The Laws of Purim - Seudat Purim, Matanot La-evyonim and Mishloach Manot
the laws of THE FESTIVALS
THE LAWS OF PURIM
In memory of Yissachar Dov Shmuel bar Yakov Yehuda Illoway
and Leah Ruth Illoway bat Natan Naso Jacobs
Shiur #18: The Laws of Purim
Seudat Purim, Matanot La-evyonim and Mishloach Manot
We read toward the end of the
Megilla (9:20-22) that Mordekhai sent letters to the Jews of the
provinces of Achashveirosh, announcing the establishment of the Purim festival.
that they should keep yearly the
fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, the days
wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned
unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they
should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to
another, and gifts to the poor.
Mordekhai enacted three components to
the Purim celebration: feasting and gladness, sending portions one to
another (mishloach manot), and gifts to the poor (matanot
This week, we will discuss the details
and parameters of each of these mitzvot, including the specific
obligation of chayav inish li-vsumei to become inebriated on
The festive meal of Purim, known as
the seudat purim, is one of the central components of the Purim holiday,
both experientially and halakhically, as the Megilla itself characterizes
the days of Purim as "days of feasting and gladness."
When should one conduct this festive
The Gemara records:
Rava said: one who eats the festive
Purim meal at night has not fulfilled his obligation. What is the reason? It
says: "days of feasting and gladness." Rav Ashi was sitting in front of Rav
Kahana; it became dark, and the Rabbis didnt come. He said to him: Why didnt
the Rabbis come? Maybe they were busy with the festive Purim meal. He (Rav
Kahana) said: Was it not possible for them to eat [their Purim meal] the
previous night? He (Rav Ashi) responded: Didnt [you] hear that which Mar said
in the name of Rava: one who eats the festive Purim meal at night has not
fulfilled his obligation?
Rava clearly rules that the festive
meal must be eaten during the day of Purim, and not the previous night. The
Rambam (Hilkhot Megilla 2:14), the Rashba and Ritva (Megilla 4a) rule in
accordance with this Gemara, as does the Shulchan Arukh
The Mordekhai (Megilla 787), however,
cites the Raavya (R. Eliezer ben Yoel Ha-levi, d. 1225) as arguing that just as
the Megilla is read both at night and again during the day, similarly,
one should hold a festive meal both at night and during the day. Apparently, he
recognized an additional, albeit lower, level of the mitzva that requires
holding a meal at night, as well. The Rema (ibid.) also writes that one should
"rejoice at night as well, and slightly increase in one's
The Rema records that it is customary
to begin the Purim meal after praying the mincha service, in the
afternoon. The Mishna Berura (8) explains that people are generally busy
delivering mishloach manot during the morning hours, and therefore the
festive meal is commonly held in the afternoon.
In many communities, especially where
people must work on Purim, it is customary to begin the festive meal very late
in the afternoon. The Rema rules that the majority of the meal should be eaten
during the day, and speaks very critically of those who begin late and eat most
of their meal after dark.
Very often, the Purim meal is
concluded only after nightfall, giving rise to the question of whether one
should insert al ha-nissim in birkat ha-mazon. The Orchot
Chayim (Hilkhot Purim, 35), cited by the Hagahot Maimoniyot
(Hilkhot Megilla 2:14), rules that one inserts al ha-nissim even if the
meal extended into the nighttime hours. The Tur (695), however, cites his
father, the Rosh (see Teshuvot 22:6), as ruling that one should not
insert al ha-nissim after dark. The Maharil (56) records that the custom
in Ashkenaz followed the first opinion. The Shulchan Arukh (695:2)
cites both views, and the Rema adds that it is customary to insert "al
Interestingly, the Peri Megadim
(Eishel Avraham 5) lauds the practice of those who eat the seudat
Purim in the morning. The Rema, citing the Sefer Ha-minhagim, rules
that this should be done when Purim falls on Friday.
What should one eat at the festive
Purim meal? The Magen Avraham (695:9) writes, "We haven't found [a source
indicating] that one is obligated to eat bread on Purim." Accordingly, the
Birkei Yosef (695) and Eliya Rabba (695:7) rule that one need not
eat bread at the seudat purim. Others, however, maintain that one must
eat bread at the Purim meal, just as Halakha requires eating bread at
Yom Tov meals (see Shulchan Arukh O.C. 529:1). This is the view
accepted by the Arukh Ha-shulchan (695:7) and the Netziv (Ha-emek
She'ela 67:1, attributing this view to R. Achai Gaon).
