By Hannah Berman

Some people are just destined for trouble. I am a member of this group, which could aptly be called “Schlemazels of the World.” If it were an actual club, with dues-paying members, chances are that I would be its president, as I am indisputably one of a select few people who can get into trouble even while in isolation. It is a worthless talent.

A few days before Purim, I went to my oversized mailbox and discovered a lovely-looking mishloach manot package. I like referring to it as mishloach manot, which is the correct Hebrew, despite having grown up in a European, Yiddish-speaking family where everyone referred to it as shalach manos. For the uninitiated, mishloach manot is a package of two food items that is to be given to at least one person on Purim day.

I thought it odd that this gift of food had arrived so many days in advance of Purim but I didn’t question the reason for the early arrival of the gift since, this year, the holiday fell on a Friday, so it would be a more hectic day than usual. There was a time when these packages typically had dessert-type foods, and hamantaschen were inevitably included. But all that changed several years ago, when people wanted to send mishloach manot with a “theme.” My guess is that some clever and creative young woman came up with the idea of a theme and that it was such a huge success that suddenly everyone was giving out these Purim food packages with a theme. On many occasions I received “food” packages that had absolutely no food in it. Being a “foodie” with a sweet tooth, this didn’t thrill me, but I remembered that my mother always told me to be grateful for whatever I was given. Eventually I realized that there was reason to be grateful for these food-less packages since it meant that there were no messy crumbs to deal with and nothing to dispose of before Pesach.

However, the package that I took in last week was beautifully wrapped and there was obviously no theme as it was filled with dessert-type foods, including the traditional hamantaschen. After glancing at the small label taped to the cellophane and seeing that it was from my neighbor, I made a mental note to thank my neighbor and then I got to work! I cut open the cellophane and discarded the pretty blue-and-white ribbon that had been tied around it. In addition to the much-loved hamantaschen, which is the essence of a Purim treat, there were chocolate-covered pretzels, Hershey’s kisses, and peanut-butter cups. It was a chocoholic’s delight. I resisted the urge to eat any of it, but that was just a temporary resistance, one that I knew would not last. Immediately, I scrubbed my plans for a chicken dinner; there would be no fleishigs for me that night. Instead, I prepared a dairy meal for myself in order to be able to indulge in a few milchig chocolate treats for dessert.

Later that evening, I sent a text to my neighbor thanking her for the beautifully packaged and delicious mishloach manot she had left for me. Her response did not arrive until the next morning, when she sent a text to inform me that there must have been some mistake because she had not yet given out any shalach manos. I gulped hard when I learned that the package that had appeared in my mailbox was not from her. Had I misread the name?

I knew that I would have to do some “dumpster diving” to find the label. I am no stranger to rummaging through garbage, as it is something I do whenever I accidentally toss out an important envelope containing a bill or a check. On this occasion, luck was with me because I did not have to dig deep before I found the crumpled-up label still semi-attached to the cellophane. This time I made sure to have my eyeglasses on when I read the label. Once again, I saw the name of this neighbor—but this time I learned that the package was meant for them, and down on the bottom was the name of the sender who had mistakenly delivered the package to my house. My eyes had gone straight to the chocolate treats inside and had only skimmed the label that had my neighbor’s name on it.

Cringing with embarrassment, I sat down and took a deep breath before doing what had to be done. Once calm, I called my neighbor and poured out the whole story—the story being that I had opened the package that was meant for her and helped myself to some candy. Her laughter was like music to my ears.

She was happy to know who had sent the package so that she could thank them. It had been sent from members of her family who lived in a faraway state. That explained the early arrival. The sender had probably called a local store and placed an order to be delivered. It might also explain why it was delivered to the wrong house. My neighbor did not want me to give her any of the remaining candy and sweets. (That was a relief since I had consumed much of it.)

I proceeded to suggest to her that it would not be dishonest if, without saying that she herself had not seen or eaten any of the treats, she simply tells the sender that her neighbor ate some of it and loved it! That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435. Read more of Hannah Berman’s articles on


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