Is it Permissible to Give Candy as Mishloach Manot?
BY RABBI YOSEF ZVI RIMON
It is a common custom today to include candies of all kinds in mishloach manot on Purim. But is it possible to fulfill the mitzvah in this way?
It seems that this question depends on the different reasons suggested for the mitzvah of mishloach manot. According to the Terumat HaDeshen, mishloach manot are supposed to be used by the recipient at the Purim seudah, and candies are not usually eaten at the meal. On the other hand, according to the Manot HaLevi, the delivery of the dishes is intended to increase the unity of the people of Israel, and so it is necessary to send foods that will be used by the recipient and strengthen the bond between him and the giver. Sweets definitely meet this criteria.
Is it possible to find clarity from the wording used by the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch? Rambam (2:15) writes that one should send “two portions of meat or two kinds of cooked foods or two kinds of food”, and the Shulchan Aruch also uses similar language (695:4). The simple understanding of their words implies that you should specifically send food, not sweets.
However, the Gemara (Megillah 7b) cites several cases in which rabbis would send sweets as mishloach manot: Rabbah wanted to send a cup full of kimcha d’avshuna, which is sweet flour (Rashi, “d’avshuna”), or kashba, which is sugar cane (The Aruch, cited in Tosfot Avodah Zara 14b, “chatzav”; Rambam, Perush Hamishnayot, Avodah Zara 1:5). Mari bar Mar used to send chulia, another kind of sweets (Rashi, “chulia”). From these cases we can learn that it is permissible to send sweets in mishloach manot, and it is likely that Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, who mentioned meat, cooked dishes and foods, did not intend to forbid sending sweets. This is how the halacha is written (Sheyarei Knesset Hagedolah, Hagahot Tur, 10; Chayei Adam, 155:31)
Practically, it appears that there is a hiddur mitzvah, an enhancement of the mitzvah, to give foods that are intended for the Purim seudah. But certainly, according to the halacha, one fulfills the mitzvah of giving mishloach manot by giving candies and sweets. Of course, in addition to giving two types of food, you can add whatever you’d like to the mishloach manot.
At the same time, when giving mishloach manot to children, giving them candy, chocolates and things they enjoy should be a priority!
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He serves as the Rabbi of Gush Etzion, Rosh Yeshiva of the Jerusalem College of Technology and is the Founder and Chairman of Sulamot and La’Ofek.