A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
MISHLOACH MANOS: THE BASIC MITZVAH
Mordechai and Esther, with the approval of the Rabbis of the time,
introduced a mitzvas assei (1) which obligates every person to send two
different kinds of foods to one friend on Purim. Two basic reasons are given
for this mitzvah:
1.There are impoverished people who are too embarrassed to collect tzedakah
for themselves and will therefore not have food for the seudas Purim. By
establishing a system whereby everyone receives packages of food on Purim,
the rabbis ensured that even the most reticent of individuals will have food
for the Purim seudah (2).
2.Sending food to a friend or an acquaintance is an expression of goodwill
and fraternity. On Purim we wish to instill and perpetuate these
The goals of both of these reasons must be met in order to fulfill the
mitzvah properly. For instance: One who sends clothing for mishloach manos
does not fulfill the mitzvah (4) since he did nothing for his friend's Purim
meal. Similarly, one who sends mishloach manos anonymously does not fulfill
the mitzvah (5) since no friendship or goodwill is generated between him and
Nowadays, we are witness to a marked proliferation of mishloach manos.
Although mishloach manos is a relatively easy mitzvah to fulfill, if one is
unaware of the halachos, he could send dozens of mishloach manos and still
not properly fulfill the mitzvah. In addition, a clear distinction must be
drawn between the minimum requirements for fulfilling the mitzvah, and the
hiddur mitzvah, the more exacting form of fulfilling the mitzvah. There are
also some little known halachos which are important for those who wish to
fulfill the mitzvah according to the views of all the poskim. We have thus
split the halachos into two parts - the first part discusses the basic
rules, and the second part discusses chumros and hiddurim for those who wish
to embellish upon this once-a-year mitzvah.
Mishloach Manos: The Basic Rules
Who should send: Men and women are personally obligated in this mitzvah (6).
Married women are obligated in their own right and are not exempted by their
husband's mishloach manos (7). It is sufficient, however, for husband and
wife to send mishloach manos together, as if it is coming from both of
them - and the recipient recognizing that it is coming from both (8).
Some poskim hold that children over 13-even those who are being supported
by their parents - are obligated (9), while others exempt them since they do
not own anything in their own right (10).
Parents should educate their children in the mitzvah of mishloach manos as
they do with every mitzvah(11).
What to send: Any combination of two kinds of food (12), or one food and one
drink(13), or two kinds of drink (14), is sufficient. Two pieces of the same
food are considered as one food (15). Some poskim (16) specify that the
foods be ready to eat and require no further cooking, while others (17)
allow even uncooked foods to be sent.
To whom to send: To any Jewish (18) adult (19), wealthy or poor, with whom
you are acquainted or to whom you are related. Although men should send to
men only and women to women only (20), families may send to each other (21).
Mishloach manos should not be sent to a mourner (22) during the year of
mourning for his parents, or during the thirty days of mourning for other
relatives (23). A mourner who receives mishloach manos need not return them,
and the sender fulfills his mitzvah by sending those mishloach manos (24).
It is permitted for a woman to send to the wife of a mourner (25).
A mourner must send mishloach manos - even if he is in the middle of
shivah. A mourner should refrain from sending "items of simchah" (items that
elicit laughter and merriment) (26).
When to send: Mishloach Manos should be sent and received on Purim day (27).
If it is received at night or on the days before or after Purim, the sender
does not fulfill the mitzvah (28). If it is sent before Purim but is
received on Purim, some poskim hold that the mitzvah is fulfilled (29) while
others hold that it is not (30).
How to send: The sender himself may deliver the mishloach manos directly to
the recipient (31). Some poskim (32) hold that it is preferable to send it
via a messenger. The messenger may be a minor or a non-Jew (33). When
sending with a messenger, it is proper to verify that the mishloach manos
was indeed delivered (34), especially if the messenger is a minor or a
Mishloach Manos: Chumros and Hiddurim (36)
What to send: One should send foods which will be eaten at the seudas Purim
A wealthy person who sends inexpensive items of food does not fulfill the
mitzvah. In order for his mishloach manos to be considered as an expression
of friendship, its cost must be relative to the sender's wealth (38).
