Of Giving and Receiving

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

Occasionally, it happens that a child may give someone mishloach manos and not receive anything in return. This may be because the intended recipient isn’t home, or they ran out of mishloach manos, or for some other reason. The child fulfilled the mitzvah in the choicest manner; he didn’t receive anything in return, yet he still fulfilled the mitzvah. Still, the child feels cheated. He worked so hard filling a bag with nosh that his parents bought with their hardearned money. The child resolves that the next house he goes to he will give his mishloach manos using the halachic principle of “matanah al menas l’hachzir.” He will give his friend a bag of nosh on the condition that the friend returns it. The child’s father may tell him, “That’s ridiculous.” The child may counter, “I overheard you learning daf yomi. Rava says in Kiddushin (6b) that ‘matanah al menas l’hachzir’ is considered a bona fide present. The present is given wholeheartedly; the recipient only has to fulfill one minor stipulation: he must return the present.” The child will argue further: “I have heard you use this same trick twice. The first was on the first day of Sukkos. We know that the Torah says you can fulfill the mitzvah of lulav and esrog only with your own set. You gave our neighbor your lulav and esrog as a present on the condition that he return it. “Then, this past Shabbos, we had a guest who left his tallis at home. He wanted to make a bracha on a tallis, but he was upset that he couldn’t recite a blessing over one that was borrowed. So you told him that you would give him your weekday tallis as a present, with the stipulation that he must return it.” The father will respond, “That’s different! Let me tell you a story. In Camp Romimu, the first summer it opened, Rabbi Shimon Eider, zt”l, was the mara d’asra. The camp was renting campgrounds in Livingston Manor. It wasn’t financially feasible to improve the property, as it was only a one-year rental. However, there was a problem.

The back sections of the bunks which contained cubbies and sinks also contained the commodes. Boys wanted to eat nosh, take drinks, and recite al netilas yadayim in the backs of the bunkhouses. What separated the commodes from the rest of the back section of the bunk were partitions that did not come all the way to the ground. Hence, Rav Eider said that these floating walls did not qualify as a halachic separation. Rav Eider therefore ruled that one should not recite brachos in the entire back section of the bunk, since the entire area may halachically be considered a bathroom. “Rabbi Eider had a novel solution. They would construct a tzuras ha’pesach, a halachic doorframe, to separate the commodes from the rest of the bunk. These halachic doorframes would partition off the commodes. A tzuras ha’pesach is what most eiruvin are composed of: two side posts with a string on top connecting the two. Rav Eider reasoned that if a tzuras ha’pesach can halachically create a private domain on Shabbos to permit carrying, why can’t it wall off a bathroom? “Now, dear son, someone asked Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, the following question: He had a flat roof that could only be accessed by adults. It was used occasionally. He knew he had a biblical obligation to build a fence–a ma’akeh– around the roof. Wanting to save some money, he asked Rav Moshe, zt”l, if perhaps he could build a tzuras ha’pesach instead of a physical wall. He would construct poles at the corners of the roof and attach them at the top with string.

Would he fulfill his mitzvah of ma’akeh? Rav Moshe, zt”l, probably struggling to keep a straight face, replied, ‘Absolutely not. A tzuras ha’pesach won’t prevent you from falling!’” The father noted, “The moral of the story is that just because you find a halachic concept somewhere doesn’t mean it applies everywhere! “If you give your friend mishloach manos using matanah al menas l’hachzir, you have not increased friendship. Your friend can’t use the items at his seudah! You certainly may not use that ‘halachic trick’ to fulfill mishloach manos. It defeats the purpose.” However, the child will not relent. “OK, I will give my friend mishloach manos and even allow him to keep it. However, I will add one little stipulation; he must return the favor. That would be OK, right? After all, the Shulchan Aruch (695:4) writes that poor people can trade their meal portions with each other and fulfill mishloach manos. It’s pretty obvious that the poor person intends to receive the recipient’s meal portion in return.” The father will answer, “Yes, that is a wise point. However, the Kaf HaChaim writes that trading meal portions in such a manner is b’di’eved–one shouldn’t do it unless one has to. (cf. the Yafeh Lev. In his community it was standard practice for everyone to do that, in order not to embarrass people who couldn’t afford to give mishloach manos.) Secondly, Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt”l, writes that if someone actually stipulated the condition that he is giving mishloach manos only if his friend will return the favor, he has certainly not fulfilled the mitzvah of mishloach manos.” If the child still doesn’t get the point, then perhaps the parent can suggest that in the future, all his birthday presents will be given to him as a matanah al menas l’hachzir.

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead, NY. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.

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