As a child, there are multiple ways to get candy at synagogue, each with its own perks and drawbacks. For example, some Junior Congregations might have candy, but you might be expected to answer a question. The effort to yield ratio is pretty disappointing. If you want to score big, you can wait in the main sanctuary for congregants to throw candy at a Bar Mitzvah or the like, but there are other children to reckon with, and you can feel the rabbi silently willing you to finish and go back to your parents so that the service can continue, already.
But if you want a sure thing, a reward for your mere presence, seek out the Candy Man.
The Candy Man stands in plain sight after services, a twinkle in his eye, as mandated by the Talmud. You approach him slyly, like you’re going to buy a knockoff Rolex.
You might not know his name, but it doesn’t matter. All you need to do is make your presence known, perhaps wish him a Shabbat Shalom. Suddenly, he will conjure out of thin air (or his pockets) a piece of candy, and give it to you, no questions asked. Your parents see the transaction go down, but don’t object. Even parents who normally forbid their children candy concede to the natural authority of the Candy Man, and they let you have one of those things that has a wrapper that looks like a strawberry.
This is the spiritual successor to putting honey on the letters for children learning the Hebrew alphabet, the reward of participating in Jewish life in the age of mass-produced candy. And boy, is it sweet.
Like Moses to Joshua in the Torah itself, it would seem that when one Candy Man nears retirement (he was already retired from his optometry business; but now he feels the pull of Florida grow too strong), he selects a successor. Some say that the Chosen One will simply wake up one day with Sunkists in his pockets and know that his time has come. Likewise, children do not need to be informed of this change in management; they will seek him out by instinct; know he will be standing near the challah at kiddush.
Is there some kind of secret cabal of these wizened gentleman, a Protocols of the Elders of Suburban Synagogues? Do they trade tips on how to be adorable, or how to optimize pocket space for the most sweets?
We may never know, but we salute you Candy Men, wherever you are.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)