A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
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:
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).
Sending food to a friend or an acquaintance is an expression of goodwill and fraternity. On Purim we wish to instill and perpetuate these feelings(3).
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 the recipient.
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
1.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).
2. 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.
3.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).
4.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).
5.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 non-Jew(35).
MISHLOACH MANOS: CHUMROS and HIDDURIM(36)
1. What to send: One should send foods which will be eaten at the seudas Purim(37).
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 drink42 or two kinds of drink(43).
Two different kinds of fruit are considered as one food(44).
Two different kinds of wine, e.g., red wine and white wine, are considered as one kind of drink(45).
It is better not to send an item which the sender himself would not eat because of kashrus considerations(46).
To whom to send: One who sends mishloach manos as acknowledgment of a favor rendered to the sender does not fulfill the mitzvah(47).
One who sends mishloach manos to his enemy(48) or to a complete stranger(49) 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(50).
2. When to send: The mishloach manos should be sent as early as possible, but not before the reading of the megillah on Purim morning(51).
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(52). If, however, he specifically appoints another person to send it for him, that is sufficient(53).
3.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(54).
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 Megillah 1:1).
2 Terumas ha-Deshen 111.
3 R’ Shlomo Alkavatz in Manos ha-Levi quoted in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer O.C. 196.
4 Mishnah Berurah 695:20.
5 Kesav Sofer O.C. 141.
6 Rama O.C. 695:4.
7 Magen Avraham 695:12; Chayei Adam 155:33; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:4; Mishnah Berurah 695:25; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:18.
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.
9 Aruch ha-Shulchan 694:2 (concerning matanos la-evyonim); Orchos Chayim 695:2 quoting Me’orei Ohr.
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.
12 O.C. 695:4.
13 Mishnah Berurah 695:20.
14 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:14.
15 Ibid. See Tzitz Eliezer 14:65; 15:31.
16 Magen Avraham 695:11; Ma’asei Rav 249; Chayei Adam 135:31; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:2; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:15.
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.
20 Rama 695:4.
21 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (oral ruling quoted in Halichos Beisah, pg. 354).
22 Unless he is the rav of the city ?? Divrei Malkiel 5:237.
23 Rama O.C. 696:6.
24 Kesav Sofer O.C. 139.
25 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Penei Baruch, pg. 322).
26 Mishnah Berurah 696:18.
27 Rama 695:4.
28 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:16.
29 Be’er Heitev 695:7 quoting Yad Aharon; Responsa Beis She’arim O.C. 381; Chelkas Ya’akov 1:102.
30 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:17; Levushei Mordechai O.C. 108.
31 Yehudah Ya’aleh O.C. 207; Eishel Avraham 695; Kaf ha-Chayim 695:41; Tzitz Eliezer 9:33.
32 Mekor Chayim 694; Binyan Tziyon 44 quoted by Mishnah Berurah 695:18; Chasam Sofer (Gitin 22b).
33 Chasam Sofer (Gitin 22b); R’ Shlomo Kluger (Sefer ha-Chayim 695); Da’as Torah 695:4; Chelkas Ya’akov 1:103.
34 Achiezer 3:73.
35 Chelkas Ya’akov 1:104.
36 The following is a list of hiddurim that, if possible, one should follow for at least one set of mishloach manos so that he fulfills the mitzvah in accordance with all views. See note 1.
37 This is because the main purpose of mishloach manos is so that everyone will have a proper Purim meal,?see Ma’asei Rav 249.
38 Yad Dovid (Megillah 7a); Sdei Chemed, Purim 6.
39 Beiur Halachah 695:4 based on Ritva and Chayei Adam.
40 Sha’arei Teshuvah 694:1 quoting Zera Yaakov 11 concerning matanos la-evyonim. See Zera Ya’akov who rules the same way concerning mishloach manos.
41 Rosh Yosef, Megillah 7b; Eishel Avraham (Butchatch) 695; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:15.
42 Nitei Gavriel, pg. 106 quoting several poskim based on R’ Chananel (Megillah 7a).
43 Beis Yitzchak (Megillah 7b) based on the words of the Shelah.
44 See Rosh Yosef (Megillah 7a, quoted in Nitei Gavriel, pg. 107) who does not clearly decide this issue.
45 Orchos Chayim 695 quoting Tikkun Moshe.
46 See Chochmas Shelomo 695:4 and Maharam Shick O.C. 341.
47 Tzfnas Panei’ach (Rambam Hilchos Megillah 2:15).
48 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.
49 Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 58).
50 See Nitei Gavriel, pg. 114.
51 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).
52 Aruch ha-Shulchan 696:3; Mikra’ei Kodesh 39.
53 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:16.
54 Ben Ish Chai, Tetzaveh 16 and in Torah Lishmah 189. Most poskim are not concerned with this.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers’ College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
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