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Misloach Manot

Among the many mitzvot of Purim is the obligation to send "mishloach manot" ("shaloch manos") - two portions of food to at least one person. According to Rema [Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:4], both men and women are obligated in this mitzva. However, the Magen Avraham [ibid. note 4] maintains that the words of Rema may apply to a widow, but in the case of married women, their husbands send mishloach manot on their behalf. Nevertheless, he concludes that women should be stringent to fulfill the mitzva themselves. Indeed, the Orach HaShulchan [ibid. 695:18] writes that nowadays women do send mishloach manot themselves, and Shaarei T'shuva [ibid. note 9] writes that women are obligated since they too were part of the miracle of Purim and the verse "... the Jews took upon themselves..." clearly includes women.

The time to send mishloach manot is during the day [Rema ibid.]. According to Ba'al Hama'or [quoted in Magen Avraham], the reason for this is that if the manot are received at night, they might be eaten then and the recipient would not have the wherewithal to fulfill the mitzva of the Purim meal during the day.

Be'er Heiteiv [ibid. 695:7] quoting the Yad Aharon [18] notes, that if someone sent mishloach manot before Purim, but they will arrive during the day of Purim, one has fulfilled the mitzva. However, there are those who disagree and rely upon this opinion only when there is no one locally to receive the mishloach manot, and even then suggests that additional mishloach manot be set aside on Purim day for later delivery [Responsa L'vushei Mordechai [Vol 1, Orach Chaim 208].


What May Be Used for Mishloach Manot?

The Taz and Magen Avraham [ibid.] both rule that only food and drink - as distinct from utensils etc. - may be sent. Furthermore, Magen Avraham further notes that the food must be ready-to-eat.

Concerning the quantities of each of the two portions of food, there are many opinions. Some, basing themselves on the account in the Talmud [Megilla 7b] that Abaye bar Avin and Rav Chanina bar Avin exchanged their Purim meals and with this fulfilled the mitzva of mishloach manot, rule that the quantity must be sufficient for a meal [Shaarei T'shuva, Orach Chaim. 694:1]. The P'ri Megadim [Mishbetzot Zahav 695:4] disagrees and rules that each portion need only be of a sufficient size to be considered "honorable" in one's place. While others suggest that each portion can be of any size [Maharsha, Chidushei Aggadot to Megilla 7a, s.v. "shadar lei"].

Finally, while there is a common misperception that one must use two completely different types of food that require two different brachot, there is no basis for this requirement. In fact, according to the wording of the Rema, one could even use two pieces of meat (both which require the same bracha - she'ha'kol). However, Aruch HaShulchan [695:4] does infer from the words of the Rambam [Hilchot Megilla 2:15] that the manot should be of completely different kinds of food (but not necessarily different brachot). Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg rejects this conclusion [Tzitz Eliezer 14:65] and notes that the Shulchan Aruch uses slightly different wording from Rambam, indicating that one may send two manot of the same food. Moreover, he even found a variant version of Rambam which is like the words of the Shulchan Aruch. He concludes that the requirement of the verse "…of sending portions to one another..." is essentially that the manot should be two, not necessarily of different kinds.

Mishloach Manot via a Shaliach (agent)

The Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chaim 695:4] states that "one is obligated to send two portions..." which seems to imply that mishloach manot should be sent via an agent (shaliach).

Various reasons have been given for this, which include:

1. it indicates a greater degree of honor and importance [Responsa Yehuda Yaale 207]

2. it publicizes the miracle even more [Mikor Chaim 694:3]

3. one should strive to find a poor person to act as the shaliach to also fulfill the mitzva of matanot l'evyonim - since it is customary for the shaliach to be given gifts by those who receive the mishloach manot [Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 9:33].

However, if the mishloach manot were not sent via a shaliach, the sender still fulfills the mitzva. In fact, while some authorities suggest that sending via a shaliach is preferable [Responsa Binyan Tzion 40], others suggest that all that the Shulchan Aruch meant was that it was permitted to send via a shaliach - NOT that it was preferable! [Eshel Avraham -Botshatsh, Orach Chaim 695].

Interestingly, unlike other mitzvot which would require the shaliach to have the same level of obligation as the one sending him/her (and therefore a child under the age of bar-mitzvah is precluded from serving as a shaliach) Rabbi Akiva Eiger reported that Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Chatam Sofer) told him that for this mitzva the role of shaliach is entirely different and therefore even a child could serve as a shaliach. The difference, he explained, was in th, that typically a shaliach serves in place of the sender. While in this case, the shaliach was just part of the means to deliver the mishloach manot [Likutei Chover p. 36].

Fri, March 5 2021 21 Adar 5781