[Avodah] What is the reason for the mitzvah of giving Mishloach Manos on Purim?

Arie Folger arie.folger at gmail.com
Fri Mar 22 03:43:10 PDT 2019

RProf. LLevine posted two sources, each one giving a different reason for
Mishloach Manot.

Based on Tanakh, I am unconvinced by both reasons.

First of all, Manot Halevi's suggestion (Megillas Esther 9:16-17), that MM
come to prove Haman wrong by showing we are more united than is usually
acknowledged. The problem I have with this, is that Mishloach Manot is
known from elsewhere in Tanach, where Haman is totally absent: In Sefer
Nechemya 8:12, the Jews of Jerusalem are instructed to rejoice on Rosh
haShana, and send one another food.

This difficulty may be answered by positing that here, too, it was
important to proclaim Jewish unity, though other than the fact unity is a
good thing, there is no hint why this should have been an issue on that
Rosh haShana or on RH in general, any more than any other day of the year.
Alternatively, the reason of MM in Nechemya is to rejoice, and Purim being
a rabbinic holiday ought not to merit MM, but it was instituted anyway
because of the need to assert unity on Purim in particular.

I find issue with the second reason, too, given by the Chatam Sofer
(Teshuvos Chasam Sofer OC 196), namely that MM are a form of Matanot
leEvyonim. My issue with that stems from the Megillat Esther itself. The
holiday of Purim seems to have developed by fits and starts (see the
beginning of Megilla for some elucidation of this idea), with the people
spontaneously celebrating the first year on the 14th of Adar and in Shushan
on the 15th (Esther 9:17-18), but afterwards, it seems only villagers
living in unwalled cities celebrated, and only on the 14th. For that
occasion, the day had been declared a "Yom Tov", and they did send
Mishloach Manot and did Mishteh veSimchah (ibid. verse 19). However, by
comparing this earlier observance with the later observance which became
accepted in all of Klal Yisrael (ibid. verses 20-22), suddenly the
condition "Yom Tov" disappears, while "uMatanot leEvyonim" appears.

Which means that matanot leevyonim is something separate from mishloach

I'd like to suggest that Mishloach Manot is indeed that which we most
commonly assume, an expression of shared joy, and that it is appropriate
for every Jewish holiday, even on such a minor holiday as Purim, all the
more so on 3 regalim.

Shushan Purim sameach & good Shabbos,
Arie Folger,
Visit my blog at http://rabbifolger.net/

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