by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Sfas Tamim Foundation
QUESTION: I work in a public school providing certain special services to students. My frum predecessor at work, “Rachel,” gave me shalach manos to give to a very nice (non-religious) Jewish co-worker. It was a donut and a drink. I put it in my own fridge at home to bring to her the next day.
In the interim, my husband ate half of the donut and left me the other half. When I saw the half-eaten donut I realized what had happened and, although I was touched that my husband had left me half, I was in a quandary as to what to do.
Should I convey the entire story to the co-worker and give her the half donut and beverage? Should I replace the donut with chocolate chip cookies that I could re-purpose from another shalach manos? In terms of emes, do I have to tell “Rachel” what happened? Ultimately, I gave her the cookies instead, but I would like to find out what the best course of action would be. I did not tell “Rachel.”
ANSWER: This is an excellent question. We know that two reasons are brought down for Mishloach Manos.
The Terumas HaDeshen (Siman 111) writes that it is to ensure that the recipients not run out of food items to serve for their meals.
The Manos HaLevi on Megillas Esther (9:19), written by Rav Shlomo Alkabetz and cited by the Chasam Sofer, writes an altogether different reason: to increase peace and brotherly love. This is the opposite of the characterization of the Jewish people by Haman as a nation “Mefuzar umefurad” spread and standing apart on account of internal arguments.
It would seem that according to the Manos HaLevi, your co-worker would completely fulfill the Mitzvah with the cookies because it was accepted on her behalf on the day of Purim and the underling purpose is to increase peace. According to the Trumas HaDeshen she would not because it is the next day and the reason is for the seudah.
The odds are, however, that she was not relying on this to actually fulfill the Mitzvah, especially if she gave you Mishloach Manos as well. Giving a half donut would be shabbym so don’t do that. You do not have to tell Rachel because she may feel bad. You also do not have to tell the co-worker either (who may also feel bad) and you can still say that it came from Rachel since the cookies are a direct replacement of the donuts.
ON THE PARSHA
“And the princes brought the Shoham stones and filling stones for the Ephod and for the Choshen.” (Shmos 35:27) Rashi quotes a Midrash, that the princes (“Nesiim”), pledged to donate whatever would be missing after the rest of Bnei Yisrael finished giving to the construction of the Mishkan. They underestimated the peoples’ generosity and enthusiasm. The only things left to be donated were the precious gems needed for the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate and garments. These are the precious stones referenced in the Possuk above that were given by the Nesiim.
However, since the Nessim were remiss in their enthusiasm to dedicate to the Mishkan and let everyone else go first, they were taken to task, and the word Nesiim is written defectively without a “Yud” between the “Aleph” and the “Mem” – והנשאם.
This Midrash requires some clarification, as the underlying rationale and intentions of the Nesiim seem to have been correct and noble. They were willing to donate whatever would be needed to build the Mishkan that was still missing after Bnei Yisrael had finished with their donations – they put themselves at risk of providing whatever was missing which could have been substantial and come at an enormous cost to them. And they did so, apparently, to ensure that there would be no delay in the building of the Mishkan. With such a generous offer and apparently noble intentions, why were they punished with the misspelling of their name?
Rav Boruch Sorotzkin ZT”L in his Eitz HaChaim, cites Rav Chaim Mordechai Katz ZT”L, the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Telze Chicago, and explains that we see a fundamental insight into human nature. It is possible to perform an action which, at first glance, appears to be correct and proper, and yet, nonetheless, if we delve into the matter further – we discover motivations that are not correct. In truth, the Nesiim’s offer of “You go first, and we will fill in the rest.” was not motivated by generosity, but rather by laziness. The Torah highlights that unfortunate motivation by misspelling their name and that if they truly wanted to be generous and not lazy, they would have donated generously and be the first ones to do so.
In conclusion, when we decide on a course of action that appears to be correct and our intentions appear to be noble, we must be honest with ourselves and look for deeper, hidden motivations that may not be so noble. It may also be a good idea to discuss our motivations with a trusted friend which, as an unbiased third party, may be able to help us see ourselves in a more objective fashion.
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