by R. Gil Student
On Purim, we send gifts of food to friends, in fulfillment of the verse “U-mishlo’ach manos ish le-rei’ehu, and of sending portions a man to his fellow” (Esther 9:22). Mishlo’ach manos is one of the mitzvos 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 mishlo’ach manos? Earlier, we 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?
I. Women Acting Strictly
Rav Avraham Gombiner (17th cen., Poland; Magen Avraham 695:14) writes that while women are obligated in mishlo’ach manos, he does not see that they actually give them on Purim. He suggests that when a husband gives mishlo’ach manos 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 mishlo’ach manos. He concludes that nevertheless, one should be strict. What does he mean by this comment about being strict? Later authorities disagree about his intent.
Rav Avraham Danzig (19th cen., Lithuania; Chayei Adam 155:33) understands Magen Avraham as saying that it is wrong for married women to rely on their husband sending mishlo’ach manos on their behalf. Rather, women should be strict. However, he does not say what being strict entails. 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?
Rav Shlomo Ganzfried (19th cen., Hungary; Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 142:4) says that women have to send 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 mishlo’ach manos for them. Similarly, Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein (19th cen., Russia; Arukh Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chaim 695:18) says that a woman does not fulfill the mitzvah with her husband’s mishloa’ach manos because the obligation falls on her. He adds that in his time and place, the practice was, in fact, that married women gave mishlo’ach manos to a friend. More recently, Rav Ya’akov Ariel (cont., Israel; Ohalei Halakhah, Purim, ch. 7 n. 16) says that a married woman should send mishlo’ach manos 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 Mishlo’ach Manos
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (20th cen., Israel; Halikhos Shlomo, Mo’adim, vol. 2, ch. 19, par. 17) says that a husband only has to notify his wife that he is giving mishlo’ach manos on her behalf. He adds (ad loc., Devar Halakhah, n. 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 mishlo’ach manos. Nor does a husband have to make sure that she owns the mishlo’ach manos 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, p 411) says that a married woman fulfills her obligation if her husband sends double the minimum amount for mishlo’ach manos (four items instead of two or two very large items). Rav Nebenzahl assumes the married couple send mishlo’ach manos as partners. Just like two men can send mishlo’ach manos as partners if the amount sent is double the minimum amount (Pietrekowski, Piskei Teshuvah, vol. 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 mishlo’ach manos as long as you have implicit permission to give it.
Rav Shmuel Wosner (21st cen., Israel; Shevet Ha-Levi, vol. 9, no. 147) points out that Rav Yosef Te’omim (18th cen., 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 mishlo’ach manos. Only single women must give. Therefore, Rav Wosner says, the common practice today that the family gives together as a single unit is proper. And if the wife prepared a mishlo’ach manos and even intended one to be her own, then regardless of who delivers it, the woman fulfills the mitzvah even according to Magen Avraham’s recommended strict view.
III. Women and Adult Children
Children over the age of bar and bas mitzvah are obligated in all of the mitzvos. Do they have to give their own mishlo’ach manos? At first glance, the answer would seem to be that they are obligated. Why should mishlo’ach manos be different from any other mitzvah?
Indeed, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (ibid.) says that just like a wife can fulfill her obligation in mishlo’ach manos 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 Halakhos, Purim, ch. 15, par. 16) says that a married woman can fulfill her obligation through her husband giving a jointly owned mishlo’ach manos. 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 mishlo’ach manos (ibid., par. 18).
Rav Avraham David Horowitz (20th cen., Israel; Responsa Kinyan Torah, vol. 1, no. 132, sec. 2, par. 2) says that a wife who lives and eats in her husband’s home is exempt from the mitzvah of mishlo’ach manos. Therefore, he adds, adult children who likewise live and eat in their father’s home are also exempt from the mitzvah. However, I have not found any other authority who agrees with this leniency.