Shalach Manot of raw food
Rabbanit Surale Rosen
She'elaCan I give non cooked products for Shalach Manot? I feel that there is so much food going round on Purim that’s getting wasted, since people can’t eat everything they’re given. I would rather give rice/oatmeal/quinoa/olive oil for people to use later.
I totally agree with your concern about wasting food.
As to the Mitzvah of Shalach Manot, the Gemara tells of “Rabbi Yehuda Nesia (who) sent to Rabbi Oshaya the leg of a third-born calf and a jug of wine” as well as Rabba “who sent to Marei bar Mar in the hands of Abaye, a sack full of dates and a cupful of roasted flour”. Marei bar Mar sent in return “a sack full of ginger and a cupful of long peppers” (Megillah7a-7b).
We can’t tell whether Rebbi’s meat was raw or cooked nor whether Marei’s ginger could be used fresh but from the Mishna in Beitzah 14b we see that regarding sending food to each other on Yom Tov “Beit Shamai say: One may send Manot only – portions of prepared food on a Festival, (but not any other gifts)”. Manot, therefore, are portions of ready to eat food.
The Maharil (Hilkhot Purim 15) brings the Mishnah in Beitzah and clarifies further: “on Purim it is good to send portions of food and drink, preferably cooked meat or fish”.
After discussing the Seudah, the Rambam lists three different options for Shalach Manot: “How is the obligation of this meal? That one eat meat and prepare as pleasing a meal as his hand can [afford]. And he should drink wine until he becomes intoxicated and falls asleep from his intoxication. And likewise is a person obligated to send two portions of meat or two types of dishes or two types of food to his fellow, as it is stated (Esther 9:22) ‘and sending portions, one man to another’ – two portions to one man. And anyone who increases sending to friends is praiseworthy.”
We cannot deduce clearly from the Rambam whether it’s two portions of cooked or raw meat, nor whether “two types of food” are readymade or merely ingredients. A dish on the other hand, is something prepared in advance and ready to eat.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 695:4) does not specify whether the food should be cooked either: “One must send to his fellow two portions of meat, or foodstuffs, as it says (Esther 9:19) “And send portions, man to his fellow.” Two portions to one man [is the obligation]. And anyone who sends more to his fellows is praiseworthy”.
The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 695:11) brings the Maharil (above mentioned) for clarification: the portions should be cooked or ready to eat. The overall majority of Poskim rule similarly (Beur Hagra, Aruch Hashulchan, Chayei Adam, Mishnah Berurah).
The Mishna Berura (695:20) holds by the same opinion but mentions that there are Poskim who maintain that one can send uncooked meat or poultry. Indeed the Pri Chadash (Orach Chayim 695:4) understands Beit Shamai (Mishnah in Beitzah 14b) to mean that the portions should be ready to cook. i.e: slaughtered chickens but not necessarily cooked in advance. So too on Purim one can send two portions of ready to cook meat/poultry but not live ones.
The reason for the difference in opinion may depend on the purpose of the Mitzvah. Is Shalach Manot primarily meant to be sent as part of the Purim Seudah or is it purposefully aimed at creating and strengthening feelings of friendship and happiness? The Terumat Hadeshen (Part 1:111) holds that the chief purpose is to make sure each and everyone in the community has proper food to eat at the Seudah. Most Poskim however, deem Shalach Manot to be a sign of friendship and joy between people (Aruch Hashulchan Orach Chayim 695, Chatam Sofer Orach Chayim 196, Ketav Sofer Orach Chayim 141b, Binyan Zion 44). Aruch Hashulchan proves that if the portions were meant for the Seudah, then one would not fulfill the obligation by sending Shalach Manot to the rich (since they for sure have food for the meal). However one does fulfill the Mitzvah by sending to the rich since it’s not meant for the meal but rather to increase Simcha.
The נפקא מינא between the two opinions would be – what type of food do you choose to send? Pre cooked dishes or baked goods would probably be fit for the meal, while nosh and canned foods would be put aside for later.
If we go by the opinion (Pri Chadash) that you can send raw meat, the purpose of which would be to cook for the Seudah, the question stands: since nowadays people don’t send raw meat, are there other non-cooked ingredients you can send? It is generally assumed that people making the Seudah won’t wait or won’t expect a bag of rice or a sack of potatoes to arrive in the Shalach Manot and won’t make use of these food items for the meal.
The overwhelming majority of Poskim rule that one should send ready to eat food and that the sole purpose isn’t necessarily to provide portions for the Seudah but to strengthen ties between people. Following which, in accordance with your sincere concern over wasting food, one can send food items that can either be eaten straight away and are less likely to be thrown out (think of special fruits and vegetables or special cheese that people don’t usually get) or items that are ready but can be stored for later use (crackers/canned food etc.)
Wishing you and Klal Yisrael a very happy and Corona free Purim!