This question may impact upon another
issue, namely, whether or not one who forgets to insert al ha-nissim must
repeat birkat ha-mazon. The Mishna Berura (15) cites a debate
surrounding this issue. The Magen Avraham (9) and Peri Megadim
(ibid.) link this question to the issue of whether one is obligated to eat bread
at the Purim meal. Those who require one to eat bread should also require one to
repeat birkat ha-mazon if he forgot al ha-nissim, as the
recitation of al ha-nissim was mandatory as a result of the obligation to
eat bread. Conversely, those who do
not require eating bread should not demand that one repeat birkat
ha-mazon in this case. The Aruch Ha-Shulkhan (12), however, contends
that even those who require the consumption of bread would not demand that one
who omits al ha-nissim repeat birkat ha-mazon, as birkat
ha-mazon should be treated no more stringently than the amida
prayer. One who forgets to add
al ha-nissim in the amida does not repeat the amida,
despite the fact that the inclusion of al ha-nissim is clearly
obligatory, and hence we would not require one to repeat birkat ha-mazon,
As for the final halakha, the
Mishna Berura applies to this case the principle of "safek berkhot
le-hakel," meaning, one never recites a berakha if there is some
uncertainty as to whether it is warranted.
Hence, in light of the different views surrounding this issue, one who
forgets to add al ha-nissim in birkat ha-mazon should not repeat
Must one eat meat at the Purim meal?
The Rambam (Hilkhot Megilla 2:15) and Shulchan Arukh (696:6) strongly
imply that one must eat meat at the Purim seuda. Some even express
uncertainty as to whether one fulfills the obligation by eating poultry
(Yechaveh Da'at 6:33)! The Magen Avraham (696:15), however,
questions whether one must actually eat meat. The Acharonim relate this
issue to the question of whether one must eat meat on Yom Tov to fulfill
the commandment of simchat yom tov.
Another component of the festive Purim
meal is drinking wine, a halakha to which we devote the next
Obligation to Drink Wine on Purim
The Gemara (Megilla 7b)
One is obligated to become intoxicated
on Purim until he cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is
Mordekhai. Rabba and R. Zeira held the festive Purim meal together. They got
drunk and Rabba slaughtered R. Zeira. The next day, he prayed for him and he was
resurrected. The next year, [Rabba] said to him: Let us hold the festive Purim
meal together. [R. Zeira] said to him: miracles do not occur every
This startling passage raises many
Regarding the facts of the story, the
Maharsha (R. Shmuel Eidels, 15551631), in his commentary to this passage,
explains that Rabba certainly didn't kill R. Zeira. Rather, he forced him to
drink excessively, which made him ill. The Maharsha suggests that the unusual
term shachtei ("slaughtered") employed by the Gemara refers to what
Rabba did to Rabbi Zeiras throat forcing him to drink.
From a practical, halakhic
perspective, of course, the more pressing question is how we must understand the
Gemaras initial statement. Is there really an obligation to become inebriated
on Purim, and, if so, to what extent?
The Rishonim take different
approaches in interpreting this passage and determining the
The Ba'al Ha-maor (to the
Rif, Megilla 3b), cites Rabbeinu Efrayim as explaining the story of Rabba
and R. Zeira as intended to contradict and reject the Gemaras initial statement
requiring drinking on Purim. Accordingly, the Ba'al Ha-maor rules that
there is no obligation to drink on Purim. The Ran (ibid.) concurs.
Many other Rishonim, by
contrast, including the Rif (3b) and Rosh (1:8), cite this passage verbatim,
implying that while the story of Rabba and R. Zeira may serve as a warning
against excessive intoxication, fundamentally, Halakha accepts the
Gemara's initial statement.
Interestingly, the Rambam (Hilkhot
Megilla 2:15), writes:
How does one fulfill this obligation
of the [Purim] meal? He should eat meat and arrange a meal according to his
means, and DRINK WINE UNTIL HE BECOMES INEBRIATED AND FALLS ASLEEP AS A
The Rambam adds that one should drink
until he falls asleep, while omitting the Gemara's description of drinking
"until one cannot distinguish between 'cursed is Haman' and 'blessed is
Mordekhai'. Why does the Rambam reformulate the Gemara's dictum, and does his
new formulation alter the demands of this mitzva?
