A Purim Paradox: Binyan Tziyyon on Mishloach Manot

Binyan Tziyyon famously suggests that mishloach manot must be given via agent/shaliach rather than personally.   According to this position, it can be argued that the mitzvah logically contradicts itself and can never be fulfilled.  Here’s why:  An agent halakhically cannot accomplish anything that the original person could not – thus, for example, a sane agent cannot effectively deliver a divorce to the wife of an insane man, as an insane man cannot divorce.   Perhaps, then, it is definitionally impossible to appoint an agent to fulfill a mitzvah that can be fulfilled only via agent, since the sender cannot fulfill the mitzvah themselves.

I have often presented Binyan Tziyyon’s position as an example of excessive literalism in Halakhah, and at the same time of an astonishing willingness to issue a creative Halakhic ruling on the basis of interpretation of the text of Torah.  Often, positions that lose their nuance over time when they become stand-ins for categories, and so I try to review them in their original contexts with some regularity. 

Here it turns out that Binyan Tziyyon really is an excellent exemplar, as a close reading of the teshuvah (see translation and original text below) shows that he creates an admittedly unprecedented halakhic  requirement on the sole basis of a Scriptural read, as he acknowledges that he cannot develop any rationale for the commandment that would justify such a requirement.  Mishloach manot, he says are intended either to show affection or to help one’s friend have sufficient for a Purim seudah, and either of these purposes can be accomplished by delivering food via an agent.

I note for the record that he may have given up too easily.  Mishloach manot may relate to a specific social moment – one is eating and feels compelled to share the bounty with a friend.  If you have to stop eating, the moment is lost, and so the mitzvah originally required a messenger.


Responsa Binyan Tziyyon 44

RAMO OC695 wrote:

“One who sends manot (on Purim) to his friend, but he does not wish to accept them or forgives them to him – he (nonetheless) fulfilled his obligation”,

and in Darkei Moshe he wrote this in the name of Mahari Brin,

But Pri Chadash wrote about this:

 “This is astonishing; where did he get this from?!”

 Korban Netan’el answered that this emerged for him from what is said on Nedarim 63:

One who says to his friend: ‘I swear that X if I don’t come and take to your son one cur of  wheat and two barrels of wine  – he (the other party) can undo his oath without the mediation of a Sage, saying to the him: Did you say this for any reason other than my honor? This is my honor’’

and Rashba wrote that the rationale is that even if he accepted it from him he could return it to him,

and this rationale applies to mishloach manot as well.

But to me this is difficult , as then regarding “gifts to the poor” as well, if he wishes to give to a poor person but the poor person does not wish to accept it, he should fulfill his obligation, so why does RAMO write this only regarding mishloach manot?!

Responsa Chatam Sofer  OC 196 already showed that this issue depends on which of two rationales for mishloach manot one adopts:

a)      To show affection and camaraderie, in which case you would fulfill your obligation (even if the recipient turned it down) since you have shown your affection (Matnot Levi)

b)      Perhaps his friend will not have enough for his meal, and this helps (Terumat haDeshen), in which case you would not fulfill your obligation (unless the friend accepts it)

In my humble opinion the rationale of Mahari Brin and RAMO is that the verse writes “mishloach (sending) manot (food portions)” rather than “naton (giving) manot”, as in “matanot to the poor”,

even though the verb natan can be used regarding manot as in “and he gave to Peninah and all her sons and daughters manot and to Channah he would give one choice manah (1 Samuel 1:5),

because Scripture cares only about the sending, meaning that it should depart from the sender, whereas something is not called a matanah until it comes to the hand of the receiver from the giver, as it can only be called a matanah if it came to the hand of the receiver,  and therefore if the poor person does not wish to receive it  – he has not fulfilled “matanot to the poor”,

even if it would be effective to fulfill an oath to give if the poor person would say “it is as if I received it”,  since he has not here fulfilled the command of Scripture and he can still fulfill it with a different poor person,

but here where it writes mishloach manot, so the mitzvah is only to send, he fulfills his obligation once it has been sent (even if it is not accepted).

