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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some Orthonomic Purim Notes

Honestly Frum is talking about the custom of Yeshiva bachurim going door to door to collect funds on Purim. They often come in limos and alcohol is an issue because besides collecting door-to-door, some of them also drink door-to-door. Those outside of the New York area might not have to deal with this.

This year, a tremendous amount of wealth has been lost and, sadly, many people have lost their jobs. Honestly Frum is calling for a one year hiatus on the door-to-door collections to help givers that can no longer freely write checks (and would probably just prefer to fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot Laevyonim by dropping their check into the Rabbi's basket with little fanfare) maintain their dignity.

What do my readers think? Is a one year hiatus for the sake of those just trying to hold on the right thing to do? (Yes, this is theoretical since few of us can change whatever is planned).

And now unto a subject I need to think about personally: Mishloach Manot. I've done NOTHING and need to get myself together.

Rebbitzen Jungreis, in the Jewish Press, has recommended putting less things in the basket, but still giving out the same amount, while concentrating on gifts to the poor. (It would be hard to put less into the bags my kids, uh, decorate). Fortunately, I don't live in a community where 'basket' means much more than some baked goods and a piece of fruit.

Readers at VIN are duking it out over the idea of toning it down, and just as my alarm clock goes off every morning, many are reminding the readership of its obligation to support those who make their living selling (overpriced) pre-made Purim baskets. I've already addressed the increasingly loud choir here and here. I see no obligation to buy unnecessary things just because someone frum is trying to peddle them. Be reasonable.

In another exchange, one Yated letter writer implored readers to give food that people can actually use, rather than junk. Whereas another reader stated that people are cutting back on all the junk their kids enjoy and the junk would be appreciated. Personally, I love receiving both types of food. I nab up all of the snack foods and my kids a little at a time so they don't go crazy. Fruits get put in a fruit bowl and eaten regularly. (Yes, we sell chometz).

Your thoughts on Purim . . . . . . . . . .
Also, I'm not writing about drinking this year. I've put in my 2 cents in the past. Perhaps a recession means people just won't be buying and the problem will lessen (a girl can wish, right?)


triLcat said...

my neighbor and I have started "concept" mishloach manot. We find that we can keep it cheap but still cute and fun by having a theme or concept.

Mine this year is "lunch bags." I'll be giving out paper lunch bags with a pb&j sandwich, an apple, a small chocolate bar, and a juice (capri-sun style is all they have here)

This way, I can give many without breaking the bank. The concept is a bit silly, but I figure my friends will get a kick out of it. Besides, the concept is supposed to be a meal, not just a bunch of junk food. Plus, I hate spending a dollar or more apiece on gift baskets that people will rarely use (unless they recycle them the next year)

triLcat said...

(I mean on the basket itself, not the food)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it is realistic to stop the door to door, and some people still can and want to give. The key is to make sure the young men asking for money (who may be under a lot of pressure to collect) are sensitive to the situation that many people whose doors they knock on may be in, and are gracious and thankful even when they come up empty or with only a very modest donation.

rosie said...

I did get one email from Shea Hecht of Chabad endorsing giving less shalach manos. Others in Chabad disagree. To me it depends on the circumstances. The idea is to spread achdus and joy throughout the day so on that day we are not concerned with saving money or calories. On the other hand, achdus is not spread by competing with one's neighbor or filling his home with wasted food.
I would say that if someone is unemployed and on food stamps or tzedukah, only give the minimum. If one has the means to give to more people, cut down on the packaging and lessen the amount in each package. Someone from each child's class should collect for each rebbe and teacher and give a bottle of Pesach wine, some Pesach chocolate and a gift certificate to a store that sells Pesach food. Parents can also ask a certain amount per child and give each child from the class an identical basket. This means that parents don't have to prepare a basket for each child's entire class list, or hurt someone by not giving. If you think I am joking, my neighbor, who has 7 kids, gave out over 120 baskets to children's classmates one year.
I do think that a chosson or kallah on Purim should send something to the future in-laws and the future mechutanim send to each other and to the future in-law child. The kallah's shalach manos can be in a container that she will use in her new home. I don't think that we need to present the chosson with his own hand written megillah scroll, which I understand that some people do.

