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In the times of Megilat Esther we were commanded to 'send food portions, man to his friend.' Known as Mishloach Manot, this is how we are commanded to celebrate Purim, along with gifts to the poor and more food for us. (Esther 9:22) 'Days of feasting and happiness, sending of portions to one another, and presents to the poor.' It all means food. As the rabbis realized very quickly, Jews can only be happy with food. The entertainment will be complained about, but the food will be complained about and enjoyed.
So the Jews decided to send food to one another in the form of wicker baskets. Wicker is very easy to clean if there is a spill. There were a lot of spills back then, as packaging wasn't good in the BCEs.
And then there was Easter. So, all Jews started buying whatever they could find on sale, to give to their friends. Walmart had a whole section of bunnies and chocolate, and that is how we see chocolate eggs in our Mishloach Manot, along with Kinder eggs. They then decided to also give the tiny bottles of alcohol they were able to steal from ELAL. And then Haddar started selling Hamentashen at Costco. Thus, the Hamentashen people get in their Mishlaoch Manot. Unmarked Hamentashen, made by Haddar, the new taste of kosher, hand pulled from the plastic package, in sandwich bags. Unpackaged, making crumbs in your Mishloach Manot, as in ancient times. And then people started receiving a lot of Mishloach Manot, and they tried to figure out how to save it for the following Halloween, or to hand it to a neighbor they didn't think about when making their own Mishloach Manot..
At first, Mishloach Manot were only sent to one person, to fulfil the commandment of 'portions.' That became very overwhelming for some families, who had just started cleaning out their fridge and preparing for Pesach. To quote Bernie: 'In the 1950s, we just found it easier to give our gift packages in bulk form... To tell the truth. We threw everything we could into that package. Anything we could get rid of. We had Pesach coming up, and getting the junk-food out of the house was paramount. Most of our sweets were Chametz. Anything leftover from last year, we sent it. Anything we found on sale, we sent it. We sent it all. Any candy we found, we threw it right into that bag. A lunch bag. It was clear that it was stuff we had to get out of the house. Leftovers? They were all in there. We even sent somebody a bit piece of chicken leg.'
Picking up on this, the world of wicker started making smaller Purim sized baskets. Hence, Mishloach Manot were something that were something you had to give to everybody in the community. Ending with the most important tradition of forgetting somebody, and offending them. I have witnessed new Purim enemies in my community every year. Tradition.
And that is how we end up with small wicker and plastic packages, full of Easter eggs, a bunny, Hershey's Kisses in Christmas themed packaging, Hamentashen from Haddar that will last through next Purim, a thimble sized bottle of Johnny Walker, and plastic cling wrap, showing up at your door, from the Cohens, with a note written out to the Cohens, for the Cohens to have a Happy Purim. Not you.
The Cohens didn't need the Chametz either. And they didn't care enough about you, to write your name on it. Maybe they just wanted to gloat, that the Schwartzs thought about them and gave them stuff.
I don't know where the hundred gram chocolate bar tradition started. I wish I had a good answer as to the origins of that tradition. Bite size chocolate makes sense, as there are leftovers from Halloween, and thus, part of our tradition.
Maybe some wealthy Jews got involved and were giving the nonJewish kids full chocolate bars for Halloween. Be it what it is, I have never come across full size chocolate bars on sale. I've only found Halloween bite size on sale at The Christmas Tree Shop. For that matter, tradition of giving out small packages of Mike and Ikes in wicker has also found its way into many communities.
For that matter, bottles of Kedem grape juice in Mishloach Manot is also religiously questionable, as they are not tiny, and most of them are Kosher for Pesach; thus, there is no reason to get rid of them.
A large bottle of vodka may find its way into Mishloach Manot, when you have a friend who has too many kids. Even so, whiskey is better, as you may want to unload that for Pesach.
No tradition of fruit was ever part of Mishloach Manot, as that brings happiness to nobody. Dried fruit may be added, as sugar has been concentrated in those, and you have leftovers from Tu BShvat. That is how the dried fruit tradition started in the 1600s.
The Frum community decided to stick with wicker and plastic bowls. That is what you have today in the Frum community.
The less Frum communities have adapted the paper plate Hamentashen. Choosing origami over tradition. The good thing about the paper plate Hamentashen is that there's a limit to how much it holds. With the staples on the sides (staples is how Jews do origami- it holds together better that way), heightening it, there is a limit to how much overflow the plastic cling wrap can retain.
All communities now pick-up their Mishloach Manot accouterments at The Christmas Tree Shop. Another Jewish tradition began in the 1990s.
Please note that you cannot make a decent Hamentash out of a plastic plate. They crack and it looks like the bakery messed up your pastry. Another note, while we are noting historical facts. Kinder eggs have been banned from Mishloach Manot, as the kids would rather eat the figurines than play with them.
No tradition of masks and groggers in your Mishloach Manot was ever developed. They are not edible and thus useless. What you see in the children Mishloach Manot bags are just for kids to enjoy the holiday and throw on the floor. If they had bite size masks, the tradition to add them to Mishloach Manot might have developed.
Next time, we will delve into the traditions of the Purim kid bags that come in cone form. We will also research when cleaning began. We believe modern day cleaning up began with the first children leaving their wrappers on the floor in the year 118 CE.
Many have asked about the tradition of sending cake and pancake mixes. That is forbidden. It is not enjoyable to have to cook. The commandment is to be happy, and that happens with pre-made food. Though it's not tradition to send brisket, as it brings more Simcha (happiness) to eat it oneself, it may be done. If you are wealthy and have somebody else cooking for you, it's fine to send brisket, along with the full chocolate bars.
The card has always caused problems. The tradition of having somebody's name attached to the recipient part of the Mishloach Manot was put there to ensure that Jews didn't get along. The ancient tradition made sense, when they would literally send Mishloach Manot through messengers. However, they stopped the tradition of sending the Mishloach Manot, in the year 1643, once they realized that the messengers were eating the chocolate on the way.
I am happy to answer any of your questions about Jewish history.
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The Falafel of Etan
Israelis are very possessive of their falafel. Even when they have a shop, they don't like to share it… That's Etan. Standing over them while they eat. Making sure they don't run away with his falafel.