Halacha Berurah: The Halachos of Matanos L’evyonim and Mishloach Manos

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rabbi_bohmBy: Rabbi Elli Bohm

Reviewed by: Harav Yisroel Belsky

Matanos L’evyonim

The Rambam writes: It is better to give more gifts to the poor than to (spend more) on one’s Purim seuda or on sending gifts to one’s friends, for there is no greatand glorious joy like the joy of gladdening the hearts of poor people, widows, and orphans… One who gladdens the hearts of these unfortunate people is comparable to the Divine presence.[1] We see from this Rambam that the primary concern one must have on Purim is to create simcha among those who are less fortunate.

Although a poor person who is supported by charity is generally exempt from giving charity to others, nevertheless, on Purim he is required to give matanos la’evyonim from the money people give him.[2] This halacha further demonstrates that a primary reason of matanos la’evyonim is not merely the aspect of tzedakah that is involved, but the simcha that one brings about, which everyone is required to take part in. Men and women are equally required to fulfill the requirement of matanos la’evyonim. Children should likewise be trained to do so.[3]

The Minimum Amount

The minimum amount one is required to give in order to fulfill this mitzvah properly is two presents that are given to two poor people (i.e. one present to each one). One may give food or money. Preferably one should give something that the poor person can have enjoyment from on Purim (e.g., food, money, or even clothing that he can wear on Purim).[4]

The Ritva writes that even a perutah (i.e., a minuscule amount of money) may be given to each of the two poor people in order to fulfill this mitzvah. However, others maintain that one should give enough money with which the poor person can purchase for himself a decent meal. Some contemporary poskim feel that the amount of money that a poor person would need to purchase a bagel, coffee, and some other small side dish (approximately $2.50 in contemporary U.S. currency) definitely suffices for the minimum amount required to be given to each of the two poor people.[5]

This minimum amount may not be taken from maaser money since one may not use maaser funds for obligatory mitzvos.[6] Even if one were to give more than one present to each of these two poor people, it is questionable whether the additional present may be taken from maaser money. Although the additional present is not mandatory, nevertheless, it may be considered an enhanced version of the mandatory mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim which cannot be taken from maaser. Tzedakah given to additional poor people on Purim may definitely be taken entirely from one’s maaser fund.[7] It is considered more praiseworthy to give smaller amounts of money to more poor people than to give larger amounts to fewer people.[8]

Classifying a Poor Person

Megillas Esther uses the word אביון when describing the obligation of supporting poor people on Purim. Chazal tell us that an אביון is considered to be much poorer than an average עני. Chazal define this as being a person who suffers from poverty to such an extent that he is not embarrassed to come and beg people to support him. An עני, however, in most circumstances, would be ashamed to go around begging for himself.[9] An עני is a person who has overbearing expenses of the basics needed to support his family, and is struggling to make ends meet without a stable salary that can cover these expenses.[10]

Some poskim maintain that one is required to look for two people who qualify as אביונים in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim.[11] However, other poskim maintain that any two aniyim qualify as recipients for this mitzvah.[12] There is a discussion among the poskim whether a husband and wife, or children that are supported by their parents, can qualify as two separate people with regard to matanos la’evyonim, or if one must find two people from two different families.[13] Preferably one should fulfill the minimum requirements in a manner that is acceptable by all poskim.

Giving Generously

Until this point we have discussed the minimum requirement needed in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim properly. However, as we mentioned, the Rambam writes that the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim supersedes all the other mitzvos that pertain to Purim, and one should not be satisfied with fulfilling the minimum requirement, but should instead give large amounts of tzedakah on Purim to all those who are in need. Indeed, there is a halacha that relays the important inyan of giving tzedakah generously. The halacha is that with regard to ma’os purim – money that was collected by the gabbai to help the poor purchase all they need for the seudas Purim – the gabbai should not be selective in who he gives the money to. Anyone who claims to be poor and stretches out his hand and asks to be given tzedakah, must be given. The gabbai does not investigate who is worthy of receiving the ma’os purim and who is not. Furthermore, in a place where this is the custom on Purim, then even if a non-Jew claims that he is poor and asks for money from that which was collected, the gabbai should give him.[14]

Sending Matanos La’evyonim and Mishloach Manos by Mail Before Purim

There is a discussion among the poskim regarding matanos la’evyonim and mishloach manos, whether the primary part of the mitzvah is the receiving of the present and it must therefore take place on Purim, or if the giving of the present must also take place on Purim. For example, one who sends matanos la’evyonim or mishloach manos by mail in an instance where he knows that it will arrive on Purim and therefore has kavana to fulfill his obligation via this method, according to some poskim has not fulfilled his obligation since an essential part of the mitzvah is the giving of the present which must also be performed by the sender on Purim.[15] However, most poskim disagree and maintain that one does indeed fulfill his obligation, provided that the recipient received it on Purim.[16] In the reverse instance where the present was sent on Purim but did not arrive until after Purim, all agree that one has not fulfilled his obligation.[17] Some poskim want to extend this discussion to an instance where the sender of the present lives in a regular city, and the recipient of the gift lives in a walled city where Purim is celebrated a day later. They maintain that in such a case where the present will arrive on Purim in the walled city, one has fulfilled his requirement even though the present was sent before Purim.[18] However, most poskim say that one cannot compare the two cases. Although the recipient is receiving it on his Purim, however, since the day on which he receives it is not Purim for the sender, he has not fulfilled his obligation. Furthermore, even if the sender sends it on his own Purim and the recipient receives it on his own Purim, he would not fulfill his requirement according to these poskim since when the item was received it was no longer Purim for the sender.[19]

A Place Where There Are No Poor People

A person who is in a place where there are no poor people should preferably try to appoint a messenger who will be in a place on Purim where there are poor people and give him some money to be distributed on Purim. If this is not possible, one should separate some money that he intends to give to poor people, and give it to them at the next opportunity.[20]

Ideally, every person should appoint a shliach before Purim to distribute his tzedakah for him on Purim.[21]

The Ideal Time to Fulfill Matanos La’evyonim and Mishloach Manos

One may only fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim and mishloach manos during the daytime of Purim. There is a machlokes haposkim which should be performed first, matanos la’evyonim or mishloach manos. In the Megillah, the posuk mentions mishloach manos first. Consequently, some poskim maintain that mishloach manos has precedence.[22] The Shulchan Aruch, however, discusses the halachos of matonos la’evyonim prior to that of mishloach manos. Thus, some poskim maintain that matonos la’evyonim takes precedence. Their reasoning is based on the Rambam quoted at the onset of this chapter that matonos la’evyonim is the primary purpose of the day.[23] It is important to mention that this entire machlokes is only with regard to which mitzvah one should go out of his way to fulfill first. However, the poskim agree that in all instances, if one is approached by a poor person, one may give him matonos la’evyonim, and should do so despite the fact that he may wish to wait a bit longer. Similarly, if an opportunity arises to fulfill mishloach manos at an earlier time than one wishes to perform the mitzvah, one should do so.[24] There are some people who are stringent and don’t eat until after fulfilling the minimum requirement of matonos la’evyonim and mishloach manos. However, the minhag ha’olam is to eat first, if one wishes to do so.[25]

The Basic Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos

The minimum requirement to fulfill mishloach manos is sending two gifts to one person. The item should be two different types of food dishes. Many poskim maintain that a drink may be included as one of the two items sent. Preferably, one should send an item that can be consumed immediately without any other preparation. Therefore, one should not send raw meat.[26] It does not matter whether the recipient is a rich person or a poor person. However, if the recipient is very well-to-do, one should send a more respective mishloach manos.[27] Women are also required to fulfill this mitzvah. A man should send to another man and a woman should send to another woman and not otherwise.[28]

The Reasons Behind the Mitzvah and Their Halachic Implications

There is a discussion among the poskim whether a person can only fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manos via a messenger as is implied from the word mishloach in the Megillah, which suggests sending and not merely giving. Preferably, one should utilize a shliach at least when fulfilling the basic requirement.[29] The shliach may be anyone (e.g. even a small child or a goy) and one does not have to send it with someone who qualifies as a full-fledged messenger in other areas of halacha.[30] Furthermore, there is a discussion among the poskim whether a talmid fulfills his requirement by giving mishloach manos to his Rebbi. Some poskim maintain that one is not yotze by doing so since the posuk mentions that one should give it to his friend, and a Rebbi is not considered a friend.[31] Preferably, one should at least fulfill the basic requirement by giving it to someone else.

