With Purim almost upon us, most people begin to look forward to
receiving baskets filled with an assortment of yummy goodies and to
sending food baskets with their friends and family. These baskets, called mishloach manot, are an essential part of the
celebration of Purim.
With Purim almost upon us, most people begin to look forward to receiving baskets filled with an assortment of yummy goodies and to sending food baskets with their friends and family.
These baskets, called mishloach manot, are an essential part of the celebration of Purim. Other holidays have many mitzvot associated with them – eating matzah on Pesach, sitting in a sukkah on Sukkot, lighting the Chanukah candles, etc. – but none have an associated mitzvah that demands sharing food with one’s friends, thereby fostering achdut (togetherness), except for Purim.
But who is obligated to give mishloach manot? Why give them now and not on any other holiday? What foods are supposed to be given?
Megillat Esther says that Jews celebrated their victory over the evil Haman with days of joy and gladness, sending baskets to one another. The Talmud says that we continue this practice by sending baskets of food to our friends and family on Purim.
The minimum amount one must include are two foods, preferably each with a different brachah (blessing) recited over it, sent to one person. The sefer Trumat HaDeshen says that this is to ensure that everyone has sufficient food for their Purim meal, even those too embarrassed to ask for charity. The foods must be commensurate with the financial status of the recipient. Better quality foods and drinks should be given to wealthier people in order to ensure their consumption at the Purim meal.
Mishloach manot should be given during the day on Purim so as to allow the recipients enough time to include the food with their festive meal. If you wait until dark to deliver your mishloach manot, you have not fulfilled your obligation.
The Rama states that both adult men and women have an obligation to fulfil this mitzvah, even though normally women are exempt from mitzvat aseh shehazman grama (time-bound mitzvot). The Mishnah Brurah rules that married women are not exempt from their obligation by their husband’s mishloach manot and must give their own. The accepted practice today is for married couples to send mishloach manot as a family, but to double the amount normally given. In this way, both spouses have fulfilled the basic requirement of two foods each.
It’s customary for parents to educate their children in this mitzvah by giving them food to give to others. Some poskim (halachic decisors) have ruled that children over bar or bat mitzvah age have an obligation to give mishloach manot, even if they are supported by their parents. The accepted practice today is to give one’s children food to bring to their friends.
Purim is one of our most joyous holidays. We are commanded to eat and drink, and share with our friends and family. With this in mind, I wish everyone a Freilichin Purim and Chag Samayach!