A fascinating question that has bothered the Halachic authorities is the following: Why are we obligated to give Mishloach Manot on Purim. This is not only a philosophical issue but one that has tremendous halachic ramifications.
There are basically two schools of thought concerned with this question: The “Trumat Hadeshen” suggests that the reason is to provide the receiver with food to enable him to have a Purim meal. The “Manot Levi” disagrees and suggests a completely different approach. Haman found the strength to try and destroy our nation because he found us ununified and lacking consideration for one another.The response and eternal message of our people is to be united and more stringent in our regard for others. Therefore, Mishloach Manot are given in order to increase love and friendship amongst the Jewish nation.
There are a number of halachic differences that result from these two opinions:
- What would be the din if THE RECEIVER DOES NOT WANT TO ACCEPT THE GIFTS ON PURIM? Would the sender fulfill his obligation? If the reason to give is in order to increase food for the receiver’s meal, then quite clearly he did not succeed in this and did not fulfill his obligation. On the other hand if the reason is for unity, then even if he did not accept the gifts, unity and friendship have been achieved since the receiver is grateful for the kind thought. In fact the Rama poskens that in such a case the giver fulfilled his obligation. Obviously we can conclude that his rationale is due to the fact that he holds that the reason for Mishloach Manot is unity.
- IN A CASE WHERE IT IS SENT THROUGH A MESSENGER AND THE NAME OF THE SENDER DOES NOT APPEAR. If the reason is to have food on his table, behold the Mitzvah has been fulfilled. But if the reason is in order to increase unity, then the obligation has not been fulfilled as he does not know who to thank (Chatam Sofer). The Ktav Sofer claims that the obligation is fulfilled even when the receiver does not know who sent the package, since he attributes the parcel to one of his friends, and as a result a general unity has been established.
- WHEN THE SENDER IS RICH AND GIVES A STINGY PACKAGE. According to the school of thought that holds that the reason is to make sure the receiver has food on his table, the obligation has clearly been fulfilled. But if the reason is to increase unity, the receiver may feel that the sender is miserly and there will not be greater unity and friendship as a result.
CONCLUSION: As mentioned the Rama agrees with the opinion of “unity” and therefore one needs to be careful that any package sent through a messenger should be labeled with one’s name and that the portions should reflect one’s material status.
May this be a time that we unite and increase our regard and consideration for others!