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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5775

Ask the Rabbi: Ranking Mishloach Manot Stringencies

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I have heard so many opinions about mishloach manot requirements (enough for a meal, different berachot, cooked food, etc.). Which are necessary? 

 

Answer: We will refer to the practices you mention and a few others (not exhaustive), categorizing them according to our appraisal of the chumrot.

Proper to Be Careful  (strong opinions require them)

Respectable quality/quantity – The gemara (Megilla 7b) tells of Amoraim sending simple foods and sharp spices, respectively, and a colleague implying this was inappropriate. Many explain that mishloach manot are supposed to foster warm relations and/or that they are for seudat Purim use (see Shut Chatam Sofer, Orach Chayim 196).  Therefore, it can be expected that poskim say the manot should have some importance (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 695:15) and perhaps that this is magnified by the giver and/or the recipient’s affluence (Ritva, Megilla 7a; Chayei Adam 155:31; Be’ur Halacha 695:4). The opinions (see citations in Yalkut Yosef, Moadim, p. 329, Mikraei Kodesh (Harari) 12:4) that one person’s mishloach manot should suffice for some level of an independent meal (as opposed to an enhancement) are fewer and weaker.

Ready to be eaten – The Magen Avraham (695:11) requires that meat that is given be cooked. The logic is that raw food misses the mark, as the recipient cannot enjoy it without effort. The Mishna Berura (695:19) cites this as the main ruling, while noting there are distinguished lenient opinions. (Some mistakenly understand that one must give cooked food. Actually, the issue exists only for food that is inedible raw.) While important poskim are lenient (Yalkut Yosef, ibid. p. 318), it would be strange not to follow such an easily-followed logical stringency.

One May Want to be Careful (minority strict opinions with a measure of weight)

Drinks do not count – Some claim that manot refer to solid food, not drinks. However, the gemara (ibid.) that tells of a rabbi who sent a nice portion of meat and a barrel of wine indicates drinks are fine (Terumat Hadeshen I:111), as the Magen Avraham (ibid.) and Mishna Berura (ibid.) rule. According to a minority opinion’s reading of the Yerushalmi’s version of the aforementioned story, those manot were insufficient because drinks do not count.

Kedushat shvi’it  – The Ben Ish Chai (Torah Lishma 193) includes mishloach manot in the prohibition on using Shemitta produce for paying various debts (Rambam, Shemitta 6:10). He applies this not just to fulfilling the basic mitzva of mishloach manot but even to giving to those who have already given you. Many are lenient (see Minchat Yitzchak X:57), apparently including our mentor, Rav Shaul Yisraeli (see Mikraei Kodesh 12:(31)). Some are machmir only to the extent that without the shvi’it produce, he has not fulfilled the mitzva (Mishnat Yosef, cited in Minchat Yitzchak ibid.).

Separate utensils – the Ben Ish Chai (I, Purim 16) says that whatever is in one utensil counts as one mana. This is difficult concerning foods that are, by their nature, unrelated (as opposed to something like assorted candies in a container – see Hitorerut Teshuva I:126). However, probably partially in deference to the Ben Ish Chai’s stature, several Sephardic poskim endorse this stringency l’chatchila (Yalkut Yosef, ibid. p. 330).

Unwarranted Stringency

Foods of different berachot  – The manot must be unique. Most poskim say not to suffice with one food separate into two portions (even if each is big). However, the idea that foods’ berachot are an indicator of being separate is contradicted by many prominent sources and is illogical (meat and juice share a beracha; different types of potato chips do not).

The stringencies are meant to ensure one fulfills the formal mitzva and are not always indicative of the mitzva’s goals. Therefore, if you give “halachically mehudarmishloach manot to one person, the idea of giving to many people to cultivate friendship (Shulchan Aruch, OC 695:4) can be done in any way that enhances the Purim spirit. Do not let chumrot stifle your energy or creativity.

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