April 9, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 9, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Family and Mishloach Manot

On Purim, we send gifts of food to friends, in fulfillment of the verse: “U-mishloach manot ish le-rei’ehu—and of sending portions from a man to his fellow,” (Esther 9:22). Mishloach manot is one of the mitzvot of Purim. We fulfill it by sending two different food items to one person, although it is common to send to many more people. How should families handle this obligation? Within a married couple, is each spouse required to give their own separate mishloach manot? Elsewhere, I discussed whether a woman is obligated at all, and concluded that most Ashkenazim and some Sephardim believe that they are. If so, how should women and children fulfill this mitzvah? We will see that different communities have developed different practices.

I. Women Acting Strictly

Rav Avraham Gombiner (17th century, Poland; Magen Avraham 695:14) writes that while women are obligated in mishloach manot, he does not see that they should actually give them on Purim. He suggests that when a husband gives mishloach manot to multiple people, he sends for his wife also. If so, only a single woman or a widow or a divorcee needs to give her own mishloach manot. He concludes that, nevertheless, one should be strict. What does he mean by this comment about being strict? Do women have to send on their own? Or, should they not rely on their husband and, instead, explicitly instruct their husbands to send for them? Later authorities disagree about his intent.

Rav Shlomo Ganzfried (19th century, Hungary; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:4) says that women have to send mishloach manot on their own. When Magen Avraham says that women should be strict, he means that they should not fulfill their mitzvah through their husband sending mishloach manot for them. Similarly, Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein (19th century, Russia; Aruch Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chaim 695:18) says that a woman does not fulfill the mitzvah with her husband’s mishloach manot, because the obligation falls on her. He adds that in his time and place, the practice was—in fact—that married women would give mishloach manot to a friend. More recently, Rav Ya’akov Ariel (cont., Israel; Ohalei Halachah, Purim, chapter 7, no. 16) says that a married woman should send mishloach manot to a friend. He adds that, preferably, she should send it to a widow or single woman, who often particularly appreciate the gesture of friendship.

II. Assigning a Mishloach Manot

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (20th century, Israel; Halichot Shlomo, Mo’adim, volume 2, chapter 19, paragraph 17) says that a husband only has to notify his wife that he is giving mishloach manot on her behalf. He adds (ad loc., Devar Halacha, no. 27) that this is what the Magen Avraham means when he says that women should be strict. A woman does not have to give her own mishloach manot. Nor does a husband have to make sure that she owns the mishloach manot that he gives. Rather, she cannot just passively rely on him. Instead, he has to say to her that he is giving on her behalf, and notify the recipient that it is from her.

Similarly, Rav Auerbach’s student, Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl (cont., Israel; Yerushalayim Be-Mo’adeha, Purim, Responsa, no. 138, page 411) says that a married woman fulfills her obligation if her husband sends double the minimum amount for mishloach manot (four items, instead of two or two very large items). Rav Nebenzahl assumes the married couple would send mishloach manot as partners. Just like two men can send mishloach manot as partners, if the amount sent is double the minimum amount (Pietrekowski, Piskei Teshuvah, volume 1, no. 144), so too, a married couple can send as partners. Rav Nebenzahl adds (ibid., no. 139) that if a woman wants to give on her own, she does not need to make sure that she owns the food she is giving. There is no requirement to own the food you give for mishloach manot, as long as you have implicit permission to give it.

Rav Shmuel Wosner (21st century, Israel; Shevet Ha-Levi, volume 9, no. 147) points out that Rav Yosef Teomim (18th century, Germany; Pri Megadim, Orach Chaim, Eishel Avraham 695:14) omits Rav Gombiner’s conclusion that women should be strict. He leaves it that married women do not have to give mishloach manot. Only single women must give. Therefore—as Rav Wosner says—the common practice today that the family gives together as a single unit is proper. And, if the wife prepared a mishloach manot and even intended one to be her own—then, regardless of who delivers it—the woman has fulfilled the mitzvah, even according to Magen Avraham’s recommended strict view.

III. Women and Adult Children

Children over the age of bar and bat mitzvah are obligated in all of the mitzvot. Do they have to give their own mishloach manot? At first glance, the answer would seem to be that they are obligated. Why should mishloach manot be different from any other mitzvah?

Indeed, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (ibid.) says that just like a wife can fulfill her obligation in mishloach manot through her husband giving; so too, can young children fulfill through their father. By implication, he seems to say that adult children cannot fulfill their obligation through their father. Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky (cont., US; Kovetz Halachos, Purim, chapter 15, paragraph 16) says that a married woman can fulfill her obligation through her husband giving a jointly-owned mishloach manot. Technically, the husband does not even have to notify her, but it is proper to do so. However, adult children—even if they live and eat in their father’s home—have some money of their own and, therefore, are obligated to give their own mishloach manot (ibid., paragraph 18).

Rav Avraham David Horowitz (20th century, France-Israel; Responsa Kinyan Torah, volume 1, no. 132, section 2, paragraph 2) says that a wife who lives and eats in her husband’s home is exempt from the mitzvah of mishloach manot. Therefore—he adds—adult children who, likewise, live and eat in their father’s home are also exempt from the mitzvah. I have not found any other authority who agrees with this leniency. However, Rav Horowitz writes this to explain the practice he witnessed in mid-20th century France, where teenagers did not give mishloach manot.


Rabbi Gil Student is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TorahMusings.com. He writes frequently in Jewish newspapers and magazines, serving as a regular contributor to Jewish Action, The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. Rabbi Student serves on the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, on the editorial board of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine and as the magazine’s book editor.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles