Mordechai and Esther, with the approval of the Rabbis of the time,
introduced a mitzvas assei(1) which obligates every person to send two
different kinds of foods to one friend on Purim. Two basic reasons are given
for this mitzvah:
There are impoverished people who are too embarrassed to collect tzedakah
for themselves and will therefore not have food for the seudas Purim. By
establishing a system whereby everyone receives packages of food on Purim,
the rabbis ensured that even the most reticent of individuals will have food
for the Purim seudah(2).
Sending food to a friend or an acquaintance is an expression of goodwill and
fraternity. On Purim we wish to instill and perpetuate these feelings(3).
The goals of both of these reasons must be met in order to fulfill the
mitzvah properly. For instance: One who sends clothing for mishloach manos
does not fulfill the mitzvah(4) since he did nothing for his friend's Purim
meal. Similarly, one who sends mishloach manos anonymously does not fulfill
the mitzvah(5) since no friendship or goodwill is generated between him and
Nowadays, we are witness to a marked proliferation of mishloach manos.
Although mishloach manos is a relatively easy mitzvah to fulfill, if one is
unaware of the halachos, he could send dozens of mishloach manos and still
not properly fulfill the mitzvah. In addition, a clear distinction must be
drawn between the minimum requirements for fulfilling the mitzvah, and the
hiddur mitzvah, the more exacting form of fulfilling the mitzvah. There are
also some little known halachos which are important for those who wish to
fulfill the mitzvah according to the views of all the poskim. We have thus
split the halachos into two parts - the first part discusses the basic
rules, and the second part discusses chumros and hiddurim for those who wish
to embellish upon this once-a-year mitzvah.
MISHLOACH MANOS: THE BASIC RULES
1. Who should send: Men and women are personally obligated in this
mitzvah(6). Married women are obligated in their own right and are not
exempted by their husband's mishloach manos(7). It is sufficient, however,
for husband and wife to send mishloach manos together, as if it is coming
from both of them - and the recipient recognizing that it is coming from
Some poskim hold that children over 13 - even those who are being supported
by their parents - are obligated(9), while others exempt them since they do
not own anything in their own right(10).
Parents should educate their children in the mitzvah of mishloach manos as
they do with every mitzvah(11).
2. What to send: Any combination of two kinds of food(12), or one food and
one drink(13), or two kinds of drink(14), is sufficient. Two pieces of the
same food are considered as one food(15). Some poskim(16) specify that the
foods be ready to eat and require no further cooking, while others(17) allow
even uncooked foods to be sent.