SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS ZACHOR AND PURIM
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
WOMEN’S OBLIGATION TO HEAR PARSHAS ZACHOR QUESTION: Are women obligated to go to shul to hear the Torah reading of Parashas Zachor?
DISCUSSION: There is a Biblical mitzvah to read Parashas Zachor from a Sefer Torah once a year. Although the Rabbis have instituted that Zachor be read in public on the Shabbos before Purim, the mitzvah can be fulfilled by performing it at any time during the year. Most poskim, therefore, consider the reading of Parashas Zachor to be a mitzvah which is not time-bound, thus making it obligatory upon women(1).
There is, however, a view in the Rishonim that holds that women are not obligated to hear Parashas Zachor(2). Making mention of the evil perpetrated on us by Amalek is a mitzvah that is limited to those who can and will fight against Amalek. Since women do not go out to war, they are exempt from the mitzvah of mentioning the treachery of Amalek.
There are conflicting views among the poskim as to what is the practical halachah. Some rule that women are obligated in Parashas Zachor(3) while other poskim note that it is commonly accepted that women do not go to shul to hear Parashas Zachor(4). Since there is no clear-cut ruling(5), it is commendable for women to make the effort to go to shul to hear the public reading of the Parashah6. Indeed, in many congregations it is the accepted practice for women to do so.
Men or women who are unable to go to shul should read Parashas Zachor aloud for themselves from a Chumash since, according to some poskim, one can fulfill the mitzvah in this fashion(7).
It is questionable if a Sefer Torah may be taken out of the Aron ha-Kodesh specifically to read Parashas Zachor for women. Harav M. Feinstein is quoted(8) as strictly prohibiting this practice(9).
MISHLOACH MANOS: THE BASIC MITZVAH
Mordechai and Esther, with the approval of the Rabbis of the time, introduced a mitzvas assei(10) which obligates every person to send two different kinds of foods to one friend on Purim. Two basic reasons are given for this mitzvah:
There are impoverished people who are too embarrassed to collect tzedakah for themselves and will therefore not have food for the seudas Purim. By establishing a system whereby everyone receives packages of food on Purim, the rabbis ensured that even the most reticent of individuals will have food for the Purim seudah(11).
Sending food to a friend or an acquaintance is an expression of goodwill and fraternity. On Purim we wish to instill and perpetuate these feelings(12).
The goals of both of these reasons must be met in order to fulfill the mitzvah properly. For instance: One who sends clothing for mishloach manos does not fulfill the mitzvah(13) since he did nothing for his friend’s Purim meal. Similarly, one who sends mishloach manos anonymously does not fulfill the mitzvah(14) since no friendship or goodwill is generated between him and the recipient.
Nowadays, we are witness to a marked proliferation of mishloach manos. Although mishloach manos is a relatively easy mitzvah to fulfill, if one is unaware of the halachos, he could send dozens of mishloach manos and still not properly fulfill the mitzvah. In addition, a clear distinction must be drawn between the minimum requirements for fulfilling the mitzvah, and the hiddur mitzvah, the more exacting form of fulfilling the mitzvah. There are also some little known halachos which are important for those who wish to fulfill the mitzvah according to the views of all the poskim. We have thus split the halachos into two parts – the first part discusses the basic rules, and the second part discusses chumros and hiddurim for those who wish to embellish upon this once-a-year mitzvah.
Mishloach Manos: THE BASIC RULES
WHO SHOULD SEND: Men and women are personally obligated in this mitzvah(15). Married women are obligated in their own right and are not exempted by their husband’s mishloach manos(16). It is sufficient, however, for husband and wife to send mishloach manos together, as if it is coming from both of them – and the recipient recognizing that it is coming from both(17).
Some poskim hold that children over 13 – even those who are being supported by their parents – are obligated(18), while others exempt them since they do not own anything in their own right(19).
Parents should educate their children in the mitzvah of mishloach manos as they do with every mitzvah(20).
WHAT TO SEND: Any combination of two kinds of food(21), or one food and one drink(22), or two kinds of drink(23), is sufficient. Two pieces of the same food are considered as one food(24). Some poskim(25) specify that the foods be ready to eat and require no further cooking, while others(26) allow even uncooked foods to be sent.
TO WHOM TO SEND: To any Jewish(27) adult(28), wealthy or poor, with whom you are acquainted or to whom you are related. Although men should send to men only and women to women only(29), families may send to each other(30).
Mishloach manos should not be sent to a mourner(31) during the year of mourning for his parents, or during the thirty days of mourning for other relatives(32). A mourner who receives mishloach manos need not return them, and the sender fulfills his mitzvah by sending those mishloach manos(33). It is permitted for a woman to send to the wife of a mourner(34).
A mourner must send mishloach manos – even if he is in the middle of shivah. A mourner should refrain from sending “items of simchah” (items that elicit laughter and merriment)(35).
WHEN TO SEND: Mishloach Manos should be sent and received on Purim day(36). If it is received at night or on the days before or after Purim, the sender does not fulfill the mitzvah(37). If it is sent before Purim but is received on Purim, some poskim hold that the mitzvah is fulfilled(38) while others hold that it is not(39).
