15 Facts You Should Know About Mishloach Manot

One of the special mitzvahs of Purim is mishloach manot, sending gifts of food to friends, relatives, and acquaintances. This practice fosters friendship and unity and enhances the joy of the holiday. Read on for 15 facts about this beloved Purim highlight.

1. It Is One of Four Purim Mitzvahs

Mishloach manot is one of the four unique mitzvahs performed on Purim. The other three are listening to the reading of Megillat Esther, distributing gifts to the poor, and enjoying a Purim feast.

Read: How to Celebrate Purim

2. It Was Promulgated by Mordechai

After the downfall of Haman and his cohort, Mordechai sent messages to all the Jewish communities in Ahaseurus’ kingdom, exhorting them to keep the newly established holiday of Purim for generations to come. This mitzvah was among his instructions.1

Read: 14 Facts About Mordechai

3. It’s Sometimes Called Shalachmanos

In Ashkenazic pronunciation, this mitzvah is called mishloach manos, with the final letter pronounced as an “s.” In common (Yiddish-influenced) parlance, it is often truncated into shalach manos or even shalichmonis.

Read: 17 Facts About Ashkenazi Jews

4. It Means “Sending Portions”

Mishloach manot” translates as “sending portions.” These two words are chosen precisely, each teaching us exactly how to do this mitzvah, as explained below.

Read: The Laws of Mishloach Manot

5. Give at Least Two Ready-to-Eat Portions

A maneh, portion, signifies a food item that can be immediately consumed without further preparation by the recipient. Sending raw meat or unbaked pastries does not fulfill the mitzvah.2 The plural form, manot, portions, tells us that a minimum of two items should be given.3 (Two food items, two drinks, or one of each is sufficient.)

Read: Two Foods for Mishloach Manot

6. They Can Have the Same Blessing

A common misconception is that the two portions must warrant distinct blessings. Thus, many people think an orange (over which we say Ha’eitz) can be combined with a candy bar (over which we say Shehakol), but pasta salad and a danish would be problematic since they are both Mezonot.

This is not true. While the two portions must be distinct types of food, they may share the same blessing. In fact, the example given in the Code of Jewish Law is “two portions [i.e., different cuts] of meat.”4 Now, the blessing on all meat is Shehakol, so there is surely no requirement for the two food items to have different blessings.

Read: 9 Common Purim Myths and Misconceptions

7. If You Can, Employ a Messenger

The word mishloach, sending, implies that it is preferable to send the two portions via a third party (a friend, family member, or even a child).5 When the gifts are delivered through a messenger, more people are involved in the mitzvah and the miracle of Purim is further publicized.6 Moreover, gifting through an intermediary is considered more respectful.7 Nonetheless, handing over mishloach manot directly is still a valid way to fulfill the Purim observance.8

Read: Why Send Mishloach Manot Through a Messenger?

8. One Is Good, But More Is Better

Mishloach manot requires a minimum of sending two food items to one recipient. Of course, sending to multiple people is admirable—after all, the more the merrier!9

This is a great opportunity to bring joy to people. So think of someone who may not otherwise get mishloach manot for your delivery list, and encourage your children to do the same.

Watch: Mishloach Manot: Here’s How It’s Done

9. There Are Several Reasons

Several reasons are given for the mitzvah of mishloach manot. Here are two of them:

  1. Food is shared with friends to ensure they have something to eat for their Purim feast.10
  2. Exchanging gifts displays friendship and unity—in direct contradiction to Haman’s claim11 that Jews are “spread out and divided among the nations.”12

Read: Why Do We Send Mishloach Manot?

10. It Is a Daytime Gift

While the megillah is read on Purim night (as well as by day), the other three Purim mitzvahs are fulfilled only during the daytime hours.13

Read the Megillah in English

11. They Can Be Lavish, Basic, or Anything in Between

Mishloach manot come in an immense range of sizes, tastes, and themes, with offerings catering to every budget. Whether homemade or purchased, simple or elaborate, economical or luxurious, the options are diverse. You can choose from a wide array of items like pastries, sweets, fruit, wine, bottled beverages, chocolates, baked goods, candies, hamantashen, and much, much more. So get creative—the possibilities are endless!

When sending beyond your close social circle, it may be a good idea to only include packaged items, so they can see the kosher certification for themselves. If sending homemade goods, be sure to label them as “meat,” “dairy” or “parve” as appropriate—including letting them know if it was prepared in “meat” or “dairy” utensils.

Read: Mishloach Manot Themes and Ideas

12. It’s an Opportunity to Show Gratitude

Many use the opportunity to send mishloach manot as an expression of gratitude—be it to your child’s teacher, your rabbi, the doctor, and so on. With all the people on your list, mishloach manot can consume a significant part of your day. Just make sure to wrap up in time to begin the Purim feast before sunset.

Watch: The Morality of Gratitude

13. Children Are Often the Gift-Bearers

Visit any Jewish community on Purim and you’re bound to see young boys and girls traversing the streets, each with a load of baskets or bags in hand. Perhaps they are delivering their parents’ mishloach manot, or they might be exchanging sweets with their own friends. When a child brings mishloach manot, he or she is often rewarded with a coin or treat—some children walk away post-Purim with a pretty penny.

14. You Can Add Other Objects—But Don’t Forget the Food

While not necessary, including non-food items in a mishloach manot package is quite popular. To hold the edibles, you might choose a basket or mug the recipient can use long after Purim is over. You might throw in some other accessories too. But don’t get carried away with the extras or the packaging: the mitzvah is to include two items of food or drink.

15. Focus More on the Poor

Here’s a famous quote from Maimonides:

It is better to give more gifts to the poor than to prepare a nicer feast or send more portions of food to friends. There is no joy greater and more beautiful than that of uplifting the hearts of the unfortunate.14

In fact, one of the reasons for mishloach manot is to protect the dignity of the poor. Since everyone is sharing gifts, they will not feel singled out.15

Read: Purim Gifts to the Poor FAQs