Â By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
Â A rav once complained to the Divrei Yoel, the Satmar Rebbe, zt’l, about an affront to his honor: a child dressed up as a monkey had delivered his mishloach manos. The Satmar Rebbe remarked that the rav was lucky that his mishloach manos wasn’t delivered by an actual monkey, because that would be halachically acceptable.
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The mishnah in Gittin 22b says that anyone is qualified to write a get, including a cheiresh, shoteh, or kattan–people who are normally not considered competent. According to one explanation, the mishnah is to be taken at face value, and there is no requirement that the individual who writes a get be of sound mind. As long as the text and style of the get are halachically acceptable, the action of writing it is of no consequence. Tosfos pose an additional problem: How can someone lacking sufficient cognitive ability serve as the husband’s agent to write a get? Tosfos conclude simply that there is no halachah that a person writing a get must be an agent of the husband.
The Chasam Sofer elaborates on this point. When the Torah requires a person to perform an action, it may be possible for him to appoint an agent to perform it on his behalf, and it becomes as if he did it himself. But when there is no requirement that the person do the action himself, he can ask anyone to do it, even an unqualified individual. Tosfos are saying that when it comes to writing a get, the husband can appoint anyone–even a monkey, theoretically–to write the get for him. This is because the Torah does not mandate that the husband himself or his authorized agent write the get.
However, there are other considerations at play. Further, there are those who disagree with the conclusion of Tosfos. So as a matter of practical halachah, one cannot use a monkey to write his get.
Returning to the subject of mishloach manos, Shu’t Yaaleh Yehudah writes that one can send his mishloach manos with a minor. Even though typically we require a shaliach to be an adult, in this case the rabbanan never mandated the use of an actual shaliach. The Chasam Sofer writes further that one can send his mishloach manos with a monkey. This is in line with his earlier explanation that a real shaliach is not needed in this case.
In fact, the Eishel Avraham writes that the whole concept of using a shaliach is to make it easier to fulfill the mitzvah. Typically, when it comes to mitzvos, we apply the general rule–one should fulfill the mitzvah himself rather than appoint an agent. When it comes to mishloach manos, however, this concept does not apply, and one can freely use a shaliach to send mishloach manos.
The Mishnah Berurah, however, quotes the opinion of the Binyan Tzion that perhaps one must fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manos specifically through a shaliach. Typically, having an agent deliver a present is a sign of respect, and perhaps the rabbis mandated that the mitzvah of mishloach manos can be performed only by the use of an agent. Apparently, most poskim have ruled that one need not be concerned with this opinion. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt’l, was careful to use a shaliach at least once on Purim to fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manos.
One last point. The Ksav Sofer writes that the person receiving the mishloach manos must know who sent it. If someone sends a package without identifying who it is from, no goodwill will be generated between the giver and the receiver. Along this line, at least one local rav is known to carefully inspect every package of mishloach manos that he receives. What goodwill is generated by having everyone deposit their packages on a table if the recipient never even finds out who sent him mishloach manos?
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.