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Purim – Should Mishlo’ah Manot be Given Personally or Through a Messenger?

** Go to www.dailyhalacha.com and click on ‘Matanot La’evyonim’ to fulfill the misva of giving to the needy on Purim, and have Rabbi Eli Mansour distribute the funds for you. **

One of the Misvot of Purim is the obligation of Mishlo’ah Manot, which requires giving a package of food to a fellow Jew on Purim.

The word "Mishlo’ah" comes from the root "Sh.L.H.," which means "send." The implication of this term is that one sends the package to the recipient through a third party, a messenger. Accordingly, the Binyan Sion claimed that one does not fulfill the Misva of Mishlo’ah Manot by bringing the food items to one’s fellow personally; the package must be delivered by a third party.

Hacham Ezra Attia, the revered Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Porat Yosef in Jerusalem, sent a letter – which has since been published – to his former student, Hacham Ovadia Yosef, questioning this ruling of the Binyan Sion. After addressing Hacham Ovadia with extraordinary respect and reverence, conferring upon him numerous titles of honor (listen to audio recording for precise citation), Hacham Ezra notes that any action that can be done through an agent can be done by oneself. The concept of Shelihut ("agency") establishes the possibility of assigning an agent to act on one’s behalf. Nowhere, however, do we find an act performed by an agent that is more effective than an act performed by the individual personally.

In his response to Hacham Ezra, Hacham Ovadia agreed that the Binyan Sion’s position seems difficult to accept, and he cites numerous Halachic authorities who disputed the ruling of Binyan Sion. The Misva is indeed formulated with the term "Mishlo’ah," which implies delivery by a third party, however, Hacham Ovadia explained, this term serves to instruct that sending food packages through a messenger is perfectly acceptable. Generally, Halacha encourages performing Misvot personally rather than enlisting a Shali’ah (messenger) to act on one’s behalf. (This Halachic principle is known as "Misva Bo Yoter Mi’bi’shluho.") In the case of Mishlo’ah Manot, however, sending food through a messenger fulfills the Misva at the same standard as bringing the food personally. The Megila used the term "Mishlo’ah" to indicate that in this instance, enlisting the service of a messenger fulfills the Misva on the same standard as personally bringing the food.

This is, indeed, the accepted Halacha, and one may give Mishlo’ah Manot personally or through a messenger. (It is reported that the Hazon Ish, Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz of Bnei-Brak, would bring Mishlo’ah Manot personally.) If a person in any event gives numerous Mishlo’ah Manot packages, he may want to ensure to send at least one package through a delivery person, in order to satisfy the view of the Binyan Sion. According to the strict Halacha, however, this is not necessary, as one fulfills the Misva through personal delivery or delivery through a third party.

It should be noted that one may order a Mishlo’ah Manot package through a store, and fulfill the Misva through the store’s delivery, even if the delivery person is not Jewish. One fulfills the Misva in this fashion even if he makes the purchase on credit and does not pay the bill until after Purim. Mishlo’ah Manot differs in this regard from the Misva of Arba Minim, for example, which one does not fulfill unless he actually owns the four species; one must have paid for the Arba Minim in order to fulfill the Misva with them. Mishlo’ah Manot, by contrast, may be purchased on credit, and one fulfills the Misva even if he does not pay the bill until after Purim.

Summary: One may fulfill the Misva of Mishlo’ah Manot on Purim either by bringing the food items personally to the recipient, or by sending them with a delivery person, even if the delivery person is a gentile. One who purchases a Mishlo’ah Manot on credit fulfills the Misva even if he does not pay the bill until after Purim.


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