The Rema (695:2) seems to have
understood that one drinks until he falls asleep, and thereby fulfills the
requirement to drink until he cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and
blessed is Mordekhai. The
Arukh Ha-shulchan (695:3), by contrast, explains that the story of Rabba
and R. Zeira serves to modify the initial statement, and reject the extreme
obligation first proposed by the Gemara. In other words, while one should become
mildly intoxicated on Purim, excessive inebriated is not mandated (and
therefore, not permitted!).
The Orchot Chayim (Hilkhot
Purim) also rejects those who mandate complete inebriation, and writes that
one should merely "drink more than one is accustomed." He also rules that
becoming completely inebriated constitutes a serious sin, as we shall see
The Tur (695) and the
Shulkhan Aruch (695:2), following the Rif and Rosh, cite this Talmudic
passage verbatim. Interestingly enough, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (695:5)
expresses astonishment over the Tur and Shulchan Arukhs ruling in
accordance with the Rif and Rosh, rather than the more moderate positions of
The Rema, however, writes:
And some say that one need not drink
that much, and should rather drink more than he is accustomed to and then sleep,
and by sleeping he cannot distinguish between the cursed Haman and blessed
Mordekhai. Regardless of whether does a lot or a little, he should focus his
heart towards the heavens.
Many Acharonim, including the
Mishna Berura (695:5) and Arukh Ha-shulchan (695:5), advocate
following the Remas ruling.
When does one fulfill this mitzva?
The Rambam (2:15), and, later, the Tur and Shulkhan Arukh (605), imply that this mitzva is part of the obligation to participate in a festive Purim meal. R. Shimon Sofer, in his Hitorerut Teshuva (1:6), infers from the story of R. Zeira who refused to attend Rabba's Purim meal the next year (see above), that the drinking must accompany the Purim meal.
so, then one might question the practice of those who drink on Purim night, as
the Shulchan Arukh (695:1) explicitly rules that one can fulfill the
mitzva of seudat Purim only during the day.
that one wishes to reach some level of inebriation, is there a "preferred drink"
that he should use for this purpose?
Shulchan Arukh does not specify any particular beverage. However, some
Rishonim explain the halakha of drinking on Purim as intended to
commemorate the feasts that took place during the Purim story, which included
indulgence in wine. This would certainly indicate a preference for wine.
Furthermore, Rashi (Megilla 7b s.v. li-vsumei), the Rambam (Megilla
2:15), the Rokeach (237) and the Radbaz (1:462) also explicitly mention drinking
wine. Some prove from these sources that one should preferably use wine is
fulfilling this mitzva. (See, for example, R. Menashe Klein [1925-present],
Mishneh Halakhot 5:83.)
R. Moshe Sternbach, in his Moadim U-zmanim (2:190), suggests that one should conduct the meal over wine to fulfill the obligation of mishteh, which indicates specifically wine, but he may also drink other alcoholic beverages if he enjoys them.
Although women are included in all the
mitzvot of Purim, some sources suggest that it may be especially
inappropriate for women to become intoxicated (see Ketubot 65a, Pesachim 109a,
and Moadim U-zmanim, ibid.).
Several Rishonim expressed
great concern regarding this mitzva. The Orchot Chayim (ibid.),
for example, writes that full inebriation is certainly prohibited, "and there is
no greater sin, as it leads to sexual impropriety, bloodshed, and other sins."
In fact, the Chafetz Chayim (R. Yisrael Meir Kagan, 1838-1933), in his Beiur
Halakha (695:2), questions how the Rabbis could possibly encourage, or even
mandate, behavior which has so often been the cause of sin. He cites the
Eliya Rabba as explaining that since the miracle of Purim occurred as
result of mishtaot (feasts characterized by drinking) the
first feast which led to Vashti's demise, and, later, the feast at which
Achashveirosh ordered Haman's execution we commemorate those miraculous events
through drinking wine.
