By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Can one discharge the mitzva of mishlo’ach manot and matanot la’evyonim at once by giving a poor person a generous food package?
A number of authorities address this issue and most rule that one is unable to discharge both mitzvot at once. This is due to the principle of ain osim mitzvot chavilot which teaches that one should not perform two mitzvot at once even if the opportunity should arise. Each and every mitzva that one performs must receive one’s undivided attention. According to this approach one is required to choose which mitzva one desires to perform when giving a food package to a poor person – either mishlo’ach manot or matanot la’evyonim .
Other authorities rule that the mitzvot of Purim are somewhat of an exception to the rule of ain osim mitzvot chavilot. It is argued that since both mishlo’ach manot and matanot la’evyonim are constant and concurrent Purim mitzvot they are not subject to the principle of ain osim mitzvot chavilot. There is also an opinion that the principle of ain osin mitzvot chavilot only applies to mitzvot that are bein adam lamakon and not to mitzvot that are bein adam l’chaveiro. According to this approach it would permissible to perform both mishlo’ach manot and matanot la’evyonim in a single food package if its content and value suffice to cover the minimum requirements of both mitzvot.
Nevertheless, most halachic authorities rule in accordance with the stricter view and one should not attempt to discharge both mitzvot at once.