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:
The purpose of mishloach manot is to increase feelings of love and friendship between people. It is a great mistake to distort what is meant to be the joy of Purim, by engaging in unseemly jokes and unruly conduct. Mr. Shimon’s reaction is perfectly understandable. (One needn’t be a perfectionist, such as Mr. Shimon, in order to feel hurt by this prank.)
As far as the actual legal question is concerned, regarding whether or not Dov is required to compensate Mr. Shimon, there is no actual obligation for Dov to pay anything. There was no real damage caused. It might seem that there was a loss, because when one person gives mishloach manot, they generally anticipate receiving mishloach manot in return, and, instead of receiving edible food, Mr. Shimon got a mud cake. Nonetheless, there is no actual monetary claim against Dov. However, there is a social understanding that Mr. Shimon was owed a respectable mishloach manot. Therefore, it would be appropriate for Dov to appease Mr. Shimon in some way. It is not necessary to offer monetary compensation, but Dov could present Mr. Shimon with a gift for Pesach, or something along those lines.
In summary: Rather than promoting love and happiness, which is the purpose of mishloach manot, Dov exhibited mockery and immaturity, and there was no good that came of this. He is not required to provide monetary compensation to Mr. Shimon, however, it would be appropriate for Dov to offer some gesture of appeasement.