Nonetheless, some (Ra'avya 2:564)
explain that the Gemara does not obligate drinking, but merely presents it as a
mitzva be-alma (a mere good deed).
But one certainly fulfills the day's mitzvot even without
drinking. Furthermore, R. Avraham Danzig (1748-1829) writes in his Chayei
If one believes that drinking on Purim
will interfere with his performing any mitzva, such as reciting birkat
ha-mazon, mincha, or ma'ariv, or if he will behave in a boorish
manner, it is preferable that he not drink (or become inebriated) as long as his
motives are proper.
A famous Talmudic statement (Bava
Metzia 23b) allows one to alter the truth regarding "puraya," which is
traditionally understood as referring to private sexual matters. Interestingly enough, however, the
Maharsha explains this term as referring to Purim:
Be-furaya- as a person is obligated to become
intoxicated and so on, the Rabbis would customarily lie, saying that they could
not distinguish [between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordekhai] even if
they were not inebriated enough and could distinguish
Apparently, one should not feel
pressured to become inebriated, and may even lie if necessary.
The Beiur Halakha concludes
his discussion of this topic by citing the following comments of the
We are certainly not commanded to
demean ourselves through joy, as we are not commanded to engage in a celebration
of frivolity and nonsense, but rather through joy that brings about love of God
and thanksgiving for the miracles which He wrought for us
It may be worth noting that while one
who is intoxicated may still recite birkat ha-mazon (Shulchan Arukh
O.C. 185:4), when it comes to tefila the Shulchan Arukh (99:1)
One who drinks a revi'it of
wine should not pray until he removes the wine [meaning, until its effects wear
off]. And if he drank more, but he is able to speak before the King, then if he
prays [the amida], his prayer fulfills his obligation. [However,] if he
is unable to speak before the King, and prays, his prayer is an abomination and
he must repeat his prayer when the wine is removed from him
One should recite the mincha
prayer before one's se'udat Purim, and be mindful to properly recite the
arvit prayer after the meal.
As mentioned above, the Megilla
(9:22) relates that Mordekhai instructed the Jewish people to "make them [the
days of Purim] days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to
another, and gifts to the poor."
Rabbi Yair Chayim Bacharach
(1639-1702; author of Chavot Yair) writes in his work Mekor Chayim
(O.C. 695) that one should fulfill the mitzva of mishloach manot
before giving matanot la-evyonim, since the verse (Esther 9:22) lists
mishloach manot before matanot la-evyonim.
Others (see, for example, R. Betzalel
Stern [1911-1989], in his Be-tzel Ha-chokhma 6:81) disagree. In fact, the
Yesod Ve-shoresh Ha-avoda (12:6) and R. Yaakov Emden (in his
siddur) write that one should actually give matanot la-evyonim
before shacharit on Purim morning! Furthermore, the Tur and
Shulchan Arukh (694-5) record the laws of matanot la-evyonim
BEFORE the laws of mishloach manot, perhaps suggesting that matanot
la-evyonim should be given first. Moreover, the Rambam writes (Hilkhot
It is better for a person to increase
his gifts to the poor than to increase the size of his Purim meal or
mishloach manot. For there is no greater and more admirable joy than to
gladden the hearts of the destitute, orphans, widows and converts. One who
gladdens the hearts of the misfortunate is likened unto the Divine
The Gemara (Megilla 7a) teaches that
one must give two "gifts" to two separate people, or, as Rashi explains, a total
of two gifts, one to each person.
