Family mishloach manot - Matan - The Sadie Rennert

Family mishloach manot Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman

Adar 5783 | March 2023

Topic : Purim , Shayla ,


We like to dress up as a family and give themed mishloach manot together to relatives and friends. Someone told me that might not fulfill the mitzvah. My kids give to their friends, but we have a printed card so it’s from our whole family. Plus, it seems strange for my husband and me to give separately. We give more packages than members of our family. Does this fulfill the mitzvah?


The mitzvah of mishloach manot is to send two food items to another person celebrating Purim. As we will see, there’s some debate if one fulfills the mitzvah if a family member sends on their behalf, if a married couple may send together, and if children still living at home are obligated.

There is definitely halakhic room for giving as a family, so rest assured that you have not neglected the mitzvah in years past. Nevertheless, the optimal form of the mitzvah is for each individual to send at least one personal mishloach manot, and any more than that may be given jointly. If this seems strange to you, we will see a few alternatives.

The mitzvah of mishloach manot

Megillat Esther relates that after the spontaneous celebrations that followed the Jewish People’s salvation from their enemies Mordechai sent letters to the people telling them to celebrate the 14th and 15th of Adar every year: “To make them days of feasting and joy, and man sending portions to his fellow, and gifts to the poor.”[1] The megillah continues to describe how “the Jews fulfilled and accepted upon themselves and their descendants and all who join them to observe them…”

Rambam rules: “A person is obligated to send two portions of meat or two types of cooked foods or two types of food to his fellow, as it says, ‘and sending gifts from a man to his fellow.’ And anyone who sends more to friends is praiseworthy.”[2] Shulchan Aruch quotes Rambam with minimal changes. Rema adds: “A woman has the same obligation as a man for matanot l’evyonim and mishloach manot. A woman should send to a woman and a man to a man…”[3]

Are women obligated to send mishloach manot?

Based on the Talmudic statement that women are obligated in megillah since “indeed, they were included in the miracle,” most poskim (halakhic authorities) rule like Rema that women are likewise obligated in all the other mitzvot of Purim – mishloach manot, matanot l’evyonim, and seudah.[4] Pri Chadash disagrees, learning from the phrase “a man (ish) sending portions to his fellow” that the mitzvah is unique to men.[5] Yaavetz refutes this claim. Based on textual proofs and clear tradition he demonstrates that women are obligated in the mitzvah of mishloach manot as well as all other mitzvot of Purim.[6]

How could Pri Chadash claim women are not obligated based on a drasha (expounding on a biblical verse) that contradicts both widespread tradition and halakhic rulings?

Perhaps Pri Chadash was not contradicting tradition but trying to explain it. Magen Avraham states that even though women are obligated “I have not seen that they are meticulous observing this.” As these men were contemporaries, albeit in different locations, it’s possible that Pri Chadash was troubled that women were not giving mishlochei manot and his exemption was meant to absolve them of wrongdoing.[7]

Magen Avraham took a different approach to this contradiction between halakha and practice. He suggests that it’s possible married women rely on their husbands to send “to multiple people” on their behalf, and only widows are obligated to send as individuals (or any unmarried woman with her own household or money).[8] Yet while this may be sufficient to fulfill the obligation, he does not endorse married couples giving together and rules that irrespective of common practice, one should be stringent and women should send their own.

Other poskim offer similar explanations that do not absolve women from their obligation but admit there may be practical constraints. Shvut Yaakov points out that women are clearly obligated, but they may have been unable to fulfill that obligation.[9] Until recently women rarely worked or owned property; the halakhic and societal reality was that a married woman was dependent on their husband’s support and may not have been allowed to spend money without his permission.[10]

It seems that these technical issues may be the reason a few poskim rule that women aren’t obligated to give mishloach manot. Still most poskim rule that women are obligated and don’t address the issue of financial dependence; like Rema they simply rule that women are obligated. Some quote Magen Avraham and agree that even if she can fulfill her obligation through her husband, a woman should be stringent and send her own.[11] Those that do address the issue of a financially dependent woman, such as Kaf Hachaim, suggest that a woman can ask her husband’s permission or can exchange mishloach manot with another woman, thereby fulfilling her obligation but not spending money.[12]

Are children and dependents obligated to send mishloach manot?

