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Mishloach Manot during Quarantine

Rabbanit Surale Rosen

Adar 5781 | February 2021
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She'ela

My brothers and I (over the age of Bar Mitzvah) were found positive for COVID, and are quarantined at home. Our parents are vaccinated, so they don't have to quarantine; but they don't feel it's safe to deliver mishloach manot to our friends in the community.
Can we keep the mitzvah of mishloach manot by giving to our parents?

Teshuva

First let me wish you a speedy and full recovery!

In order to answer your question, we first need to consider who is Halakhically obligated and examine the reason for the mitzvah:

Can people living with their parents give mishloach manot sponsored by their parents?

This question may be answered in the context of another question: do parents generally want their children to perform a mitzvah using their money? The Talmud in Pesahim 4a answers: “one is happy to have a mitzvah performed using one’s money.” This general statement is not specifically about children and parents.

The Mordechai (on Bava Batra, section 495) cites the Tosefta’s statement (in Perek Hagozel): “a son who is supported by his father, and a slave who is supported by his master, can take bread and give it to a poor person, or to the child of his friend, and need not be concerned that this is stealing, since this is the custom of landlords.” A similar position is stated by the Tur, Yoreh De’ah 248.

The Shulhan Arukh on Yoreh De’ah 248:4 states that if a collector comes to the door and children answer, he is only permitted to take a small amount (see also Rambam, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 7:12). This is explicated in Pithei Teshuva, Yoreh De’ah 248:4: “see Teshuvot Beit Yaakov 12 and 56, who states specifically with regard to charity they take a small amount, since generally one would not be concerned with having a small amount taken from his for the purpose of a mitzvah.”

It therefore seems that children may use their parents’ money to perform a mitzvah, both for charity (Mordechai) and the performance of other mitzvoth (Pithei Teshuva).

The Tzitz Eliezer (19:67) raises another consideration: the mitzvah of mishloach manot depends on giving from one’s own possessions: “Mishloach Manot ‘from one to one’s peer’ means from one’s own property to one’s peer.” Based on this, can children perform the mitzvah by giving from the property of another?

In the case discussed by the Tzitz Eliezer, one purchases food online for mishloach manot, knowing the money will only be paid at a later date; since the purchased items are only halakhically transferred to the buyer after the merchant has been paid, this might not be considered ‘from one’s own property,’ but rather the property of the merchant. The Tzitz Eliezer explains that the merchant should grant the items to the buyer through a third party, to ensure the buyer sends mishoach manot that fully belong to him.

According to this, one might have assumed that parents should grant their children full rights to the ingredients before they deliver their mishloach manot. However, as explained above, since most parents would not begrudge their children reasonable use of their funds for the performance of a mitzvah, and would certainly be happy to have their money used to perform the Purim obligations, it seems children can give mishloach manot using their parents’ money without this condition.

Are children who are supported by their parents, and use food purchased by their parents for mishloach manot, even obligated in the mitzvah of mishloach manot?

The Magen Avraham (695:12) explains: “I believe that anyone who is supported by another and prepared nothing himself is exempt from mishloach manot.” In other words, the mitzvah of mishloach manot is inherently related to the mitzvah of the Purim feast; one who prepares the feast is expected to prepare additional food for others. This might indicate that one who is not preparing for a seuda may not be obligated in mishloach manot.

According to this, children who are supported by their parents are not obligated in mishloach manot even after Bar Mitzvah.

The Leket Yosher (Hilkhot Purim 28) attests that his Rabbi, the Terumat Hadeshen, “would educate his children to send mishloach manot to their friends on Purim. I am not sure of their ages, but I believe they were approximately 15 years old.”

According to the Terumat Hadeshen it seems that one who is supported by parents is exempt from mishloach manot even after the age of Bar Mitzvah; the Terumat Hadeshen had his children give mishloach manot only as part of his obligation to educate them, and not because of their halakhic obligation (this is also implied in the Eshel Avraham of Buczacz, 695). The Magen Avraham (above) adds that even one who is eating in another person’s house is exempt; although in this case it is appropriate to give mishloach manot regardless, as a stringency.

