Mishloach Manot with Shmittah Fruit

Sheviit | Nadav Willner (Trans. Mark Steiner) | 17 years ago

Be’ezrat Hash-m over the coming days, on Erev Purim, we will finish Masechet Shvi’it. The question of whether one can send Mishloach Manot containing Shvi’it fruit ties these two occurrences together. Regarding this question there are two issues to be dealt with:

  1. The prohibition of paying off a debt with Shvi’it money.

  2. Man’s ownership status of Shvi’it fruit.

These ideas are based on an article written by Ha’Rav Shlomo Levi of Yeshivat Har Etzion.

1. The Prohibition of Paying Off a Debt with Shvi’it Money

We learnt in the Mishnah:

לקח ממנו סתם לא ישלם לו מדמי שביעית שאין פורעין חוב מדמי שביעית

The Mishnah establishes the prohibition of taking from a baker and paying him later with Shvi’it money; based on the prohibition of paying off a debt with Shvi’it money. The source of the prohibition is established since paying of one’s debt appears like a type of business, and as we saw in earlier Mishnayot, there is a Torah prohibition against dealing with Shvi’it fruit (Shvi’it 7:3).

One may ask: to what extent do we see Mishloach Manot as the payment of a debt? According to the Mishnat Yosef\ (1, 27) and Shevet HaLevi (7, 183) it is forbidden to fulfil the obligation of Mishloach Manot with Shvi’it fruit because they see the commandment of Mishloach Manot as an obligation placed upon the person, and one would consequently be fulfilling his obligation using Shvi’it fruit. Contrary to this, the Minchat Yitzchak and Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurebach hold that there is no special ‘obligation’, rather a fulfilment of a commandment and it is therefore permitted.

This argument depends on the understanding of two issues:

  1. Prohibition of Trade – Those that allow it understand that 'trade'

    occurs when there is clear giving and taking, and therefore there is no issue with Mishloach Manot because one does not receive something in return. Those that forbid it understood that trade is gaining benefit from the value of the fruit, not from the fruit itself - something that occurs with Mishloach Manot.

  2. Mishloach Manot – Those that allow it understand that in essence

    the commandment is one of giving to another, out of friendship and closeness, and therefore just as we can say Kiddush on Shvi’it wine, so too we can send Shvi’it fruit to others. Those that forbid the use of Shvi’it fruit hold that the essence of the commandment is in the money that I am giving someone else to be used for the seuda, and if so, it has already been established that one is forbidden to use Shvi’it fruit in order to fulfil a monetary obligation.

2. Ownership of Shvi’it Fruit

The Shelah writes that one cannot give Mishloach Manot or Matanot L’Evyonim from money that has the status of Ma’aser, rather one should give from one’s own personal money. This is also brought down by the Magen Avraham (OH, 694, 1). Those that forbid fulfilling Mishloach Manot from Shvi’it fruits argue that Mishloach Manot is an actual obligation, and just as the Shelah says we should not give money from Ma’aser, the same should also hold for giving Mishloach Manot from Shvi’it. They maintain that Shvi’it money does not actually belong to man, rather to Hash-m.

Nevertheless, those in favour hold that Shvi’it fruit is totally in the possession of man, and they bring a proof from Rambam who rules that one can marry a woman with Shvi’it fruit. Therefore, according to them there should be no comparison between Ma’aser money which has the status of gavoah, and Shvi’it fruit which belongs completely to man and can be used for Mishloach Manot.

Halachic Conclusion

Essentially, there is a discussion between the halachic authorities
as to whether or not *Mishloach Manot* can be fulfilled with
*Shvi’it Fruit*, and according to Ha’Rav Shlomo Levi, since Shvi’it
is of *rabbinic* origin we can be lenient and allow it.

If a man has already sent two packages to two people, each extra package that he sends is out of choice but not required, and it is therefore definitely not fulfilling any obligation, and is allowed by everyone. On the other hand, if someone is giving Mishloach Manot to someone that sent to him, most opinions forbid the use of Shvi’it fruit because it is very similar to the fulfilment of one’s obligation (as he is returning something).

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