There is a great deal of gift-giving going on at this time of year. Beyond friends and family, many feel obligated to give end of the year gifts to local specialists (such as one’s hair stylists). For those who work in the corporate world, there is even greater pressure, especially with the need to be conscious of office politics and hierarchies.
Certain standard gifts, such as chocolates, a fancy cheese platter or a bottle of wine or liquor, take the stress out of choosing a gift. These choices, however, are not always as straight-forward as they seem. First and foremost, if a gift is being sent to another Jew, the gift should be kosher. What might be more surprising is that this “kosher-factor” may also apply in giving a gift to non-Jewish colleagues as well.
While Jews are not supposed to consume non-kosher food or wine, there are also laws guiding the way in which one may benefit from such products. For instance, one is permitted to use non-kosher meat to provide a healthy diet to a pet, but selling that same non-kosher meat may be problematic.
One does not often think of the receiving benefit of giving holiday gifts because the benefit is so subtle. Intentionally or not, one gains good will by participating in the end of year gift giving. Indeed, more thought is often put into the choice of gift for one’s boss than for a co-worker.
While at first glance the need to avoid non-kosher gifts may appear to complicate the issue, the law only applies to some items, and there are often exceptional circumstances about which one should consult their local rabbi. Also, there are easy replacements. Instead of giving a fancy brandy (which has a wine base), one may choose an upscale, unflavored scotch.* If one is looking to food items, a basket of fresh fruits** is an excellent choice.
*A flavored scotch would include scotch aged in a sherry/port/bourbon cask.
**Because we are in the year immediately following a shmittah year in Israel, it is recommended that Israeli fruits be excluded from any fruit basket.
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