The Four Mitzvot of Purim

purim_p_10__62466-1453301131-1280-1280Purim is the most Genuinely Fun feast in the Jewish Calendar for two reasons:

  1.  It celebrates what it means to be Jewish.
  2.  It is not mentioned in Torah, and therefore is not Doctrine-Heavy in content.  Like Hanukkah, it is a People’s Feast!

But there is a serious side to Purim, which comes also from the Story of Esther, and that is the Spirit of Giving.  On Purim one sends gifts of food to family and friends, and one gives Tzedikah, or gifts to the Poor.

hamantaschMishloach manot
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, drinks and other foodstuffs given as mishloach manot on Purim day.

Mishloach manot (Hebrew: משלוח מנות‎ [miʃˈlo.aχ maˈnot], literally, “sending of portions”; also spelled and pronounced mishloach manos), or shalach manos (Yiddish: שלח־מנות‎ Yiddish pronunciation: [ʃaləχmɔnəs]), and also called a Purim basket, are gifts of food or drink that are sent to family, friends and others on Purim day.

The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot derives from the Book of Esther. It is meant to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast held later in the day, and to increase love and friendship among Jews and their neighbors.

According to the halakha, every Jew over the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah should send a food gift consisting of two different types of food to at least one recipient.[1] The practice is a fairly prominent feature of Purim.

The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot is spelled out in the Book of Esther, which enjoins the Jewish people to observe the days of Purim “as days of feasting and gladness, and sending portions of food to one another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22). This verse refers to three different mitzvot: eating a Purim meal, the sending of two different, ready-to-eat foods and/or drinks to one friend (known by the Hebrew term, mishloach manot), and the distribution of two charitable donations (either money or food) to two poor people.

In actual practice, many individuals fulfil the first mitzvah themselves (by sending food gifts to friends, neighbours, relatives, etc.), and the second mitzvah by contributing to charitable organisations which distribute money or food to the poor on Purim day.

Poor people  also  give mishloach manot. One who cannot afford to buy food for his friend may exchange his own food with that of his friend — this fulfills both their obligations.[2]

This mitzvah may not be fulfilled by giving items other than food. Money or other material items cannot suffice. Only food gifts fulfil this mitzvah.[2]

The following halachot apply to the giving of mishloach manot:
Mishloach manot must be sent and delivered during the daylight hours of Purim.[3]

According to most opinions, the sender and recipient should be observing the same day of Purim.[3]
Children over the age of six or seven are also encouraged to send mishloach manot to their friends as training for the performance of a mitzvah.[3][4]
Mishloach manot are not sent to a mourner. The mourner himself is obligated to send mishloach manot, but the package should not be too elaborate. According to some opinions, a mourner should send to only one person.[3]
Mishloach manot can be delivered personally, but it is customary to deliver the food packages via a third party. Children are often involved in this mitzvah as the go-betweens between the giving parties, and are rewarded with sweets and treats for their efforts.[4]
One is not obligated to send mishloach manot as a reciprocal gesture to the sender.[3]
While the halacha only calls for the giving of two food gifts to one friend, a person who gives mishloach manot to more than one person is called praiseworthy. However, it is better to give more charity on Purim day than to spend more money on elaborate mishloach manot.[3]

Mishloach manot can include any food or drink that is ready to eat. A bottle of soft drinks or a bag of potato chips fulfills this criterion; raw meat or a package of uncooked grains does not.[3] Mishloach manot baskets typically include wine and pastries (especially hamentashen); alternately, cooked dishes, canned foods, salads, snack foods, sweets and fruits may be sent. Though a common perception holds that the two foods of mishloach manot must carry different brachot (blessings), this has no source in halakha. One may give two different types of fruits, such as an apple and an orange, but not two of the same fruit, such as two apples.[3]

The amount of food in each mishloach manot package should reflect the standards of both the giver and the receiver. A wealthy person should send a nicer package to his recipients than would a poor person.

Today it is possible to order all kinds of Purim Baskets online and have them sent to the recipient.  While this may fulfill the intent of Shalachmanos, it is not nearly as fun as handmade and personally delivered!

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