Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reconstructing Mishloah Manot

This posting on the Jew and the Carrot (the link is broken, but maybe they'll fix it later) led me to thinking about sustainable, eco-friendly, thrifty mishloah manot. For those who don’t know, mishloah manot is the custom of sending gifts of food to others on Purim – it is actually one of the four mitzvot that everyone is supposed to observe on Purim. As with every mitzvah, it’s possible to do it in a very over-the-top and expensive way; in a stam, fulfilling-the-ritual-obligation-but-not-very-attentive way; or in a way that fulfills the mitzvah in new and thoughtful ways – as an expression of our values and commitments.

Just jotting down some notes on issues that could be addressed in this manner, I note healthful, local, fair trade, low carbon and low packaging. Traditionally one is to give mishloah manot from at least two different food groups, which means giving the recipient the opportunity to make two different brakhot. So in a reconstructed practice, we could say that one should include in one’s package at least two different issues – two different ways to make a difference.

It’s still too early in the year to share locally grown produce, at least where I live. But dried fruit and nuts make a nice addition to any mishloah manot package, and they can be purchased in bulk from your local healthfood store. Supporting local, independently owned businesses is important too!

Also, make sure to include some fair trade chocolate. I’ve come to the realization (again) that much of what we get cheaply is gotten on the backs of someone else’s poorly paid labor. Plus, much fair trade is produced in ways that are more environmentally sustainable as well.

Making hamentaschen or other treats at home allows us to have control over the ingredients and therefore the healthfulness of the end product. Whole-grain hamentaschen, anyone?

Maybe making a donation to an organization working on climate change, and including cards in your basket saying, “In lieu of sweet treats, a donation has been made to such-and-such organization in your honor” would be educative as well as effective. I suppose one could buy carbon offsets as well, although I’m not convinced of their efficacy. How about postcards made out to your friends’ legislators, asking them to support clean energy?!

Buy baskets or coffee cups from the second-hand store for your packaging. Use newspaper instead of tissue paper for lining. Make ribbons from worn-out clothes or linens. Draw cards. Make stickers.

With a little thought and resourcefulness, our mishloah manot packages can represent what we care about, to those we care about. And of course, they’re fun and delicious, too!

Happy Purim!

1 comment:

Chava said...

Moti, you post gave me much to think about!!!!

I can't wait to read your post with my boys and have the conversation about what we will do for our own mishloah manot this year. I will let you know what they decide!

Chava Gal-Or