HOW TO SEND: The sender himself may deliver the mishloach manos directly to the recipient(40). Some poskim(41) hold that it is preferable to send it via a messenger. The messenger may be a minor or a non-Jew(42). When sending with a messenger, it is proper to verify that the mishloach manos was indeed delivered(43), especially if the messenger is a minor or a non-Jew(44).
1 Minchas Chinuch 603.
2 Sefer ha-Chinuch 603.
3 Binyan Tziyon (8) quoting R’ Nosson Adler; Yeshuos Malko (3);Mahri”l Diskin (5:101); Minchas Elazar (2:1-5).
4 Toras Chesed (37). See Avnei Nezer O.C. 509 and Marcheshes 1:22 who maintain that this is a time-bound mitzvah. Harav C. Kanievsky (Ta’ama d’Kra) quotes the Chazon Ish as having exempted women.
5 Many major poskim – Chayei Adam, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah and Aruch ha-Shulchan – do not address this issue.
6 See Yechaveh Da’as 1:84; oral ruling of Harav M. Feinstein (Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 297).
7 See Nitei Gavriel 4:9-10.
8 Mo’adei Yeshurun (Purim, pg. 47).
9 See also Mikra’ei Kodesh (Purim, 5) who prohibits reading from the Sefer Torah expressly for women. Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 296) as ruling that a minimum of ten men must be present for such a reading to take place. See Minchas Yitzchak 9:68.
10 The poskim (see Achiezer 3:73) refer to this mitzvah as a mitzvah mi-divrei kabbalah, a rabbinical mitzvah which is incorporated into the written text (Esther 9:22). Accordingly, we do not say safek d’Rabbanan l’kulah in regard to the mitzvos of Purim (Tzafnas Panei’ach to Rambam Megillah 1:1).
11 Terumas ha-Deshen 111.
12 R’ Shlomo Alkavatz in Manos ha-Levi quoted in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer O.C. 196.
13 Mishnah Berurah 695:20.
14 Kesav Sofer O.C. 141.
15 Rama O.C. 695:4.
16 Magen Avraham 695:12; Chayei Adam 155:33; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:4; Mishnah Berurah 695:25; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:18.
17 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (written responum quoted in Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 303 and oral ruling quoted in Halichos Beisah, pg. 354). Accordingly, the amount sent should be double the minimum amount of mishloach manos.
18 Aruch ha-Shulchan 694:2 (concerning matanos la-evyonim); Orchos Chayim 695:2 quoting Me’orei Ohr.
19 Responsa Kinyan Torah 1:132. It follows that if the children have their own possessions, then they are obligated like any adult.
20 Pri Megadim 695:14; Eishel Avraham 695; Kaf ha-Chayim 695:57. This means that parents should give their children food or money so that they can fulfill the mitzvah – Chanoch l’Na’ar, pg. 66. See, however, Kinyan Torah 1:132 who holds that it is sufficient chinuch to allow the children to deliver the mishloach manos.
21 O.C. 695:4.
22 Mishnah Berurah 695:20.
23 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:14.
24 Ibid. See Tzitz Eliezer 14:65; 15:31.
25 Magen Avraham 695:11; Ma’asei Rav 249; Chayei Adam 135:31; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:2; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:15.
26 Pri Chadash O.C. 695; Ha’amek Sh’eilah 67:9; Shevet Sofer O.C. 23; Yechaveh Da’as 6:45. Mishnah Berurah 695:20 quotes both views without rendering a decision.
27 Responsa Beis Yitzchak (Y.D. 2:142).
28 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:18 rules that one fulfills the mitzvah by sending to a minor, but many poskim (Ya’avetz 1:121, Yad Sofer 24; Kaf ha-Chayim 694:12; Birur Halachah, pg. 405) rule that one does not fulfill the mitzvah in that manner.
29 Rama 695:4.
30 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (oral ruling quoted in Halichos Beisah, pg. 354).
31 Unless he is the rav of the city – Divrei Malkiel 5:237.
32 Rama O.C. 696:6.
33 Kesav Sofer O.C. 139.
34 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Penei Baruch, pg. 322).
35 Mishnah Berurah 696:18.
36 Rama 695:4.
37 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:16.
38 Be’er Heitev 695:7 quoting Yad Aharon; Responsa Beis She’arim O.C. 381; Chelkas Ya’akov 1:102.
39 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:17; Levushei Mordechai O.C. 108.
40 Yehudah Ya’aleh O.C. 207; Eishel Avraham 695; Kaf ha-Chayim 695:41; Tzitz Eliezer 9:33.
41 Mekor Chayim 694; Binyan Tziyon 44 quoted by Mishnah Berurah 695:18; Chasam Sofer (Gitin 22b).
42 Chasam Sofer (Gitin 22b); R’ Shlomo Kluger (Sefer ha-Chayim 695); Da’as Torah 695:4; Chelkas Ya’akov 1:103.
43 Achiezer 3:73.
44 Chelkas Ya’akov 1:104.