What is the minimum that one must give
for each gift? The Ritva (Megilla 7a) writes that one should give at least two
"perutot" (coins), one for each gift. Similarly, Rashi (Responsa 293,
Shibolei Ha-leket 202) asserts that there is no minimum amount for
matanot la-evyonim, as it is a form of charity, which one should give as
much as one likes. On the other hand, some (see Maharsha, Chidushei Agadot
Megilla 7a) require that one give a more significant gift. The
Sha'arei Teshuva (695:1) cites the ruling of the Zera Ya'akov that
one should give a minimum of "three eggs," meaning, the amount of a small
The Rambam (Hilkhot Megilla 2:16)
writes that one may give either money or food to fulfill this mitzva. The Or
Sameiach (ad loc) writes that one should not give clothing. The Turei
Even (Megilla 7a) suggests that although one may indeed give food, it is
preferable to give money, as one reason for not reading the Megilla on
Shabbat (Megilla 4a) relates to the problem of giving money as matanot
la-evyonim on Shabbat. This
clearly presumes that money is the preferred means of fulfilling this
Who is considered an "evyon"
(poor person) for this mitzva? Seemingly (see Piskei Teshuvot
694:2), based upon the standard definition of a "poor person" who may take
public charity funds (Shulchan Arukh Y.D. 253:2), one who is unable to
support oneself and his family, or a person who faces exorbitant expenses for
medical care or other needs, may receive matanot la-evyonim. The Rambam
(Hilkhot Megilla 2:16) and Shulchan Arukh (694:3) rule that we are not
discerning with people asking for charity on Purim as we are throughout the
year, and all who "extend their hand" are given matanot la-evyonim on
Purim. The Ramban (cited by Nimukei Yosef, Bava Metzia 48b), as well as
the Tur (694) and Shulchan Arukh (694:3), write that one may give
matanot la-evyonim to Jews and non-Jews alike, in order to avoid
"eiva" (enmity or animosity). The Machzor Vitri (245), however,
records Rashis harsh criticism of those who distribute matanot
la-evyonim to their non-Jewish workers on Purim.
The Shulchan Arukh (694:4)
rules that one who does not encounter a poor person on Purim may set aside the
money and give it them after Purim.
It is customary to set aside money
before Purim and give it to the appointed gabbaim, who serve as one's
agent to distribute the matanot la-evyonim on Purim day. R. Yosef Engel, in his Gilyonei
Ha-shas (Shabbat 10b), claims that the identity of the giver must be known
to the recipient, because the verse describes matanot la-evyonim as
"gifts," which one gives expecting the recipient to know that he received it
specifically from him. Other
Acharonim, however, reject this assertion, and even prefer to preserve
the anonymity of the donor.
One should not give matanot
la-evyonim from money already set aside as ma'aser kesafim (see Rema,
Y.D. 249:1). Similarly, one should not give matanot la-evyonim to pay a
debt, or to pay those whom he would ordinarily give a gift (Arukh
Ha-shulchan 694:4). However, once one has fulfilled the minimum requirement
of matanot la-evyonim, he may then add from his ma'aser kesafim to
increase the sum or number of recipients (Yechaveh Da'at
It is interesting to note that giving
charity often accompanies obligatory festivities. The Rambam (Hilkhot Yom Tov
When one eats and drinks [on Yom
Tov], he is obligated to feed those less fortunate the stranger, orphan,
widow, and poor. One who locks his door and eats and drinks only with his
family, neglecting the poor and those of bitter fortune, do not experience the
joy of a mitzva but rather the enjoyment of one's belly!
Incorporating the less fortunate into
our own celebrations is an integral part of religiously mandated
simcha. Without this added dimension, ones happiness is merely
physical, the enjoyment of ones belly.
A number of possible reasons have been suggested for the mitzva of mishloach manot (sending portions one to another").
Some relate the mitzva of
mishloach manot to the broader mitzva of the festive Purim meal,
either in that it ensures that the less fortunate will have food for a festive
meal, or as it serves an extension of one's own personal obligation to hold a
festive seudat Purim.
The Terumat Ha-deshen (111),
for example, writes, The reason for mishloach manot is to ensure that
each and every person has sufficient means to hold a proper Purim
Similarly, the Rambam (Hilkhot
Megilla 2:15) writes:
How should one fulfill the obligation
of a festive meal? He should eat meat and assemble a proper meal according to
his means, and drink wine until becoming inebriated
and similarly, one is
obligated to send two portions of meat or two cooked dishes of two types of food
to his fellow
The Rambam clearly implies that the
mitzva of mishloach manot stems from the obligation to partake of
a festive meal.
Others understand mishloach
manot as an independent mitzva instituted for the purpose of
increasing friendship, in the interest of rectifying the divisiveness that Haman
observed among the Jewish people: There is one nation scattered and dispersed
among the [other] nations" (3:8). (See, for example, the Chatam Sofer
[O.C. 1:196] citing R. Shlomo Alkavetz's work, Manot
This question may impact upon a number
of practical halakhic issues.
