What is mishloah manot?
Mishloah manot is one of the four mitzvot of the Purim holiday*. It literally means ‘sending of portions’ and refers to a gift of food given on the day of Purim, which this year falls on March 17.
Why do we give mishloah manot?
As we are told in the Book of Esther, the Jewish people were commanded to celebrate Purim “as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Because one of the mitzvot of Purim is to enjoy a seudah (festive meal), these gifts were sent to ensure that all Jews had something to eat at the meal.
What goes in mishloah manot?
Traditionally, a mishloah manot gift package contains at least two different types of ready-to-eat food and/or drink. So don’t send raw meat or a box of rice, which would be strange for a number of reasons.
That sounds awesome! I love when people send me snacks.
Of course you do. Who doesn’t like snacks??
What else do I need to know about giving mishloah manot?
Here are some of the traditional rules of sending and receiving mishloah manot:
- Mishloah manot should be given during the daylight hours of Purim. If you’re sending yours to someone out of town, try to make sure it arrives by Purim day!
- Children over six or seven years old are also encouraged to give mishloah manot, to prepare them for engaging in the mitzvah as adults.
- While Jewish law says that a gift of two food items may be given to just one person, a person who gives mishloah manot to more than one person is worthy of praise! However, if given the option of creating elaborate mishloah manot or donating money to charity (another mitzvah of Purim), then one should give money to charity.
Okay, I think I’ve got the basics.
Well, aren’t you a smart cookie? By the way, that would be another fun item to include in your mishloah manot.
Thanks! So, is there anything else I should know about giving mishloah manot at BJ?
What a great question! As part of our Shemita year programming, we’re encouraging you to create a “zero waste” (or as close to zero waste as possible!) mishloah manot.
Whoah, what’s the connection between mishloah manot and Shemita? Did I miss something??
Starting this Rosh Hashanah, we began a shemita year, the seventh in an agricultural cycle in which the Torah commands us to let the land lie fallow and release debts that are owed to us—as a way to recognize that God is the true owner of the earth and all material goods.
What does that mean? Here at BJ, we’re focusing on a few core topics, including climate and the environment. Protecting our environment and being stewards of the earth is just one of the underlying values of shemita that we at BJ hold close to our hearts, which is why we’re encouraging you to make zero waste mishloah manot.
I think I’ve got it now.
I knew you could do it!
Thanks. Now that I know what’s going on, how do I start creating a zero waste mishloah manot?
Great question! Here are some ideas to get you started:
Purchasing Your Items
- Shop in bulk so you don’t have to buy more plastic, and bring your own containers!
- Or see if there are any sustainable stores in your area! Check out this list of places in New York City.
- Be thoughtful in who you’re buying from. Maybe your chocolate could come from a fair trade vendor, or you could look into ordering items from a company that puts a strong emphasis on workers’ rights.
- Keep it local: Can you purchase items from your local farmers market or a local business to reduce the transportation needed to get these items on your shelves?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Why not wash out that old spaghetti sauce jar and fill it with hamentaschen and Hershey kisses? Or take two jam jars and fill one with candy and one with pretzels?
- What about decorating an old egg carton, and filling each of the holes with a special item?
- Order anything from Amazon recently? Make a tropical mishloah manot by filling an Amazon box with bananas, oranges, and a pineapple and decorate the box with pictures cut out from old magazines. Daiquiri not included (or, add a small bottle of rum and turn this into a make-your-own daiquiri kit!).
- Or how about decorating an old shoebox, and using that to package your food items?
- If you’re sending a package in the mail, use a reusable grocery bag or produce bag to insulate the items inside. That’s the gift that keeps on giving!
- Try using a paper shopping bag or old newspaper as wrapping paper!
- Have you ever heard of Furoshiki wrapping? It’s a way of using squares of cloth to creatively wrap packages. Instead of chucking that old t-shirt in the garbage, you could use it to wrap your gift! (Note: please wash it first.)
Wow, these are some really good ideas.
Thanks! We think so, too.
I think I’m ready to send mishloah manot. I’d love to send it to someone in the BJ community. Is that something you can help with too?
Definitely! This year we are organizing a mishloah manot exchange. We’ll be matching BJ members based on interests and distance—maybe you’d like to connect to someone in your city, or maybe you’d like to make a long distance connection. Either way, we’ll make sure that you’re matched with someone.
That’s cool, but just so you know, I’m strictly kosher/vegan/gluten-free/on an all-candy diet.
No problem; there’s a space to indicate any allergies, food sensitivities or preferences on the registration form.
Now I’m getting nervous again. You’re going to pair me with someone I don’t know? How will I know what to get them?
Don’t worry about it! On the registration form, we’re asking you to share a few fun facts about yourself, which we’ll be sharing with your match partner. That will give them an idea of what they like, and then they’ll know what you like, too!
Phew. That’s a relief. You keep mentioning this registration form—where do I find that?
That form can be found here. Make sure to sign up by February 28! We’ll be sending folks their match partners by March 3, two weeks before Purim.
Awesome! Is there anything else I should know?
Ooh, bonus points. What can I use those for?
Nothing. Hag Purim sameah!
* What are the other three mitzvot of Purim? So glad you asked! They are: Hearing the megillah on Purim night and Purim day, giving matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the poor), and having a festive seudah (meal). Costumes, noisemakers, and general merriment are not a mitzvah, but are highly encouraged!