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Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh | 5769

Should my wife and children give their own mishloach manot (=mm) or do the many mm we send suffice for everyone?

Ask the Rabbi

Question: Should my wife and children give their own mishloach manot (=mm) or do the many mm we send suffice for everyone?


Answer: The Rama (Orach Chayim 695:4) says that women are also obligated in mm; they are to give theirs to women, as men give to men. Some poskim (Pri Chadash, ad loc.; see also Gra) disagree, as the megilla talks about a man giving his friend. The great majority of poskim, including Sephardim (Kaf Hachayim 695:56; Yalkut Yosef, Moadim p. 333), support the Rama.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc.:14) reports that women in his time rarely gave mm. He suggests that that only widows are required; a husband who gave to a few people fulfilled the mitzva on his wife’s behalf. He implies that if the couple gave to two people (enough to fulfill two people’s mitzvot), there is no need to distinguish which mm are whose or that each goes to the correct gender. He concludes that it is proper to be stringent (as does the Mishna Berura 695:25).

Recent Acharonim have discussed how exacting this stringency is. Neither woman nor man is ever required to hand deliver his own mm, which may be sent by a halachic agent or even a non-halachic courier [see Ask the Rabbi, Teruma 5761]. It is brought in Rav Orbach’s name (Halichot Shlomo 19:17) that it is proper and sufficient to discuss with one’s wife and mention to at least one recipient that the mishloah manot are [also] on her behalf (see footnote 27, ad loc.). He assumes no one needs to legally own the mm he gives (if he has permission to give it) (ibid.- see discussion in Hilchot Chag Bechag, 13:(16)). Rav O. Yosef (see Yalkut Yosef, ibid.) prefers that the woman herself give a specific mm to a particular woman but does not mention making sure that the food she gives is halachically hers. Still others (see opinions stated in Mikraei Kodesh (Harari), Purim 12:(37)) suggest being more stringent and having the woman make a kinyan from her husband or have others do so on her behalf so that she will own the mm. Even if one is conceptually stringent on this point, in a great many of our families it is probably not necessary, as spouses’ normal arrangement is that their property is owned jointly. Thus, each spouse has a right to claim for him or herself that which she needs for a variety of purposes, including mitzvot (see Bava Batra 137b).

Where the matter is less simple is regarding children who are dependant on their parents for money. Some say that they are not required to give mm separately, as those with full financial dependency do not usually have monetary obligations. Here, it appears that it is more accepted to obligate the children, at least when they are over bar and bat mitzva (Mikraei Kodesh, ibid.:15). In this case, the children do not have joint ownership in the family’s property and if one wants to follow the opinions that one must own the mm he gives, he or she should use his own money or receive permission from the parents to acquire for himself some food supplies for this purpose.

The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 695:14) says that even children under bar mitzva should fulfill the mitzva as an obligation of chinuch (training). Some want to claim that we fulfill this by having the children deliver their parents’ mm (see Piskei Teshuvot 695:15). However, it seems both halachically and educationally sound to give small children supplies to make and deliver their own mm to their own friends. (If they are incapable, they are too young to be obligated.)

In summary, where possible, every member of the family should preferably give at least one mm package. It is a worthwhile stringency to tell them that they, when taking the package, they will be acquiring it for themselves to give. It seems unnecessary and, in some cases, is even insulting to tell one’s wife that she has to first acquire the provisions before giving hers.

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