure, sometimes you try to start going though it on Purim – making piles and so on – but then it gets annoying, because people keep bringing you stuff, and you’re like, “Can you stop! I’m running out of room on the table here!”
The issue is that, by the end of Purim, most of the mishloach manos we’ve gotten has been separated from the card that explains how it all goes together or who it’s from. If you’re giving something that has to go in the fridge, for example, your package is going to be intact for about five seconds. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to hit the brakes on their day so we can admire your theme before it all comes apart. People go crazy figuring out a theme, but to be honest, we’re not going to all gather around your mishloach manos and gaze at it in admiration and immediately start debating about where it should go in the breakfront. A theme would work a lot better if you were the only one giving shalach manos today. We’d be like, “And there’s even a theme!”
And even if there’s a note that explains your theme, there’s no way that note will still be around by the time Purim is over. You best shot at having us understand what you’re doing is to write on each individual item, so that some Shabbos in the near future, one of our guests is going to ask, “Why did someone write, “Shushan Ha” on your beer?”
When the kids get mishloach manos, they don’t have to worry about stuff like this. Kids say, “I’m going to eat a little bit of this at a time for the next thirty days,” and by the time the next morning rolls around, it’s all gone, except the pretzels.
And even right when they get it, they don’t stress about the intent of the giver. Kids like spreading all their candy out on the floor, and then rolling around in it. Adults don’t do this on the floor. They do this on a table that has limited space.
We start off making piles:
-Things we need to finish by Pesach.
-Things that people left on our front porch without a name.
-Foods we forgot to put in the fridge earlier today.
-Mishloach manos we made but forgot to give out.
But some things are just hard to categorize.
-Things that are candy, but also mezonos.
And then each pile grows bigger than the area we allotted for it, and there’s fake grass everywhere, and I don’t know if this is a kugel or a cake!
There are some things we specifically like getting. When I was a kid, I had a friend who gave out the best candy, and I stayed friends with him for years at least partially because of that. Nowadays, my wife and I like people who give out veggie platters. Do you know how long it takes to cut veggies? And we don’t have to fight with the kids for these things either. My kids say, “You like the salad people? Wow, that’s sad.”
No, when it comes down to it, I like candy more. But on Purim, I have plenty of candy, and no time to make salad. I basically just like what I can’t have.
(NOTE: I don’t give to get, and it’s okay if I get nothing. It’s actually better that way. But I know I’m going to get something back, and I’d like it to be something I don’t have to file away just to avoid ba’al tashchis.)
Basically, if you give us tuna salad with carrots, we are eating it in the car. And in the meantime, my son is back there eating his fourth lollypop in ten minutes because no one he knows lives in this neighborhood.
We don’t eat the hamantaschen, though. I know it’s a lot of work for you to make them, but we don’t remember who made which hamantaschen anyway, and there are only about two recipes of hamantaschen that I’ve liked in my entire life, and one of them is my wife’s, and I don’t get shalach manos from her, because she’s a girl, and if we exchanged mishloach manos, then according to halacha, we might be married.
I don’t know. Many people use something the stores sell called “hamantash jelly,” which is a flavor of Vaseline that appears on shelves only twice a year, except that by Chanukah they call it “donut jelly.” They just keep changing out the stickers. It’s not a normal jelly that you’d voluntarily put on a sandwich.
And the issue is that no one’s hamantaschen really have identifying marks, because they’re all the same shape. It’s not like, “Mine were the round ones!” My wife makes hamantaschen, which we give to a few people that we know for a fact will eat them, but any ruined ones we keep for ourselves. But those are the ones we should give out.
“Ours were the ruined ones!”
“Oh, those were the best! I could see what was inside!”
And even if I like yours, then what? I’ll say, “Well, the hamantash from ??? was better than the hamantash from ???”. I’d better give all the same people next year, because one of them gives out really good hamantaschen!”
Maybe I should ask around: “Did you give out the good ones?”
I eat most of the other homemade foods, though. If you’re close enough to me that you’ve made my mishloach manos list, I’ve probably eaten in your house.
But, for example, I know somebody who, if you give them anything homemade at all, they throw it out. And I’m sure they have their reasons. But then they always give out something homemade.
So if they’re throwing out everyone else’s for hechsher reasons, I’m going to say that just because you’ve decided you don’t trust my hechsher doesn’t automatically make your hechsher better. And if they’re throwing it out because they know something that we don’t about mishloach manos foods that are prepared at home, then I definitely want to throw theirs out.
Listen, it’s not like you personally have a monopoly on hygiene. Other people might know about it too.
And I understand if they were getting manos from people they don’t know. But why are all these people they don’t know giving them mishloach manos?
And even when we’re done sorting all the food, we have to sort the packages they came in. Which bags can we reuse for next year? I’m not rewrapping your pre-cut size of cellophane around a plate.
“Can we reuse this bag?”
“Yeah, but it won’t match the other bags that we buy next year.”
“Who’s gonna know? We’re the only ones who are going to see the complete set!”
There’s so much guilt in reusing the bags, though. All day long, people are regifting foods. We don’t really do that. We just regift bags the next year. But we’re terrified that anyone should know. We’re scratching off tags, re-attaching the handles… Bags aren’t germs! Was the original person’s intention that we should keep the bag forever? And do what with it?
In short, my favorite mishloach manos to get is something nice that I can eat for lunch on Purim itself, plus a chocolate that I like but my wife does not, in a bag that we can reuse next year. And no sticker. If you write on the sticker, the only person I can give this bag to next year is you. And you probably won’t even remember it’s yours. You’d be like, “Hey! They got the From and To mixed up!… In our handwriting.”