There is a machlokes among the poskim whether the primary reason of mishloach manos is to promote simcha and friendship between oneself and his friends, or if it is to assist in providing food that can be used at the Purim seuda.[32] There are several relevant cases which are dependent on which of these two reasons we follow. For example, the question of whether one fulfills the requirement if he sends his friend a present without the friend knowing who sent it, is dependent on what the primary reason of mishloach manos is.[33] Another case is where one sends his friend mishloach manos and his friend is joyous about the kind thought, but does not accept it.[34] An additional case is where children send mishloach manos to their father’s friend on his behalf, but the father is not aware to whom they sent it.[35] Yet another instance is where someone sent mishloach manos to the father of a household, and the children receive the package but the father was not aware on Purim that it was sent to him.[36] All these and many more instances are dependent upon the aforementioned machlokes whether the primary reason of mishloach manos is to promote simcha and friendship between oneself and his friends, or if it is to assist in providing food that can be used at the Purim seuda. The poskim rule that in all instances one should be stringent and ascertain that he is fulfilling the mitzvah according to both opinions.[37] Some poskim maintain that one who gives mishloach manos with a stipulation that the receiver must return it or must forward it to someone else so that the other person may also fulfill the mitzvah by giving it to another person and then continue to pass it on, according to all shitos is not yotze, because it does not promote simcha and friendship, nor will it assist in providing food that can be used at the Purim seuda.[38]

The limud Ha’Torah generated from this article should be a zechus for a refuah sheleimah for the rosh yeshiva Rav Chaim Yisroel ben Chana Tzirel.

{Reprinted with permission from Halacha Berurah  Publication]

[1]. רמב”ם הל’ מגילה פ”א הל’ י”ז.

[2]. עי’ מ”ב סי’ תרצ”ד סק”א. ועי’ ט”ז שם שהוא מצוה כמו בד’ כוסות של פסח משא”כ בשאר צדקה שאינו חייב רק פעם אחד בשנה, עי”ש. ועי’ פמ”ג שם דפשוט דאף במשלוח מנות נמי חייב עי”ש.

[3]. עי’ מ”ב שם, ועי’ רמ”א סי’ תרצ”ה סעי’ ד’, ועי’ מ”ב שם שכתב בזה”ל ואשה חייבת וכו’ – שכולן היו באותו הנס וצריכה היא לשמוח ולשמח לב אביונים וכתיב קימו וקיבלו היהודים וגו’ וגם נשים בכלל. וכתב המ”א לא ראיתי נזהרין בזה ואפשר דוקא באלמנה אבל אשה שיש לה בעל בעלה משלח בשבילה “לכמה אנשים” ומ”מ יש להחמיר, עכ”ל. ועי’ ערוה”ש סי’ תרצ”ד סע’ ב שאשתו כגופו והיא יוצאת ממה שנתן הבעל מ”מ מלשון המג”א שהביא המ”ב משמע שאשה צריך לתנה בפנ”ע או עכ”פ הבעל צריך לתן גם בשבילה שתי מתנות, וכן כתב בקיצשו”ע סי’ קמ”ב בדעת המג”א..ועי’ הליכות ביתה מש”כ בשם הגרש”ז אויערבך זצ”ל. ובמתנות לאביונים אשה יכולה לתנה גם לאיש ואינו כמו משלוח מנות, עי’ רמ”א ומ”ב שם.

ובענין בנים ובנותיו שהגיע לגדלות לכאורה צריכים הם לנותנם ואינו יוצא ממה שנתן ההורים אף אם הם סמוכים על שולחן אביהם, ועי’ פסקי תשובות שהאריך בזה. ובענין לחנך ילדים וילדות במצוה זו עי’ פמ”ג בא”א בסי’ תרצ”ה סי’ י”ד. אכן עי’ א”א ביטשאטש סי’ תרצ”ה, עי”ש.

[4]. עי’ שו”ע סי’ תרצ”ד סעי’ א’ ומ”ב שם. ועי’ מ”ב סי’ תרצ”ה ס”ק י”ט למה משלוח מנות שאני. ועי’ ב”ח שם ד”ה צריך.