Many of the arguments preferring mishloach manot sent by individuals are even stronger when applied to children and other family members. Chatam Sofer explicitly connects the issues raised by a married woman’s financial dependence on her husband to the situation of other financial dependents.[13]

There’s a halakhic category of people who are not financially independent called “samukh al shulkhan akher” – “they sit at another’s table” – i.e. they are supported by someone else, live in that person’s home, and eat their food. Many halakhic adults can be considered financially dependent, perhaps most common are children after bar and bat mitzvah who still live in the family home.

Eshel Avraham says that some people in this category are lenient and do not give mishloach manot based on the reasoning that only someone who prepares food for their own seudah is obligated to give to others.[14] It seems that this is another case of explaining common practice while not endorsing it, as he concludes this reasoning needs further investigation. Furthermore, he rules that for chinuch (educational) purposes, children who haven’t reached the age of majority should give mishloach manot, even though they don’t have to give matanot l’evyonim, since they don’t have their own money.

Most poskim don’t mention an exemption for “samukh al shulkhan akheirim.” A few specifically say they are obligated, just as they are obligated to do other mitzvot that involve money.[15] Nowadays, when many children and teens have their own money to spend there is no doubt they are obligated.

Chatam Sofer posits that the dispute surrounding the obligation of “samukh al shulkhan akheirim” may depend on the reason we give mishloach manot.[16] There are two main reasons found in the poskim. Manot Halevi explains that mishloach manot foster peace and affection; to rectify the truth in Haman’s claims that “there is a nation that is scattered and separated” we perform practical actions that unify us.[17] Terumat Hadeshen states that, similar to matanot l’evyonim, mishloach manot are given to ensure that everyone has what they need for seudah so they can properly rejoice.[18] Chatam Sofer adds that this saves poor people who are reliant on these gifts from embarrassment.

There are several practical differences between these opinions. For example, the latter allows sending mishloach manot anonymously, since the focus is on the recipient’s needs, but the former would not, as this would not increase affinity between the giver and receiver. Additionally, Chatam Sofer claims that the former could excuse people who don’t have the means to make their own seudah from providing for someone else, while the latter would not since each person must do their part to spread affection and camaraderie. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank explains that this is the reason Aruch HaShulchan rules that someone who is traveling doesn’t fulfill the mitzvah if their family sends mishloach manot on their behalf.[19]

Ultimately, Chatam Sofer’s son, Ktav Sofer rules that one should keep both goals in mind when sending their mishloach manot, as they are not mutually exclusive. Our mishloach manot should ensure that everyone can enjoy a plentiful seudah with dignity and strengthen our bonds with our fellow Jews.[20]

Sending as a group

The question of sending mishloach manot as a couple or family can also be examined through the lens of the goal of mishloach manot.

If the goal is to send food to enhance Purim seudah then a married couple and even family should be able to send mishloach manot together, as long as they are careful to send sufficient food to sufficient recipients. Meaning if a couple sends only one mishloach manot to another couple, as long as that package has 4 portions of food (2 portions of 2 different foods) they have fulfilled their obligation. Alternatively, a family of 5 could send 5 packages with 2 portions each. Indeed, Rav Moshe Harari in Mikraei Kodesh brings this as the opinion in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurebach.[21]

If the goal is to increase affinity, it’s unclear if sending with others accomplishes this as well as sending individually. Rav Eliezer Melamed thinks it does for couples, so they can give 2 mishlochim and fulfill the mitzvah.[22]

While one may rely on these opinions, the language of the megillah and halakha indicates that it is preferable to send at least one individual mishloach manot “from a man to his fellow,” or a woman to her friend. This language is even more striking when compared with that of the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, “a candle for a man and his household.” On Chanukah, when mehadrin (better, optimal) forms of the mitzvah are fulfilled by each family member lighting for themselves, many husbands and wives have the custom to light together. As opposed to mishloach manot on Purim, there is not much written halakhic discussion opposing this joint fulfillment.[23]


A married couple can send mishloach manot together if they send at least 2 gifts of 2 portions or 1 gift with 4 portions. It seems that the same logic would apply to a family, although it’s difficult to find a source that explicitly allows this. And still, poskim encourage each person to send individually. The oft-quoted Magen Avraham specifically says that even if a husband sends “to multiple people” on his wife’s behalf, it’s still preferable for her to be stringent and send her own.

