Laws of Mishloach Manot
In-depth laws for how to do the mitzvah correctly!
1. How does one perform this mitzvah?
On the day of Purim one must send two items of food to at least one person.
2. What is the reason for this mitzvah?
- To ensure that everyone has sufficient food for the Purim feast.
- To increase love and friendship between Jews, thereby dismissing Haman's accusations that there is strife and dissension among Jews. This is an ideal opportunity to repair broken relationships by sending packages to people with whom one has ill feelings.
3. Is it praiseworthy to send to many people?
Yes, it is praiseworthy, but it is better to spend more on gifts to the poor (Matanot La'evyonim) than on Mishloach Manot. There is no greater joy than gladdening the hearts of orphans, widows, and needy people. One who does so is likened to God, as it says about Him "to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the downtrodden" (Isaiah 57:15).
4. Are all types of food suitable?
Preferably, one should send food that is ready to be eaten immediately. For example, raw meat or fish that requires cooking should not be sent, unless other ready-to-eat foods are also included.
5. May one send two portions of the same food?
No, the two food items must be different. However it is not necessary for the items to require two different blessings. For example, one may send two different cakes or two fruits.
6. May one send a drink?
Yes, drinks are also suitable. One may send two different drinks, or one food and one drink.
7. What is the minimum quantity of food?
Ideally, the food should be of a respectable quantity according to the standards of the sender and recipient. Therefore, one should send a nicer package to a wealthy person than to a poor person, and a wealthy person should send a nicer package than a poor person.
8. Is it better to send a large number of small gifts, or a small number of large gifts?
At least one package should be of respectable size and any additional packages may be small "token" packages. This is better than sending a large number of small "token" packages.
9. May one use ma'aser (10% tzedakah) money to buy the food?
At least one package must be bought without ma'aser money. If a person wishes to send additional packages to poor people, he may use ma'aser money.
10. Are women obligated to perform this mitzvah?
Yes, since they were also included in the Purim miracle.
11. May a husband and wife send jointly?
Yes. A note should be attached indicating that the package is being sent on behalf of both of them.
12. Should children below bar/bat mitzvah perform this mitzvah?
Children aged six should be trained to perform the mitzvah.
13. Can children who live at home fulfill the mitzvah with the parents' package?
According to some opinions, a package may be sent on behalf of the entire family. According to another opinion, only a husband and wife may send together, but children should send separately. If children prepare their own packages from food in their parents' home, they should be allowed to acquire the food before sending it.
14. May two or more people send jointly?
Yes, but the package should contain the correct quantity for each of the senders.
15. May one send to a mourner?
No. If another member of the family is not in mourning, the package may be addressed to the family.
16. Is a mourner obligated to send?
Yes, but the package should not be too elaborate. According to some opinions, the mourner should preferably send to one person only. Other members of the family may send many packages.
17. If a person receives a package, must he reciprocate and send one in return?
It is praiseworthy to do so, but not an obligation.
18. May one give the package personally?
According to the prevalent custom, one may give the package personally. According to some opinions, it is preferable to send the package via a third person since the verse (Esther 9: 22) describes the mitzvah as sending food packages to one another.
19. May one use a child as a messenger?
Yes, but one should confirm that the package was delivered, since one may not automatically assume that the child carried out the task. One need not be concerned about this if another package was delivered personally or via an adult.
20. May one use a delivery service?
A reliable delivery service may be used.
21. May one send an anonymous package?
Since one of the purposes of the mitzvah is to increase love and friendship between people, it is important for the recipient to know who sent the package. Therefore, the messenger should tell the recipient who the sender is, or an identifying note should be attached to the package.
22. What if the intended recipient is not home?
- If the sender intended to give the package to a specific person, it would not be sufficient to deliver it to another member of the family (unless he is sure that the package will be given on Purim).
- If the sender did not intend to give the package to a specific member of the family, the package may be given to anyone in the family.
- If no one is home, it is advisable not to leave the package there, since the sender would not fulfill his obligation if the food were not received on Purim. He may leave the package there if he does not rely on this to fulfill his obligation, but sends another package to someone else.
23. May one send the package before Purim or on the evening of Purim?
- Ideally, the package should be both sent and delivered on Purim during the day.
- If the package is sent before Purim but delivered on the day of Purim, it is questionable whether he has fulfilled his obligation.
- If the package is sent and delivered before Purim or on the evening of Purim, he has not fulfilled his obligation.