[5]. עי’ מ”ב סי’ תרצ”ד סק”ב, ושיעור שכתבו בפנים הוא ע”פ מה ששמעתי מכמה פוסקי זמנינו.

[6]. מ”ב שם סק”ג.

[7]. עי’ אמת ליעקב על שו”ע שם, ועי’ שם צדקה ומשפט שנסתפק בזה ושמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א שאולי יש להביא ראיה ממס’ חגיגה דף ח. ועי’ רמב”ם הל’ חגיגה פ”ב הל’ ח’ שפסק כר’ יוחנן ומזה משמע לכאורה שמותר להשתמש במעשר באופן זה והדבר צ”ע יותר.

[8]. עי’ מ”ב סי’ תרצ”ה ס”ק י”ט, ועי’ ב”ח שם ד”ה וצריך, ושמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א שאולי שייך הידור זה גם במשלוח מנות.

[9]. מס’ בב”מ דף קי”א:.

[10]. עי’ שו”ע יו”ד סי’ רנ”ג ונו”כ שם, ועי’ צדקה ומשפט.

[11]. עי’ מקור חיים להחוות יאיר סעי’ ג’.

[12]. עי’ ערוה”ש שם.

[13]. עי’ ערוה”ש שם, אכן עי’ שו”ת בנין עולם סי’ ט”ו שהביא ראי’ נפלאה שיוצא, ועי’ מקראי קודש סוף סי’ מ’, ועי’ כף החיים סק”י.

[14]. עי’ שו”ע שם סע’ ג’, ומ”ב וערוה”ש שם.

[15]. עי’ ערוה”ש סי’ תרצ”ד סעי’ ב’. ועי’ ערוה”ש סי’ תרצ”ה סעי’ י”ז ולכאו’ סותר עצמו בסעי’ ט”ז, ואולי יש לחלק דאם שולח ע”י עכו”ם בדואר או המקבל צריך לקח את החפץ ממשרד אחד כשיגיע לעירו אין שייך בזה שליח של אדם כמותו.

[16]. עי’ יד אהרן שמובא בבה”ט סי’ תרצ”ה סק”ז ובכה”ח ס”ק ט”ו. ועי’ שו”ת חלקת יעקב בח”א, ועי’ פסקי תשובות.

[17]. כן מוכח מהפוסקים שהביאנו לעיל.

[18]. עי’ שו”ת ציץ הקודש סי’ נ”ו הו”ד בהמועדים בהלכה, ועי’ שו”ת דברי משה ח”א סי’ ל”ח שהביא שבעל מנחת יצחק הסכים עמו דאם בן חוץ לארץ שלח ביום י”ד לעניי ירושלים באופן שיגיע להם ביום ט”ו יצא ידי חובתו. ועי’ שו”ת אז נדברו ח”ו סי’ פ’.

[19]. עי’ שו”ת תשובות והנהגות ח”א סי’ ת”ד וח”ב סי’ שנ”ב מש”כ בשם החזו”א. וכך שמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א. ועי’ שו”ת אז נדברו שם דלפי”ז יש להקפיד במי ששולח ממדינה למדינה שיש הבדלי שעות. אכן שמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א דאין מוכח כ”כ דבאופן כזו צריך להחמיר.

[20]. עי’ ערוה”ש סי’ תרצ”ד סעי’ ב’ וסי’ תרצ”ה סעי’ ט”ז דאם העמיד שליח מהני ששליח של אדם כמותו וכש”כ לפי הפוסקים שהביאנו לעיל בציון 16 מהני, ועי’ שו”ע סי’ תרצ”ד סעי’ ד’ ומ”ב שם. ועי’ מקראי קודש סי’ ל”ט אם מהני מה שבני ביתו שולחים בשבילו בלי ידעתו.

[21]. כך שמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א.

[22]. מקור חיים סי’ תרצ”ה סעי’ ד’.

[23]. עי’ פסקי תשובות שהביא כמה מנהגים בענין זה.

[24]. שו”ת בצל החכמה ח”ו סי’ פ”א.

