Why do Jews send mishloach manot on Purim?


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Purim starts at sundown March 6, which means it’s time to get your best costumes ready, rehearse for the spiel, and of course, plan what to put in your mishloach manot, Purim gift baskets.

Aside from being among the two most fun Hebrew words to say together, mishloach manot is a Purim mitzvah (Jewish commandment) deeply rooted in the Book of Esther.

In Chapter 9, Verse 19, Esther says: “Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the 14th day of the month of Adar a day of gladness and feasting, a holiday, and of sending portions to one another mishloach manot.”

In Sunday school, I remember Rabbi Alvin Rubin of Temple Israel teaching us that this meant we as Jewish people should send gifts of food to each other on the holiday of Purim. More specifically, the “rules” call for each Jewish person to send at least two items of food or drink to another person.

You can make a Purim gift basket out of just about anything. Your only limitation is your own creativity. Jewish Light food writer Margi Lenga Kahn created a flowing list of ideas a few years back. What follows are a variety of options to consider for mishloach manot.

Basket for one in need

Fill a large basket with assorted canned food: fish (tuna or sardines), beans (baked or plain), fruit packed in natural juice, along with homemade granola bars, individual juice or milk packs, and small bags of purchased or homemade trail mix. Consider including a can opener, as well. Set filled basket into an extra-large turkey-roasting bag and tie at the top with a decorative ribbon.

Breakfast basket

Line a small basket with a kitchen towel. Include homemade muffins or scones, a small jar of fruit preserves or honey, a box of tea, and a few fresh Clementine oranges. If tea is loose and not bagged, include a tea-infuser. Tie a colorful ribbon around the basket or on the handle.

Dessert platter

Line a small plastic, metal, or glass platter with two cloth napkins. Arrange a pyramid of homemade biscotti, kamishbrodt or hamentaschen in the center. Place individual, non-refrigerated boxes of milk on one end, and one or more of the following on the other end: mini chocolate or other candy bars, and individual serving packets of instant coffee or hot cocoa mix. Cover platter tightly with plastic wrap and tie a ribbon, as if wrapping a gift, so that the bow ends up at the top of the biscotti pyramid.

Teatime board

Place a loaf of homemade pound cake, yeast bread or quick bread (such as banana, pumpkin or zucchini bread and include a copy of the recipe) in the center of a small cutting board. Surround the bread with mini bags or boxes of raisins, individual juice boxes and a small jar of homemade or store-bought applesauce. Set board on an oversized tea towel and bring the ends together at the top. Tie in a knot, as for a knapsack.

Hors d’oeuvre bucket

Place a bottle of wine or juice in a small bucket (check for these at Party City), ice-bucket or colorful tissue-paper lined box and surround with a cellophane wrapped rolls of homemade crackers, a small jar of olives, can of smoked trout or salmon and a box or bag of dried figs. Set the bucket into a large turkey- roasting bag. Pull the bag tightly together at the top of the bottle and tie with colorful ribbon.

Snack box

Fill a colorful plastic bowl with a bag of home-popped popcorn, and/or a bag of spiced nuts, fresh apples, bag of dried apricots and granola bars or cookies. Cover bowl completely with cellophane and glue individually wrapped peppermint candies or Hershey’s Kisses all over the top.