For example, what is the proper time
for sending mishloach manot? The Rema (695) rules that one must fulfill
this mitzva during the day, and not on the night of Purim. Instinctively,
one might explain this ruling on the basis of the theory that associates
mishloach manot with the Purim meal, which would naturally require
sending mishloach manot specifically by day, when the Purim meal is
eaten. In truth, however, it seems
that the proper time for all the mitzvot of Purim is during the day (the
nighttime Megilla reading marks the exception), and we therefore cannot
necessarily demonstrate the relationship between mishloach manot and the
seudat Purim from this halakha.
R. Aryeh Tzvi Frommer, in his Eretz
Tzvi (121), bemoans the practice of many to give mishloach manot
after sunset on Purim day, while still partaking of the Purim meal. He notes
that the Terumat Ha-deshen, cited above, might condone such a practice,
as he associates mishloach manot with the Purim meal, and thus so long
as the meal is in process, perhaps one can still fulfill the obligation of
Nevertheless, R. Frommer writes, this position is not universally
accepted, and one should not rely upon it.
The Ben Ish Chai (Rabbi Yosef
Chayim ben Eliyahu al-Chakam of Baghdad, 18351909) addresses the question of
whether one can fulfill this obligation by sending mishloach manot
before Purim on the assumption that it will be received on Purim (and it is
indeed received on Purim). He
suggests that according to the Terumat Ha-deshen, as long as the
recipient benefits from the gift on Purim, the sender has fulfilled his
obligation. According to the
Manot Ha-levi, however, one must send the gift, thereby demonstrating his
affection for the recipient, on Purim day itself. This issue in discussed by
other Acharonim, as well. Some (Be'er Heitev 695:7,
Chelkat Yaakov 1:102) maintain that the mishloach manot must be
received on Purim, while others (Arukh Ha-shulchan 695:17) insist that it
must actually be sent on Purim day.
According to some authorities, one who
lives in Jerusalem, where the mitzva of mishloach manot is
fulfilled on Shushan Purim (the 15th of Adar), should be careful to
send mishloach manot to a fellow Jerusalemite who, like him, observes
Shushan Purim. Conversely, one who lives outside Jerusalem should ensure to give
mishloach manot specifically to somebody who observes Purim on the same
What must one send as mishloach
manot? The Gemara (Megilla 7b) teaches:
Rabbi Yosef quotes a beraita:
"Sending gifts from a man to his friend" -- two presents to one man; "and gifts
to the poor" -- two presents, each to one or two people.
Thus, this mitzva requires sending at least two gifts to at least one person.
What gifts qualify for this
obligation? The Rambam (Hilkhot Megilla 2:15), and, subsequently, the Shulchan Arukh (695:4), write
that one should send "two portions of meat or two cooked dishes of two types of
food to his friend
The Mishna Berura (20) writes
that one may even send a drink, and the Arukh Ha-shulchan (14) adds that
one may even send two drinks. There is no source for the common misconception
that one must send two foods requiring two different berakhot, though the
two foods should be distinct and not two pieces of the same food (see Arukh
Ha-shulchan, ibid.). Some (Magen Avraham 695:11, Chayei Adam
135:31 and Arukh Ha-shulchan 695:15) write that the food must already be
cooked and ready to eat, while others (Peri Chadash 695, Yechaveh
Daat 6:45) maintain that one may even send uncooked foods. The Mishna
Berura (20) cites both opinions.
Seemingly, those who relate the
mitzva of mishloach manot to the festive Purim meal might require
that the food be ready to eat. Indeed, the work Maaseh Rav records the
Vilna Gaons ruling that one should send cooked items ready to be used for the
Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg (1916-
2006), in his Tzitz Eliezer (8:14), suggests that this debate may also
impact upon the size of the gift. He suggests that according to the Terumat
Ha-deshen, the giver should take into account the financial position of the
recipient and whether he will potentially use the gift for his Purim meal. According to the Manot Ha-levi,
however, the gift should reflect the position of the giver, in order to properly
reflect his gesture of affection towards the recipient.
