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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Laws of Purim

At the Shabbat Table

Unjust Desserts

The man who sent a mud cake for mishloach manot and the cake made its way to...
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Dov could hear snatches of Purim music through his open kitchen window. He leaned over the counter, piping bag in hand, putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece. He was eager to finish, so he could bring his mishloach manot to his best friend, Shalom. Dov stood admiring his creation. The chocolate roses were truly a work of art – the icing on the cake, in fact.
"Too bad Shalom can’t actually eat it" Dov mumbled. "Well, that makes it all the more fun."
Dov wrapped up his gift, and grabbed a bottle of wine from the counter. "Shalom will definitely not be expecting this!" Dov mused. "Of course he’ll think it’s a real cake, when he cuts into the chocolate frosting. But this is so much better! The mud cake will bring back fond memories of when we were kids, and used to make mud pies together! This is a perfect Purim joke!"
Within minutes, Dov was knocking at Shalom’s door. "Happy Purim!" Dov shouted, as he handed his gift to his friend. With that, Dov turned around, and headed off to deliver mishloach manot to other friends.
Shalom closed the door, and set the gift down on the table. "What a beautiful cake" he thought to himself. "It’s a shame for me to eat this myself."
Just then, Shalom heard a knock on the door. In walked the Chaimovitz family, bedecked in lively costumes. After a lively dance, Mr. Chaimovitz handed Shalom a cellophane wrapped package. Shalom walked over to his table, took the mud cake, and handed it to the Chaimovitzes.
The Chaimovitzes returned home, to find the Shoshan family at their doorstep. Within seconds, the mud cake had once again changed hands, as the Shoshan family went on their way. As the Shoshans walked inside their house, the children asked Mrs. Shoshan if they could taste the cake, but she insisted that they had already had enough treats.
Just then, Mr. Shimon knocked on the door. Mr. Shimon was a stately gentleman. He had never been seen in public with his shirt untucked or his shoes unpolished. After delicately knocking on the door, and waiting politely for the Shoshans to answer, he extended a beautifully wrapped package in their direction.
Mrs. Shoshan was eager to return the favor, and handed her newly acquired cake to Mr. Shimon, along with a bottle of red wine. Mr. Shimon wished them a happy Purim, and returned home.
Mr. Shimon walked inside his house, and placed the beautiful cake on the table, amid all the other mishloach manot that the family had received. He called his family over to see the beautiful cake.
At the end of the Shimon family’s Purim meal, Mr. Shimon brought out the elegant cake that the Shoshan’s had given him. He cut a piece for himself, and spooned it onto a plate. He stuck his fork into the cake, daintily brought it to his mouth, and…
"Achh!" screamed Mr. Shimon. "What is this!? This isn’t cake. This is MUD!!!"
Mrs. Shimon tried to calm her husband down, to no avail. Mr. Shimon grabbed his phone, and dialed the Shoshan’s number. "Is this some kind of joke? Who puts mud in a cake?"
Mrs. Shoshan was shocked to find out that her chocolate iced gift was nothing more than a mud cake. After Mr. Shimon had calmed down enough to hear her, Mrs. Shoshan explained that she had received the cake from the Chaimovitzes, who, in turn, told Mr. Shimon that they had gotten the cake from Shalom. It wasn’t long before Mr. Shimon was hollering on the phone to Dov.
"How could you do such a disgusting thing?!" Mr. Shimon yelled into the receiver. "I promise I’ll never talk to you again, and I’ll never forgive you!!" With that, Mr. Shimon hung up the phone.
Was Dov allowed to play this mishloach manot prank? Is Dov required to appease Mr. Shimon for the anguish which Dov caused?

Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:

Dov is considered a "mazik" (one who caused damage) because of the anguish and embarrassment that he caused Mr. Shimon. (It is also possible that Dov caused some amount of damage to Mr. Shimon’s body.)
The Rama stated, in the section of laws related to Purim (695, 2) that "if a person caused damage to his friend, as a result of the joy of Purim, the one who caused damage is absolved from payment. Similarly, the Rama wrote, in Choshen Mishpat (the section of laws related to interpersonal financial responsibility) "If young men are riding toward a bride and groom, and one of the celebrants caused damage to the property of another, as a result of his joyful actions, he is absolved from payment."
However, our case differs from these mentioned by the Rama. In the cases mentioned by the Rama, the victims of damage were in positions which they knew might result in damage being caused to them, and they, therefore, were forgiving of damage which might potentially be caused. Mr. Shimon, who ate the "cake," had no awareness that this ‘joke’ might take place, and was not forgiving of the damage caused to him. This is despite the fact that Dov planned to give the cake to his friend, Shalom, and that Dov was sure that Shalom would laugh at the joke. Because on Purim it is common to pass along mishloach manot packages to others, Dov should have taken into account the possibility that the cake might be given to someone else.
Even though Dov did not cause any direct damage to Mr. Shimon, and the damage caused was in the manner of gramma (indirect action), Dov is still liable, because one who causes damage indirectly is liable for Heavenly punishment.

In summary: Dov is obligated, under the laws of Heavenly judgment, to appease Mr. Shimon, as the rabbinical court deems appropriate.

Thank you to Rabbi Shmuel Diamant for sharing the above story. It is worth noting that Rabbi Diamant mentioned that, since the Purim mishap, Mr. Shimon refuses to speak with Dov, for the rest of his life…

Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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