This does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t send mishloach manot as a family. Rather, if you choose to do so each family member should choose at least one person who they give to personally. This may be related to the idea that mishloach manot are meant to engender affection and bring joy. While it’s possible to fulfill the technical aspects of this mitzvah in a group, the halakhic stress on the individual may be meant to prevent us from missing the larger goal of joy and connection. We can’t rely on others to rejoice or share joy on our behalf, each person must go beyond themselves to bring a smile to someone else. As Mishnah Berurah explains, women are obligated in all mitzvot of Purim and should send their own mishloach manot and matanot l’evyonim, “since ‘indeed they were included in the miracle’ she must rejoice and bring joy to hearts of the poor…”

To view the sources mentioned go to


[1] Esther Chapter 9 verses 22, 27. In verse 29 the megillah describes letters that Esther wrote, indicating that it’s the megillah. This letter includes days of fasting and crying out to God as part of the days of Purim. “And Esther’s ordinance established these days of Purim, and it was written in the book.”

[2] Rambam Hilchot Megillah and Chanukah 2:15. Later Rambam rules that it’s preferable to give more for matanot l’evyonim than for mishloach manot.

[3] TB Megillah 4a, Orach Chaim 695:4

[4] What about drinking? See here

[5] Pri Chadash ibid

[6] Responsa Shi’elat Yaavetz Vol. I 120. His textual proofs:

  1. There are many mitzvot that use the term “ish” “man” to preclude children – not women.
  2.  The megillah relates that the Jews accepted the laws “on themselves and on their descendants” and women are obviously included descendants.
  3. The Mishnah teaches that women are obligated in megillah because “indeed they were included in the miracle.” And the megillah connects the mitzvah of remembering Purim by hearing megillah with the active mitzvot of the day, “these days are remembered and fulfilled.”

[7] 17th century. Magen Avraham lived in Poland and Pri Chadash moved from Tuscany to Jerusalem, and traveled to Amsterdam and Cairo.

[8] Magen Avraham OC 695:14. Responsa Chatam Sofer I OC 196

[9] Responsa Shvut Yaakov I 41

[10] Birkei Yosef OC 695:8, Responsa Shvut Yaakov I 41

[11] Responsa She’ilat Yavetz I 120, Mishnah Berurah 695:25, Ben Ish Chai Hilkhot Shana I Tetzaveh 41:1, Kaf Hachaim 695:53, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:4

[12] Ibid. The gemara in Megillah 7b relates that Abbaye bar Avin and Rabbi Chanina bar Avin would exchange their seudot. Rambam (Mishneh Torah Hilchot Megillah v’Chanuka 2:15) learns from here that someone who is unable to financially afford to give mishloach manot can arrange with a friend to exchange food for seudah.

[13] Responsa Chatam Sofer I OC 196

[14] Eshel Avraham (Buchach) 695, Pri Megadim OC Eshel Avraham 695:14

[15] Chazon Ovadia 141-142

[16] Responsa Chatam Sofer OC I 196

[17] Megillat Esther 9:15

[18] Responsa Trumat Hadeshen 111

[19] Aruch Hashulchan 696:3, Mikra’ei Kodesh Purim siman 39. One may use a messenger to deliver mishloach manot on their behalf, although Aruch Hashulchan questions whether one who sends from afar before Purim fulfills the mitzvah even if it’s received on Purim. It’s possible this case refers to someone whose family acts on their behalf without their knowledge rather than sending in absentia. Aruch Hashulchan 695:16-17, Piskei Teshuvot 695:9

[20] Ketav Sofer 141

[21] Rav Ovadia Yosef rules that if a married couple sends just two portions, but they are high quality and substantial, this also fulfills the mitzvah. Chazon Ovadia pg. 137

[22] Peninei Halakha Zmanim Chapter 16 “Mitzvot Hasimcha v’Hachessed,” 6

[23] Rav Aharon Lichteinstein “Women’s obligation to light Chanukah candles” seems to be the exception.  He notes that there are few sources that explain or endorse husbands and wives lighting together and the few that do are more recent, insufficient, and apologetic attempts to explain the unfounded custom.

Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman Debbie Zimmerman graduated from the first cohort of Hilkhata – Matan’s Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a Halakhic Responder. She is a multi-disciplinary Jewish educator, with over a decade of experience in adolescent and adult education. After completing a BA in Social Work, Debbie studied Tanakh in the Master’s Program for Bible in Matan and Talmud in Beit Morasha.

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