Question: On Purim I stay home and I do not give out my own Mishloach Manot. May I fulfill my obligation by sending a joint Mishloach Manot along with my husband?
Answer: First, let us discuss the obligation of women with regards to Mishloach Manot.
A Woman’s Obligation in Mishloach Manot
Women are obligated to send Mishloach Manot as are men. In general, women customarily send Mishloach Manot to other women, such as a neighbor and the like. The Rama (Chapter 695) writes that even a married woman is obligated to send Mishloach Manot and she does not fulfill her obligation with the Mishloach Manot her husband sends.
On the other hand, the great Peri Chadash writes that women are not obligated in the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, for the verse in Megillat Esther states, “And sending portions to one another”-in masculine form, i.e. “from man to his friend” and not in the feminine “from woman to her friend”. Nevertheless, most great Poskim rebuff his opinion, including Hagaon Ya’abetz in his She’elat Ya’abetz (Volume 1, Chapter 120) who writes that the Mitzvot of Purim were derived for all generations from the verse, “And the Jews upheld and accepted upon themselves and their descendants” and women are included in descendants and they are obligated in all of the day’s Mitzvot, just as it is clear that they are obligated in hearing Megillah reading since they were likewise included in the miracle of Purim. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l quotes the words of the various Poskim on this topic proves conclusively that the Halacha follows the opinion of Hagaon Ya’abetz. Thus, there is no doubt that women are obligated to send Mishloach Manot exactly as men are. (Chazon Ovadia-Purim, page 140)
Mishloach Manot Through a Messenger
We must likewise discuss if the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot should be carried out through a messenger or if one may deliver it on his own. The Sefer Binyan Zion (Chapter 44) writes that since the verse states, “And sending portions to one another,” it seems that one should send them with a messenger since when one delivers the Mishloach Manot himself, this cannot be considered “sending”. Similarly, Hagaon Chatam Sofer (in his commentary on Gittin 22b) writes that one should preferably send the Mishloach Manot specifically with a messenger. On the other hand, both Maran zt”l and his rabbi, Hagaon Harav Ezra Attieh zt”l discuss this matter and rule that, halachically speaking, one need not make sure to send the Mishloach Manot with a messenger and one may deliver it himself and satisfactorily fulfill one’s obligation (Chazon Ovadia-ibid, page 143). Clearly though, one who sends one’s Mishloach Manot to another with a messenger surely fulfills one’s obligation according to all opinions.
A Joint Mishloach Manot for Husband and Wife
Regarding a wife who wants her husband to have her in mind when he delivers his own Mishloach Manot, shall we say that this is halachically sufficient, for if he becomes her messenger, he certainly may deliver Mishloach Manot on her behalf? However, our situation is somewhat different in that the husband is giving the Mishloach Manot both on his own behalf and on behalf of his wife and we must discuss whether or not this is permitted.
Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (in the Sefer Halichot Betah, Chapter 24, Section 25) rules that husband and wife may fulfill their obligation with a joint Mishloach Manot, however, they must make sure that it contains within it enough portions to amount to two Mishloach Manots, i.e. four foods, since each Mishloach Manot must contain at least two portions, as we have explained. On the other hand, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue in his Chazon Ovadia (ibid, page 137) and rules that, halachically speaking, even if the Mishloach Manot does not contain enough portions to amount to two Mishloach Manots, the husband and wife nevertheless fulfill their respective obligations with the same joint Mishloach Manot. The reason for this is that since the Mishloach Manot contains two substantial food items within in, it will be graciously accepted by the recipient with great honor and thus, both of them fulfill their obligation jointly.
Summary: A woman must likewise give Mishloach Manot; it is customary for her to give it to a female friend or family member. If her husband gives a Mishloach Manot on her behalf to another family, both the husband and wife fulfill their obligation in this manner.