Another matter that comes up in this context is whether one’s parents can be considered ‘peers’ or ‘friends’ since the mitzvah is formulated as mishloach manot for one’s peer.

The Levushei Mordechai writes that since the custom is to send mishloach manot to one’s teachers and rabbis, without concern that this might be interpreted as disrespecting them as ‘peers,’ one needn’t be concerned about disrespecting one’s parents by giving them mishloach manot: “The fact that the formulation is ‘peers’ with regard to mishloach manot does not indicate a lack of respect [to non-peers]” (Levishei Mordechai, Orah Haim II, 9; Yehuda Yaaleh [Assad], 204).

The Birkei Yosef (Orah Haim, 225) infers from R. Oshaya’s response to the mishloach manot he received from R. Yehuda Hanasi, that status is irrelevant to this mitzvah. The Talmud (Megillah 7b) tells the story of R. Yehuda Hanasi, who sent a leg of lamb and bottle of wine to R. Oshaya, who was poor. In response, R. Oshaya said: “you have performed both mishloach manot and gifts for the poor,” since he did not have enough money for a Purim feast. In other words, although R. Yehuda Hanasi was R. Oshaya’s rabbi, the former was still able to perform the mitzvah of mishloach manot ‘for his peer.’

Yabia Omer adds that all Jews are considered ‘peers’ for the purpose of keeping a mitzvah, just like the mitzvah ואהבת לרעך כמוך (‘You shall love your peer as you love yourself’) or the prohibition לא תעמוד על דם רעך (‘You shall not stand against the blood of your peer’) both apply to a teacher or parent. Moreover – God is also sometimes called a ‘peer’ (based on Rashi, Shabbat 31a).

Additionally, since one of the reasons for the mitzvah of mishloach manot is spreading love and reinforcing friendship, this certainly applies to family: “it is a greater mitzvah to enhance love and amity in one’s family, and sometimes they engage in a fight, but love covers all offenses” (Yabia Omer 9, Orah Haim 72).

The Talmud (Megillah 7b) describes two brothers, Abayei bar Abin and R. Hanina bar Abin, who would exchange food for the Purim feast with each other, to perform the mitzvah of mishloach manot. This can be understood in a few ways:

  1. If the reason for mishloach manot is to provide another with food for the Purim seuda, they are exempt by giving each other food.
  2. If the they are both exempt from the mitzvah because they are brothers who are supported by the same father, and have no food of their own, the only food they have to give another is their own portion of the meal (of course, the father wants their children to eat the Purim feast, and therefore gifts them with their own portion). In this way, they fulfill both the mitzvah of giving mishloach manot and eating a Purim feast with food that belongs to them.
  3. A third possibility is offered by the Hatam Sopher: if the purpose of the mitzvah is to spread love, brothers who are supported by the same father are not exempt from mishloach manot. But what should one do if one has no independently owned property? In this case, one can exchange one’s individual portion with another, thereby spreading the love and fulfilling the mitzvah (Responsa Hatam Sofer, 1, Orah Haim 196).

In conclusion: since parents are generally happy to have their money or ingredients from their kitchen used for the performance of a mitzvah, a child may prepare and distribute mishloach manot funded by parents. Moreover, parents can be included in the definition of the mitzvah, and a child may fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manot by giving his/her parents. Moreover, since one of the reasons for mishloach manot is to spread love, children who prepare mishloach manot for parents surely warm their hearts and certainly fulfill the mitzvah.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Purim!

Rabbanit Surale Rosen

is a graduate of Hilkhata, Matan's Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a certified Meshivat Halakha. She is the Director of Shayla. In addition she is a certified To'enet Rabbanit and a graduate of Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute. Surale has taught Midrash, Talmud and Halakha and Daf Yomi in a wide array of shuls and communities, including the Matan Beit Midrash. Surale is a graduate of Bar Ilan University and holds degrees in English Literature and Talmud. This past year she wrote the weekly Parashat HaShavua column for Chumash Shemot in the leading religious Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon and periodically writes Divrei Torah for weekly Torah publications.