Honestly Frum said...

Thank you for the link SL. I think that perhaps if the yeshivos insist on sending these guys out they should call some of these people before showing up, or at least do some kind of research, so that they do not embrace or put the balabatim in uncomfortable situations. Even people in the "big houses" are hurting bad (if not worse) and are barely getting by month to month.
As for shalach manos, this year its hamentashin and grape juice in a bag. Going basic and saving money.

rosie said...

Regarding selling chometz, while we do that, one son-in-law's family does not and starts buying less a few months before Pesach and bases meals around eating it up. This can be a money saver.
Also, if you get nice bags in the shalach manos, save them and use them next year.
Get a roll of coins to give kids who come to deliver shalach manos and several single bills to give bochrim who collect, if you can't afford to write a check.

Thinking said...

Alcohol and limos aside (I don't serve alcohol and only give to groups that have no overhead (limos, costumes etc.) when I was a bochur we paid for that ourselves) let's remember that as much everyone is trying to cut back, "the economy" should not be a blanket excuse. There are many people out there in need. Like anything else, sit down and make a serious calculation as to what you can really give this year and make the effort to give it out. If you can give $18 they can still use $5 or $10.

Challenge yourself to find ways to give the same way you would challenge yourself to find ways to save.

2 weeks ago my Rav kicked off our maos chitim campaign. He asked that even though times are tough we try to match last years number. We are a small, young shul and I had some doubts as to whether we could do it.(There is no public appeal, all money is give anonymously). We have already matched last years number! I asked the Rav how we did it? He responded that while some people came forth and said "the economy" he asked them to look at their personal situations and see what they could do. They all came back and gave generously. There is no peer pressure as no one knows what anyone else gave.

Bottom line, if you are still in the parsha of "being able to be from the givers" then give! Even if it is less.

Anonymous said...

I am not orthodox, but want to make baskets for a few friends who are. One of them is lubavitch. Can anyone advise me of what type of hecsher I need to look for to make sure I don't give something they can't use. Thank you.

ProfK said...

Just a word to those who are doing the collecting. Learn to bite your tongue before you say "It's not enough" or "Can you give more?" The only words required from those collecting are "tizku l'mitzvah" or perhaps "Thank you."

We have been in the position where someone coming to the house to collect for a tzedaka, both for Purim and for other times, has told us "It's not enough." Usually the people who come to the house to collect are not from tzedakas or organizations on our regular giving list. We don't want them to go away empty handed so we give them a few dollars. Hearing "It's not enough" makes us sorry we gave them anything, not exactly the frame of mind you expect when doing a mitzvah.

The position ought to be that any money you donate to tzedaka should be welcome. The amount is up to the donor, not the shnorrer.

rosie said...

Lubavitchers will only eat baked goods that are baked in a Jewish bakery where a Jew lights the fire. Some companies that sell in regular stores such as Manischewitz have "pas yisroel" products. Lubavitchers also only use cholov Yisroel dairy products so do not give ou-d products. Raisins have lately been suspected of having bug infestations and many have given up raisins. If in doubt, stick to fresh uncut fruits.

Manya Shochet said...

Besides the "mandatory" mishloach manot my kids bring for the hagrala at school, we only give two mishloach manot apiece. We rearrage the baskets we get into other baskets and give them out to people who come by with stuff for us.

The two we give out, however, we give with a great deal of thought. My husband and I each have close friends who are insulin-dependent diabetics, and they always look forward to our creative mishloach manot. We'll wrap a bottle of canola like a wine bottle, and serve it in a bucketful of sugarless candies. or search for diet DrBrown's Cream soda (we live in Israel), or serve one perfect large strawberry on a tiny napkin.

I don't see Purim as G-d's opportunity for the wealthy and overweight to show off and to gorge. Gifts of food can be very creative, and giving something fancy to everybody is just an act of ge'avah.

In our comunity, every family gets a large basket of Stuff from the shul's collective Mishloach Manot fundraiser, traditionally sent in a container that can be used all year. One year it was a collander, the next year a wastepaperbasket, the next an upturned footstool, etc.

