03 Mar Mishlo’ach Manos At Two Times
I. GIVING ON PURIM
The observance of Purim includes, among its commandments, Mishlo’ach Manos — sending at least two different items of food to a friend. You only need to give to one friend but you can give to as many as you want. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 695:4) says that anyone who gives to more friends is praiseworthy, using language similar to the praise for someone who extends discussion of the Exodus during the Pesach Seder.
Two explanations are offered for this mitzvah. Rav Yisrael Isserlein (15th cen., Austria; Terumas Ha-Deshen 111) suggests that by sending food to a friend you are ensuring he can eat his festive Purim meal. However, according to Rav Shlomo Alkabetz (16th cen., Israel; Manos Ha-Levi, Esther 9:19), the mitzvah’s goal is to spread peace, love and friendship with your gift. Many creative practical differences between the two explanations have been explored over the years, which will not engage us here. I would like to explore the timing of the gift. Do you need to give both items of Mishlo’ach Manos at the same time or can you give one at one time and the other later? For example, if you give a friend an orange at 10am on Purim and then a bag of potato chips at noon, do you fulfill the mitzvah of Mishlo’ach Manos?
II. WHEN DO YOU GIVE?
Like all other Purim mitzvos (except for the night Megillah reading), Mishlo’ach Manos must be given during the day of Purim (Rema, Orach Chaim 695:4). A story in the Talmud helps us answer our question on the specific timing of Mishlo’ach Manos. The Gemara (Megillah 7a) says that R. Yehudah Nesi’a sent R. Oshaya a calf and a jug of wine, to which R. Oshaya, who was poor, responded that R. Yehudah Nesi’a fulfilled both Matanos La-Evyonim (gifts for the poor) and Mishlo’ach Manos. However, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:4) offers a lengthier description of the exchange.
First, R. Yehudah Nesi’a sent a calf’s limb and a bottle of wine to R. Oshaya and R. Oshaya responded that R. Yehudah Nesi’a had fulfilled Matanos La-Evyonim but not Mishlo’ach Manos. Then R. Yehudah Nesi’a sent three bottles of wine and a whole calf and R. Oshaya responded that he fulfilled Mishlo’ach Manos also. (According to the version in Rabbeinu Chananel’s commentary to Megillah 7a.)
Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikra’ei Kodesh, Purim, no. 38) learns from this story that Mishlo’ach Manos does not need to be given all at once. Rav Frank asks why R. Yehudah Nesi’a’s initial gift was not sufficient for Mishlo’ach Manos. He suggests that R. Oshaya believed that you cannot fulfill the mitzvah with a drink, only with food. Therefore, on the first try, R. Yehudah Nesi’a had only given him one item — meat. On the second try, he also gave meat and drink, which counts as only one item for Mishlo’ach Manos according to R. Oshaya. Since R. Yehudah Nesi’a gave only one item of food on the first try and did not fulfill the mitzvah, and then gave another on the second try and succeeded in fulfilling the mitzvah, we see that you do not need to give it all at once. Combined between the packages sent, he had given two items of food for Mishlo’ach Manos.
III. WHAT COUNTS?
However, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (quoted by Rav Daniel Kleinman in Kovetz Halachos, Pesach, ch. 15 n. 18) challenges Rav Frank’s explanation. If the issue is that drinks do not count for Mishlo’ach Manos, why did R. Yehudah Nesi’a send even more drinks on the second try? Rather, Rav Elyashiv suggests, the problem with the first try was not that it included wine but how much wine it contained. Rav Yosef Te’omim (18th cen., Galicia; Pri Megadim, Orach Chaim 695 MZ:4) says that each of the two items has to be of a respectable size according to the standards of the time and place. One bottle of wine was too little for a meal — according to our text of the Yerushalmi, R. Yehudah Nesi’a sent only one log of wine, a small amount. Therefore, since he sent so little wine along with a piece of meat, R. Yehudah Nesi’a is considered as sending only a single item for Mishlo’ach Manos.
But if that is the case, when R. Yehudah Nesi’a sent three bottles later in the day, why did he also send more meat? Rav Elyashiv answers that this shows that you must send Mishlo’ach Manos all at once. The earlier meat did not count because it was considered only one item. For Mishlo’ach Manos, you must send at least two items at the same time. Since you have to send them all at once, R. Yehudah Nesi’a was required to send meat and wine again, this time in a sufficiently respectable amount to be considered two items for Mishlo’ach Manos.
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky (Kovetz Halachos, Pesach 15:15) reaches the same conclusion. He also points out that the word Mishlo’ach sounds like a single package, which can only be sent at one time. Rav Daniel Kleinman (ibid.) points out that the Kaf Ha-Chaim (ad loc., no. 36) concludes similarly.