[25]. עי’ שו”ת אז נדברו ח”ו סי’ ס”ה. ועי’ מועדים וזמנים ח”ב סי’ קפ”ו, וע”ע שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חט”ו סי’ ל”ב, שאין לאכול קודם שמקיים המצוה, מ”מ אין זה מנהג העולם, ועי’ ליקוטי מהרי”ח שכתב שסדר הקרא הוא משתה ושמחה ואח”כ כתב בענין משלוח מנות ומתנות לאביונים, ויש ג”כ להוסיף שמשתה ושמחה ג”כ מצוה בפורים וא”כ איך שייך לאסור קודם שעושה מצוה אחר.

[26]. עי’ שו”ע סי’ תרצ”ה סעי’ ד’, ועי’ מ”ב שם ס”ק י”ט. ועי’ מקראי קודש סי’ לח בענין דעת ר”ח בזה. ועי’ ערוה”ש שם, ועי’ המועדים בהלכה בחלק חובת היום שהאריך בענין שני מאכלים שנתחברו על ידי הבישול כאחד אם נחשב

שני תבשילין כמו בעירוב תבשילין.

[27]. עי’ בה”ל שם ד”ה חייב לשלוח.

[28]. עי’ רמ”א שם בסעי’ ד’. ועי’ מ”ב ס”ק כ”ה, ועי’ מש”כ לעיל בציון 3.

[29]. עי’ מ”ב שם ס”ק י”ח שהביא תשו’ בנין ציון סי’ מ”ד שנסתפק בזה. ועי’ מקור חיים שם וא”א מבוטשאטש שם, ועי’ שו”ת מהר”י אסאד סי’ כ”ז, ועי’ שו”ת תשובות והנהגות מש”כ בשם הגר”ח מבריסק זצ”ל בח”ב סי’ שמ”ו,


[30]. עי’ שו”ת חלקת יעקב בח”א. עי’ פסקי תשובות בהע’ 48 מש”כ בשם הגרע”א והחת”ס.

[31]. עי’ מקראי קודש סי’ ל”ט סק”ב, ועי’ מש”כ שם דבר נורא בשם השפת אמת. ועי’ ערוה”ש בסי’ תרצ”ה.

[32]. עי’ שו”ת חת”ס בסי’ קצ”ו שהביא מחלוקת בין התה”ד והמנות הלוי (מר”ש אלקבץ זי”ע) בענין זה, ועי’ מקראי קודש סי’ מ’.

[33]. עי’ שו”ת כת”ס סי’ קמ”א.

[34]. עי’ שו”ת חת”ס שם ומטעם זה הכריע להחמיר דלא כהרמ”א שמקיל בסוף סי’ תרצ”ה, ועי’ מ”ב שם. ושמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א שדוקא אם מסרב קודם שקבל, אבל אם כבר קבל ועכשיו רצה להחזיר להמשלח לכו”ע יצא ידי חובתו.

[35]. עי’ ערוה”ש סי’ תרצ”ו סעי’ ג’, ועי’ מקראי קודש סי’ ל”ט בענין זה.

[36]. עי’ ערוה”ש סי’ תרצ”ה סעי’ ט”ז, ועי’ מועדים וזמנים ח”ב סי’ קפ”ו בענין אם יוצא בדיעבד עי”ש.

[37]. עי’ שו”ת חת”ס סי’ קצ”ו, ועי’ מ”ב שם ס”ק כ”ד שפסק כמותו, ועי’ שו”ת כת”ס סי’ קמ”א.

[38]. כך שמעתי מהגר”י בעלסקי שליט”א שאין בזה שום ריעות. ופשוט לפי השיטה שצריך לשלוח מאכל או משתה שיהיה לו צורכי סעודה אין יוצא בזה וכן איתא בבה”ל ריש סי’ תרצ”ד.


  1. “Furthermore, there is a discussion among the poskim whether a talmid fulfills his requirement by giving mishloach manos to his Rebbi.”

    Actually, there is a Chassidishe Vort: “‘UMishloach Manos Ish LeReieihu” Al Tikrei ‘Reieihu’ Elah ‘Roeihu'” (his Rebbe); i.e., there is a special obligation to send Mishloach Manos to one’s Rebbi!

  2. This dialog leaves me with mixed feelings. No one has ever sent me a single ????? ???? in my life, themed or not.

    I know that being a ?? ??? was never supposed to be easy, but being ignored in this way should not be “part of the deal”.

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