Halacha for Sunday 5 Adar 5780 March 1 2020

Sending Mishloach Manot to a Mourner

Question: Is it correct that one may not send Mishloach Manot to an individual within the year of mourning for a deceased parent? Is it correct that a mourner may not send Mishloach Manot to anyone either?

Answer: One who loses a parent must observe several mourning customs for a period of twelve months. If one loses a close relative who is not a parent (i.e. a brother, sister, husband, wife, son, or daughter), one must observe a thirty-day mourning period.

Inquiring About One’s Welfare
Our Sages (Mo’ed Katan 15a) derive from verses that a mourner may not greet another by inquiring about his welfare during his mourning period. Similarly, another individual may not greet a mourner by inquiring about his welfare either. There are many details involved with this law.

Mishloach Manot-The Opinion of the Maharil
The Responsa of the Maharil (Moreinu Harav Yaakov Molin, Chapter 31) states regarding sending Mishloach Manot to a mourner that “there is no greater inquiry about a mourner’s welfare than this.” This means that Mishloach Manot constitutes a warm greeting and an inquiry about a mourner’s welfare and it is therefore forbidden to send Mishloach Manot to a mourner. The Rama (in his gloss on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, Chapter 696, Section 6 and Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 385, Section 3) rules likewise.

A Mourner Sending Mishloach Manot-The Opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch
Based on the above, it would seem that just as one may not send Mishloach Manot to a mourner, a mourner may not send Mishloach to others as well. Nevertheless, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 696) rules that a mourner is, in fact, obligated to send Mishloach Manot. Thus, halachically speaking, a mourner must send Mishloach Manot to a friend on Purim day. Even a mourner who is within the first seven days of mourning (Shiva) must send Mishloach Manot to a friend on Purim. The Acharonim write that the mourner should preferably send bread, meat, fish and the like, as opposed to sweets and other junk food.

Sending Mishloach Manot to a Mourner
Regarding sending Mishloach Manot to a mourner, we have already quoted the opinion of the Rama who rules that one should not send Mishloach Manot to a mourner. Nevertheless, this only represents the Ashkenazi custom; the Sephardic custom, however, is to send Mishloach Manot to mourners within the year of mourning (or thirty-day mourning period for other relatives besides parents) on Purim day, for mourning is not observed on the day of Purim.

A Mourner Who is Poor or a Torah Scholar
Nevertheless, if a mourner is poor or if he is a Torah scholar who teaches Torah to the public, one may send him Mishloach Manot, even according to the Ashkenazi custom because this constitutes the Mitzvah of donating Tzedakah (charity) or because sending Mishloach Manot to a Torah scholar is similar to repaying a debt and is not meant as a show of joy. (Chazon Ovadia-Purim, page 193 and Chazon Ovadia-Avelut, Part 2, page 252)   

If a Son is Born, the Family is Healed
Our Sages teach us (in the Talmud Yerushalmi Masechet Mo’ed Katan, Chapter 3, Halacha 7) regarding a family in mourning over the passing of a relative: “Rabbi Elazar said: If a baby boy is born to this family, the entire family has been healed.” The Ramban, several other Poskim, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 394) quote this teaching from the Talmud Yerushalmi. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes as follows (in his Chazon Ovadia-Avelut, Volume 2, page 247): “Since this matter has been quoted by the Shulchan Aruch, it seems to me that if a baby boy is born to the family during the mourning period, others may greet these mourners by inquiring about their welfare even within the twelve months since this family has been healed.”

Based on this, if a baby born was born to this family, it will be permissible to send Mishloach Manot, even comprised of sweets, to the mourners according to all opinions; there is room for leniency even according to the Ashkenazi custom. May Hashem grant us only joyful tidings and just as Hashem has performed miracles for us during these days so many years ago, so may Hashem have mercy upon us and hastily redeem us for all of eternity, Amen.

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