By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Immediately following shacharit and the Megilla reading on Purim morning, one is off on one’s way to perform the remaining mitzvot of the day: mishlo’ach manot, matanot la’evyonim, and Seudat Purim. A number of sources discuss whether there might be a preferred order for performing these mitzvot, and if so, which mitzvot take priority.
According to most authorities, the mitzva of mishlo’ach manot takes precedence over the mitzva of matanot la’evyonim. This is because the relevant verse in the Megilla lists the mitzva of mishlo’ach manot before the mitzva of matanot la’evyonim. Indeed, there are a number of other situations where priority is determined by the order of what is listed first in a verse. For example, the Torah praises the Land of Israel as “a Land of wheat and barley, grape vines, fig, and pomegranate, a land of olives and honey”. As such, when one desires to eat a grape and a fig, the blessing should be recited upon the grape rather than the fig because grapes appear first in the verse.
Other authorities disagree and insist that matanot la’evyonim should be performed first. In fact, there is even a view that the mitzva of matanot la’evyonim should be performed even before one recites Shacharit. It is also noted that the laws of matanot la’evyonim appear before the laws of mishlo’ach manot in the Shulchan Aruch which might just be a hint that matanot la’evyonim does indeed take priority.
Most authorities are of the opinion that it is best not to perform any of the Purim mitzvot until after one first hears the Megilla reading on Purim day. This is because the shehecheyanu blessing recited before the Megilla reading is intended to “cover” the other mitzvot of the day, as well. Indeed, according to kabbala one must not perform any of the Purim mitzvot until after one recites Shacharit and hears the Megilla. According to others, however, one is encouraged to perform both mishlo’ach manot and matanot la’evyonim before hearing the Megilla. There are those who rule that one may not eat anything on Purim day until one has fulfilled the mitzvot of mishlo’ach manot and matanot la’evyonim though most authorities argue that this is an unnecessary stringency.
Nevertheless, one should never pass up the opportunity to perform a mitzva even if it may appear to be out of order. For example, if one happens upon a friend whom one was intending to give a mishlo’ach manot package to, the package should be given at that time even according to the view that the mitzva of matanot la’evyonim should be performed first. So too, one who comes across a poor person should be sure to give him matanot la’evyonim even if one did not yet perform the mitzva of mishlo’ach manot. This is true even if one did not yet hear the Megilla.
It is a matter of dispute which mitzva one should perform, if for whatever reason, one is only able to perform either mishlo’ach manot or matanot la’evyonim. Some authorities argue that here too, the order of the verse, in which mishlo’ach manot appears first, is to be the deciding factor. Others suggest that there is no bigger mitzva than making the poor and destitute happy and therefore matanot la’evyonim is to take priority.
1 Mekor Chaim, OC 695:4.
2 Esther 9:22.
3 Devarim 8:8.
4 OC 211:1.
5 Betzel Hachachma 6:81.
6 Piskei Teshuvot 694:1.
7 Magen Avraham 692:1; Pri Megadim 692:1.
8 Kaf Hachaim, OC 694:17, 695:50.
9 Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 695:14.
10 Az Nidberu 6:65; Shraga Hameir 3:113.
11 Mishne Halachot 6:126, 7:92.
12 Betzel Hachachma 6:81.
13 Keren L’david 164.
14 Rambam, Hilchot Megilla 2:4; Rivevot Ephraim 6:400.