Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mishlo'ach Manot - Family or Individual Packages?

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

It is somewhat unclear whether every individual in a family unit is obligated to send their own mishlo'ach manot package or if they are included in the "family" mishlo'ach manot package. The most common application of this uncertainty generally relates to married women. As such, there is some discussion in halachic literature whether married women are obligated to send their own mishlo'ach manot packages or if doing so is unnecessary because wives are "included" in the mishlo'ach manot packages sent by their husband.

Click here to read moreAccording to a number of authorities, married women are independently obligated in the mitzva of mishlo'ach manot and must send their own mishlo'ach manot packages to their friends.[1] Nevertheless, it is noted that this ruling was never widely observed and historically women have never been particular to send their own mishlo'ach manot packages. As such, it has been suggested that the ruling requiring women to send their own packages may have been referring to widows and other women who live on their own. A married woman, however, would fulfill her mishlo'ach manot obligations through the packages her husband sends on her (and the family's) behalf.[2] This approach is closely related to the laws of Chanuka where a woman is not obligated to light her own Chanuka menorah but instead discharges her obligation through her husband's lighting, a principle known as "ishto k'gufo" - a husband and wife are considered to be a single person.[3]

Nevertheless, in deference to the many authorities who rule that women must send their own mishlo'ach manot packages, it is certainly meritorious for women to do so in order to comply with this view.[4] A woman, who for whatever reason chooses not to send her own mishlo'ach manot packages, should at least verbally state and stipulate with her husband that she intends to discharge her mishlo'ach manot obligations through the packages her husband sends.[5]

Unmarried adult children who live at home must send their own mishlo'ach manot packages (and donate their own matanot l'evyonim) and may not rely on those of their parents. However, there is an opinion that such children who have no income of their own and are entirely dependant on their parents need not do so and may indeed discharge their obligations through their parents. Parents in such a situation would be well advised to give their children (both young and old) some money and food in order for them to be able to participate in the mitzvot of Purim.[6]


[1] Rema O.C. 695:4, Kaf Hachaim 695:56
[2] Magen Avraham O.C. 695:14
[3] Aruch Hashulchan 594:2
[4] Mishna Berura 695:25, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:4
[5] Halichot Shlomo 19:17, Halichot Beita 24 note 55
[6] Piskei Teshuvot 695:15 notes 78-83. See also Pri Megadim E.A. 695"14

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