Lion of Zion said...

so many comments about the door-to-door collectors. why do you even answer the doorbell?


why do you give 2? (משלוח מנות איש לרעהו).
that's thoughtful about the diabetic. we have a diabetic friend and i'll keep it in mind now.

Commenter Abbi said...

Every year I send something homebaked, some decent chocolate, some fruit and usually some nice teabags. And I send out to our closest friends and family, usually around 12, on paper plates wrapped in cellophane, maybe with some ribbon.

This year won't be different.

Ariella said...

I thought of a different type of theme for Mishloach manos,though my kids would not apppreciate my acting on it. Check for a post.

Shoshana said...

Our Mishloach Manot is the same every year. We buy party-loot bags at the Dollar Store. They have cute and happy colored designs printed on them - 25 bags for $1. We make air-popped popcorn and fill half the bag with that. Each bag gets 1 homemade hamantash and one wrapped Sunkist chewy candy. In this way we are able to make a lot of bags and can basically hand them to everyone we see on Purim. It brings people a lot of joy to receive something from folks they don't know. This is especially true if they are new to Jewish observance and aren't on anyone's list yet.

I have never heard of the door-to-door collecting by bochurim, especially in limos and possibly drunk. Wow would I faint if I saw that!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rosie. Are nuts or dried fruit with the (0) or (U) ok? I'd like to give fresh fruit, but its still freezing out and if people aren't home, the fruit could get ruined if the basket is left outside too long.

rosie said...

Nuts and dried fruit with a (U)or (K) are fine. Raw nuts do not need a hechsher. If you log onto, you can see what does not need a hechsher. Obviously a hechsher removes doubt.
With regard to Purim spending, don't forget the seudah and the costumes! I found a lovely princess costume for a granddaughter at a consignment shop for a third of the regular price and since one grandson is having a birthday soon, we "splurged" on a sefer Torah costume for $24.99 plus shipping from a frum company. The Torah costume can be worn by either gender and will probably get passed to siblings and cousins. I am sure that all of you have frugal costume and seudah ideas.

Anonymous said...

Our Rabbi has asked that congregants refrain from fancy shalach manot and put the money into matanot leevyonim instead. He did that last year, as well, before the economic crisis, simply in response to the insanity that Teaneck shalach manot had become.

We're doing a comfort foods/recession theme this year: two homemade chocolate chip cookies and a milk box in a brown paper bag. And we're upping the matanot leevyonim payout (through organizations like our Rabbi's Discretionary Fund, Project Ezra, and Tomchei Shabbos), and earmarking more for local needs.

As a general rule, I don't give any money at all (or not more than a dollar or two) to people who come to my door as I actively want to discourage the practice. It's intrusive, it is unsafe, and a poor way of distributing my tzedaka resources. I make no exception for teenagers who've hired a limo on Purim, though you could make the case that at least the limo driver doesn't demand a cut of the donations collected by the teens (standard practice for solicitors), and the teens don't sell your name to other solicitors (again, a common practice for solicitors).

Tamar said...

Our "theme" this year is "chagei hachoref" -- bag of chocolate gelt (Chanuka), dried fruit and nuts (Tu B'Shvat) and hamantaschen (Purim). Had we not been in global recession, we might have tried to "represent" all of the chagim!

tdr said...

Two very respectful and nice bochurim (no alcohol and no limo) came by collecting last night. I did mention that I am giving less this year, but I find, without exception, that all meshulachim are grateful for my $5 check. With one or two exceptions over the years I find these people to be mentschlich.

I agree with the sentiment of don't give if you don't want to, but why tell the yeshivos to not even try?

Once when I told a meshulach I simply did not have any money to give him -- and it was completely true the bank account was empty -- he gave me an incredible brachah which I was grateful for.

As for michloach manot -- my husband and I give what is required and the rest of the people we know (teachers, neighbors, etc.) get Purim cards.

For the kids to give out we'll make hamantaschen and probably stick a laffy taffy in each one. Keeping it *simple*. And all I've done so far is make a big batch of hamantaschen dough.