The Terumat Ha-deshen (ibid.)
raises the interesting question of whether one may give clothing as
mishloach manot. He concludes, based upon his analysis cited above, that
since mishloach manot is intended to ensure proper provisions for the
festive Purim meal, the contents of the mishloach manot must be
Similarly, Rabbi Menashe Klein, in his
Mishneh Halakhot (4:91), questions whether one may send chidushei
Torah (written Torah insights) as mishloach manot. He suggests that
while this would certainly not suffice according to the Terumat
Ha-deshen, it might qualify according to the Manot Ha-levi, who
explains that mishloach manot serves to increase friendship among
people. Since some people enjoy
chidushei Torah more than material goods, it is possible that sending
chidushei Torah achieves the desired goal of mishloach manot and thus fulfills the
The Acharonim also question
whether one fulfills the mitzva of mishloach manot if the
recipient declines ("mochel") to accept the gift (see Rema 695, Chatam
Sofer O.C. 1:196), and whether one may send a "gift with the condition that
it be returned" (Peri Megadim 694:11). These questions may also depend
upon whether the ultimate goal of the mitzva relates to the Purim meal,
or to increasing harmony amongst Jews.
The Arukh Ha-shulchan (695:16)
comments that one does not fulfill the obligation if the recipient does not know
that he received the mishloach manot.
Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (1798 1871),
in his Binyan Tziyon (44), suggests that one should preferably send the
mishloach manot through a shaliach an agent rather than personally, as the verse
speaks of "sending" gifts, and not
"giving." The Mishna Berura (18) cites this opinion. This idea seemingly
supports the notion that mishloach manot serves to increase peace and
harmony among the Jewish people, and should therefore include as many people as
possible. If so, then one need not send the gifts with an agent who is generally
considered a valid "shaliach" meaning, an adult Jew as the purpose of
employing an agent here is not to discharge one's obligation, but rather to get
more people involved in the mitzva.
Women are equally obligated in
mishloach manot and matanot la-evyonim, as "they were also
included in the miracle" (Shulchan Arukh 695:4 and Mishna Berura
25). The Magen Avraham (14) notes, however, that the women in his time
were not so strict about these obligations. To justify this practice, he
suggests that while a widow should send her own mishloach manot and
matanot la-evyonim, a married woman fulfills her obligation through the
mishloach manot and matanot la-evyonim sent by her husband.
The Magen Avraham concludes, however,
that women should preferably act stringently in this regard and send their own
mishloach manot and matanot la-evyonim.
According to the Magen
Avrahams rationale, a husband should send two portions to at least two
people one for himself and another for his wife. Furthermore, based upon our
discussion above, it would seem that at least regarding mishloach manot,
the recipients should know that the portions came from the husband and the
The Arukh Ha-shulchan (694:2),
by contrast, writes that a husband and wife discharge their obligation by
sending to one person, due to the principle of "ishto ke-gufo" (husband
and wife are considered like on). One's adult children, however both boys and
girls are obligated to send mishloach manot and give matanot
la-evyonim independently, and do not fulfill the obligation through their
parents. Interestingly, the Peri Chadash (and, apparently, the Vilna Gaon
in 695:4) rules that women are NOT obligated in matanot la-evyonim and
mishloach manot, as the verse says "ish le-re'ehu" (a MAN to his
neighbor). Other Acharonim seem to reject this opinion.
Damages Caused on Purim; Costumes and
The Rema (695:2), citing the
Terumat Ha-deshen (110), writes, Some say that if one damages another as
a result of the Purim festivities, he is exempt from paying.
The Mishna Berura (13) cites
the Bach who distinguishes in this regard between minor and major damages. He
explains that people are not "forgiving" of major damages, even if they result
from the Purim festivities, and therefore the guilty party must compensate the
victim in the case of major damage.
In addition, the Acharonim
(see, for example, Mishna Berura 696:31, Arukh Ha-shulchan 695:10)
warn against excessive frivolity during the Purim celebrations, as discussed
Furthermore, while in some communities
people may have been forgiving of minor property damages, one must certainly
avoid behavior which leads to embarrassing or humiliating others in any
The Rema (696:4) observes the custom
to wear costumes on Purim, including men wearing women's clothing, and vice
versa. He justifies this behavior on the grounds that the intentions are for the
day's festivities. The Taz (Y.D. 182), however, records that his
father-in-law, the Bach, sought to abolish this custom.
Certainly one who dresses up, and
those who perform "Purim shpiels," should ensure that their actions are
"le-shem shamayim" and in good taste.