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QUESTION

Chicago, IL

Any guidance on how a shul collective mishloach manot that is distributed to each household in the shul can fulfill the mitzvah for someone who donates towards the cost? If there is no cost in sending a basket through the shul, does the sender still fulfill their chiyuv?

ANSWER

In terms of ownership (whether they paid or not), it is not a big deal. You can just hand the baskets to a third-party (someone who cannot be considered the original owner of them), and they would take possession of them for the people who were sending them. For example, a kezayit of two foods each (total of 2 kezaytim) in each basket per sender of the basket, assuming that there are enough kezaytim to go around. If not, but there is a total sufficient number of kezaytim amongst all the baskets combined, you should say “Everyone’s name on the first basket received owns 1 kezayit of two foods, then everyone’s name on the 2nd basket owns 2 kezaytim similarly, except for anyone who already owned something in a previous basket, and so on until the end,” and then rely on yeish bereira bederabanan.

So now the senders own 2 kezaytim in one basket, and that goes to one of the people they are sending it to, so all should be good, right? Well, it’s not that simple.

Is the shiur really 1 kezayit? Here you have a major debate in the poskim. Some say a perutah, some say a kezayit, some say enough for a small seudah, some (many) say an amount which is of significance based on the standing of the giver, and possibly even the receiver. For most of these positions see Aishel Avraham (Butshash, not the standard one in the back of Shulchan Arukh OC 695).

Because the source is not easy, I present it here:

בהשיעור דמשלוח מנות, אני מסופק אם שיעורו במאכל כזית ומשקה רביעית, או שיעורו בכדי שוה פרוטה, או שיעורו במה שהוא ראוי להתכבד לפני אורח, כפי סגנון מנהג כל מקום… ולכאורה נוטה, שגבי מתנות לאביונים השיעור פרוטה, ולגבי מנות השיעור בראוי להתכבד, או בכזית.:

What is this debate about? First, it might be a simple question of the meaning of the word maneh, which suggests a meaningful portion, like חתיכה הראויה להתכבד (see Arukh Hashulchan 695:15). More likely, it may be the a question of whether the purpose of mishloach manot is to help provide or add to someone’s seudat Purim (Terumat HaDeshen 101). It sounds like it from the Gemara, which focuses on the receiver. Or, as an expression of closeness and friendship (Manot HaLevi and others), which primarily focuses on the giver. Poskim draw halakhic conclusions from this debate. If it is about the receiver, then one does not fulfil the mitzvah if the food was never received. If it is about friendship and the giver, this could be accomplished if the receiver merely knows that it was sent to him. Similarly, if it is sent anonymously, this would work if the goal is to help someone’s seudat Purim (receiver), but not if it was to created greater friendship.

If it is about the seudah, then it should be a significant contribution to the seudah, either a full seudah or possibly a minimum contribution, a kezayit. If it is about showing love and friendship, then logically it should be a gift that is of a significant cost or importance for the giver (and possibly, although likely not, for the receiver).

That means that unless one adopts the kezayit approach, there probably will not be enough to go around.

Now let’s deal with the fact that the receiver knows only that all the people on the list donated to him by some minimum contribution, but that no one sent to him specifically. This almost definitely does not work if the focus is on friendship, etc. If the focus is on contributing to the meal, it would work.

So, in short, there is a way to make everyone own a kezayit per 2 food items in each basket (assuming that there is enough to go around). But, this amount would not be enough if we adopt the friendship approach. If we adopt the seudah approach (which seems definitely to be peshat), then there is good reason to argue that a kezayit would suffice.

So, given that it is a mitzvah derabanan (or more accurately MiDivrei sofrim), and the peshat of the mitzvah is seudat Purim, then one can rely on the fact that this is the dictating reason, and that a kezayit would suffice.