One who sends inexpensive food items to a wealthy person does not fulfill
the mitzvah, since such items are meaningless and unappreciated by him (39).
The minimum amount of mishloach manos is a meal's worth, about 6-7 fl. oz.
of food (40). Other poskim require that one send no less of a meal [in
volume] than one would normally serve a guest (41).
It is better to send two kinds of food than one food and one drink (42) or
two kinds of drink (43).
Two different kinds of wine, e.g., red wine and white wine, are considered
as one kind of drink (44).
It is better not to send an item which the sender himself would not eat
because of kashrus considerations (45).
To whom to send: One who sends mishloach manos as acknowledgment of a favor
rendered to the sender does not fulfill the mitzvah (46).
One who sends mishloach manos to his enemy (47) or to a complete stranger
(48) does not fulfill the mitzvah.
It is questionable if mishloach manos can be sent to one who is too drunk
to be aware of having received them (49).
When to send: The mishloach manos should be sent as early as possible, but
not before the reading of the megillah on Purim morning (50).
One who is traveling and will not be home must still send mishloach manos
and cannot rely on a messenger or his family in another city to fulfill his
obligation (51). If, however, he specifically appoints another person to
send it for him, that is sufficient (52).
How to send: The two kinds of food or drink should not be placed in one
utensil (plate or bowl), since the utensil combines them into one kind (53).
1 The poskim (see Achiezer 3:73) refer to this mitzvah as a mitzvah
mi-divrei kabbalah, a rabbinical mitzvah which is incorporated into the
written text (Esther 9:22). Accordingly, we do not say safek d'Rabbanan
l'kulah in regard to the mitzvos of Purim (Tzafnas Panei'ach to Rambam
2 Terumas ha-Deshen 111.
3 R' Shlomo Alkavatz in Manos ha-Levi quoted in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer O.C.
8 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (written responum quoted in Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg.
303 and oral ruling quoted in Halichos Beisah, pg. 354). Accordingly, the
amount sent should be double the minimum amount of mishloach manos.
10 Responsa Kinyan Torah 1:132. It follows that if the children have their
own possessions, then they are obligated like any adult.
11 Pri Megadim 695:14; Eishel Avraham 695; Kaf ha-Chayim 695:57. This means
that parents should give their children food or money so that they can
fulfill the mitzvah - Chanoch l'Na'ar, pg. 66. See, however, Kinyan Torah
1:132 who holds that it is sufficient chinuch to allow the children to
deliver the mishloach manos.
17 Pri Chadash O.C. 695; Ha'amek Sh'eilah 67:9; Shevet Sofer O.C. 23;
Yechaveh Da'as 6:45. Mishnah Berurah 695:20 quotes both views without
rendering a decision.
18 Responsa Beis Yitzchak (Y.D. 2:142).
19 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:18 rules that one fulfills the mitzvah by sending
to a minor, but many poskim (Ya'avetz 1:121, Yad Sofer 24; Kaf ha-Chayim
694:12; Birur Halachah, pg. 405) rule that one does not fulfill the mitzvah
in that manner.
47 Orchos Chayim 695:4 quoted in Nitei Gavriel, pg. 109. See, however, Pele
Yoetz (Purim) who recommends sending mishloach manos as a way of settling
disputes between people.
48 Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 58).
49 See Nitei Gavriel, pg. 114.
50 Based on Mishnah Berurah 692:1 who says that the shehecheyanu recited at
the daytime reading of the megillah applies to mishloach manos as well.
Additionally, there is a view that holds that one who sends mishloach manos
before the megillah does not fulfill his obligation altogether (Nitei
Gavriel, pg. 125 quoting Tikkun Moshe, pg. 92).
51 Aruch ha-Shulchan 696:3; Mikra'ei Kodesh 39.
52 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:16.
53 Ben Ish Chai, Tetzaveh 16 and in Torah Lishmah 189. Most poskim are not
concerned with this.