On this basis I can resolve the doubt I had as to whether one who brings manot personally and gives them to his friend fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manot, as we say “a person’s agent is equivalent to the person” but we have not found the reverse, that a person is equivalent to their agent, and since here Scripture writes “mishloach manot”, we should say that we require delivery via agent specifically, while in-person delivery is insufficient,

and I have been astonished that no decisors have made this point,

but according to what I wrote above we can say that both of the rationales I mentioned above are fulfilled even if one personally gives it into your friend’s hand, and therefore that one fulfills one’s obligation even via in-person giving, and Scripture uses the language of agency to make clear that one fulfills the obligation merely by sending, even if your friend does not wish to accept them, and therefore the decisors made no mention of a prohibition against direct giving,

but regardless nonetheless ideally it might be better to send the manot via a third party.

שו”ת בנין ציון סימן מד

ב”ה אלטאנא, יום ג כ”ח מרחשון תרכ”ד לפ”ק.

הרמ”א בא”ח סי’ תרצ”ה כתב: השולח מנות לחבירו והוא אינו רוצה לקבלם או מוחל לו – יצא

ובדרכי משה כתב כן בשם מהר”י ברין

והפרי חדש כתב על זה: תימא, דזה מניין לו?!

ובקרבן נתנאל תירץ שיצא לו ממה דאמרינן נדרים (דף ס”ג):

האומר לחבירו קונם אם אין אתה בא ונוטל לבנך כור א’ של חטין ושתי חביות של יין – ה”ז יכול להפר נדרו שלא ע”פ חכם, ויאמר לו: כלום אמרת אלא מפני כבודי? זהו כבודי,

וכתב הרשב”א הטעם שאפילו הי’ מקבל ממנו הי’ יכול להחזיר לו,

והאי טעמא שייך גם במשלוח מנות עכ”ד

ולענ”ד קשה, דא”כ גם במתנות לאביונים אם רצה ליתן לעני והוא אינו רוצה לקבל – יצא, ולמה כתב הרמ”א רק לענין משלוח מנות כן?!

גם כבר העיר בשו”ת חתם סופר א”ח סי’ קצ”ו דתלוי זה בב’ טעמים של משלוח מנות –

אם הטעם כמו שכתב המנות הלוי להראות חבה וריעות, דלפ”ז י”ל דיצא בשלוח דהראה חבתו,

אבל לטעם שכתב התרומת הדשן דאולי לא יספיק לו סעודתו והוא מסייעו, לא שייך זה.

ולענ”ד טעם המהר”י ברין ורמ”א כמו שכתוב ומשלוח מנות ולא כתיב ונתון מנות כמו דכתיב ומתנות לאביונים, דלשון נתינה שייך גבי מנות כדכתיב ונתן לפנינה וגו’ מנות ולחנה יתן מנה אחת אפים, מזה נראה דלא הקפיד הכתוב אלא על השילוח, דהיינו שיוצא מן המשלח, אבל מתנה לא אקרי רק מה שבא מיד הנותן ליד המקבל דרק אם בא לידו נקרא מתנה, ולכן אם העני אינו רוצה לקבל – לא יצא ידי מתנות לאביונים אפילו אם מועיל לענין נדר לומר הרי הוא כאלו התקבלתי כיון דלא קיים כאן מצות הכתוב ויכול לקיים בעני אחר, אבל כאן דכתיב ומשלוח מנות דאין זה רק מצות שילוח מששלח יצא.

ובהכי ניחא לי מה שנסתפקתי מי שמביא בעצמו מנות ונותן לחבירו אם יצא ידי ומשלוח מנות, דאנן אמרינן שלוחו של אדם כמותו אבל אפכא לא מצאנו שיהא הוא כשלוחו, וכיון דהכא כתיב ומשלוח מנות, נימא דדוקא בעינן ע”י שליחות, אבל על ידי נתינה לא,

ותמהתי שלא ראיתי לפוסקים שהעירו על זה,

אבל לפי מה שכתבתי י”ל כיון דב’ טעמים דשילוח מנות שכתבתי לעיל שייכים גם בנותן הוא בעצמו ליד חבירו, לכן יוצא גם בנתינה, ומה דכתיב לשון שליחות הוא להורות דבשילוח לבד יצא אפילו אין חבירו רוצה לקבל, ולכן לא הזכירו הפוסקים איסור נתינה,

ומכ”מ אולי לכתחלה טוב יותר לשלוח המנות ע”י אחר

כנלענ”ד הקטן יעקב.



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